Compact graders find a special niche, offering an affordable solution for municipal road maintenance crews.
In today’s challenging economic climate of declining tax revenue and increased costs, municipalities are searching for new opportunities to perform their tasks effectively and affordably.
For municipal road maintenance crews, there are few options in choosing machinery to maintain unsurfaced roads and a grader is a must-have machine. Traditionally, they are used for routine surface smoothing, removing shoulder berms, removing washboarding, spreading new gravel, ditching and back sloping. However, rural counties that face little growth in funds for their road departments need to be innovative as they juggle costs to maintain their roads.
So when Rick Young, the General Service Superintendent for the City of Dover, Ohio, set out to replace a Galion A-600 Grader, he weighed his options carefully. “We were looking for something smaller to replace the one we had,” he says. That is why he chose a C86 C from Champion Motor Graders. The compact articulated all wheel drive grader weighs only 15,500 lbs. and is smaller than a full-sized machine. Size played an important factor in his decision since his department is responsible for maintaining alleys and gravel roads in the region.
“We need to get into 12 foot wide alleys and with the other grader it was really tight sometimes,” says Young, adding that the optional all wheel drive feature will help. “It’s smaller and lighter but we needed all the traction that we can get to go uphill in the winter. It gives us more power to get into an alley and keep it straight because there is not a lot of room in there and we don’t want the machine sliding sideways,” he explains.
Just like a big grader… only smaller
In addition to the standard 10 foot blade, Young also opted for a front dozer blade scarifier, an attachment that is unique to Champion, and air conditioning in the enclosed cab pointing out that once inside it doesn’t feel a whole lot different from a full-sized grader. “It feels roomy enough inside the cab, just like a regular grader. The glass goes right down to the floor so we can see the blade. The visibility in the cab is really nice,” he says adding that the adjustable steering wheel and controls contribute to the operator’s comfort. “I got big guys and skinny guys who need to get in there and they are both happy,” he says with a chuckle.
Getting to and from the jobsite is also much easier with the Champion C86 C, not only because it is small enough to easily load onto a trailer, but because it is small enough to maneuver on roadways, helped along by the hydrostatic power providing variable control through the entire range of ground speeds. “In grading mode, it’s in low-gear but in town we drive it to the jobsite instead of loading it on a trailer. We only have an average of three to four miles to sites and the road-gear gets us up to 20 miles per hour,” he says.
Right fit for municipalities
Haney says the Champion machine has all the amenities of a full size grader, including the wheel lean, blade tilt, below-grade cutting, side-shift on the blade, steering angle, articulating frame, as well as the optional enclosed cab with heater and air conditioning on top of the fuel efficient Cummins Tier 3 engines. “Those all play a factor in what they need to do; they have the need for a big grader but don’t have the room and the money for it. This has all the same features as a full size grader and it’s very well put together,” he says. “And it’s about half the price.”
Champion bundles its machines with a very good warranty program that Haney says is a great advantage to dealers that sell to municipalities. It comes with a two year transferable machine warranty, with another additional year for parts, plus a lifetime frame breakage warranty for first owners that is provided as a standard. “Nobody else can touch that and when you are in a bid situation the warranty alone can make or break you,” says Haney. “Everybody else offers a one year full machine and that’s it. When you tell customers they get a lifetime warranty on anything you have their attention and they will listen to you.”
The South Carolina Department of Transportation has also purchased Champion graders, picking up five of the company’s C80 C models, and Knott County in Kentucky is another municipality taking advantage of the unique features offered by Champion machines. Les Miller, the Road Foreman for Knott County says he opted for a C80 C motor grader purchased from Rudd Equipment Company in Louisville. This articulated tandem drive model weighs 500 lbs. less than the grader being used in Dover City and comes with a Tier 3 110 horsepower engine.
Miller says the county purchased the Champion grader to replace the CAT 120 they had been using. “It’s was a little bit too big for cemetery roads so we downsized. We are using the new grader just for the cemetery roads. It’s smaller so it can get in these tight areas and move around a little better,” he says adding that Knott County has about 120 miles of cemetery roads to maintain. The options he chose on the C80 C include a relief valve on the blade and air conditioning in the cab, but the one feature he likes the most is the hydrostatic drive that give operators greater control at any working speed. “The other one we used had direct drive. At first they were still trying to mash the brake, but after a few hours on it, they liked it better than direct drive.”
Like Young, Miller agrees that the most attractive feature of the Champion Motor Grader machine is its compact size. “The cemetery roads we work on are little off-roads and one lane roads that curve and wind around. We can get a big grader in there but we have a hard time to maneuver it. The smaller grader can get around a lot better,” he says. “With a big grader, we had to back out.”
Municipalities are turning to the C86 C to perform road maintenance tasks over full sized graders.