Michigan-based tree removal company Treeworks took delivery of a new Sennebogen 718 in October of 2019. Like many tree care company owners, brothers Jason, Zach and Luke Porter started young, working with their father in the late 80's and continue to work together until this day. "Dad trained us with sweat equity and will power. We worked brutally hard. And to this day, hardly a moment goes by on the worksite that I don't appreciate all the new types of equipment we have, and that have been introduced to our industry," Jason says.
For Jason, the last several years have taken him out of the field from the craft he enjoys and more into an administrative role, managing the company of 14 staff. It is a familiar path in the industry. "I desperately wanted to get back into the woods with the crews and participate in productive tree work, and not just be the old tree guy in everyone's way. The Sennebgoen 718 is absolutely a massive force multiplier when I am on a project with it. I really enjoy working with it. After so many years of doing tree work the hard way, this machine feels like vacation."
With the 718, Porter dismantles trees, stacks the wood, and feeds the chipper from the comfort of an air-cushion seat in a climate-controlled cab. In his hands are the controls of a hydraulic grapple saw fitted to the end of 43 ft. (13 m) telescoping boom. He can elevate the cab for a better view of the cutting zone and swing the boom through 360 degrees to place and stack the removed limbs. A powerful and precise hydraulic system gives him the "feel" and control to operate with surgical precision.
"You have to be a tree guy," he cautions. "Aerial experience combined with equipment operator experience are invaluable when you are working with a Sennebogen 718. If you have these two skillsets in your holster, you can knock it out of the park with this machine."
Treeworks is a full-service tree company with a focus on commercial contracts for municipalities, county road commissions, DOT work and utility companies. "We run four crews, and the Sennebogen is a crew unto itself," says Porter. "A large percentage of our workload is an ideal fit for this machine. The Sennebogen is not for every tree; you have to know where to deploy it. That said, when it is employed where it is supposed to be, there's just nothing else that compares to it."
Porter first discovered Sennebogen in the summer of 2018 after speaking to Ken Palmer, a champion tree climber and safety instructor. Palmer invited Porter to a demo day at Sennebogen's Head Office in Stanley, NC, where he'd seen the machine going through the paces with operator Rob Frost.
"Rob is a tree guy. We have very similar work history. We speak the same language. I knew Rob was presenting the 718 capabilities based on a wealth of actual experience. A spec sheet or salesman can't do that," Porter states.
At the demo, the features that really got Porter's attention were the maneuverability of the saw head, combined with the telescoping reach and amazing lift capacity. "I immediately saw the value of the machine and began to lament to myself about all the jobs we had suffered through that the 718 could have solved. I knew immediately the machine was a fit for our business going forward."
And now with over 500 hours of operating time in the 718, Porter likes the economics as well. "I can say confidently that the Sennebogen production on our jobs has consistently been equal to two bucket truck crews. For us, that would be equivalent to two bucket trucks, two track loaders, and four guys. Add up the operating costs of those four pieces of equipment and crew members, it's a ton. The Sennebogen 718 is absolutely worth it."
"It is just stunning how much material you can efficiently move onsite. And it is often less impact to the site and less stress on other machines like track loaders. Many trees barely touch the ground, but go directly into the whole tree chipper. And if you are stockpiling trees and it comes time to chip, you elevate the cab and look down on the pile and into the chipper instead of directly into a big stack of brush. It is a great additional feature that I have grown to appreciate."
Porter returns to the ease and capability the 718 brings to his trade. "Think of poor weather conditions, working along a road, in waterfilled ditches full of cattails, mud, and slopes. We used to do that type of work by hand cutting, driving loaders in those areas, over stumps, and pulling material out with a tagline or whatever we could think of just to complete the task. Some of the work can be pretty rough. The Sennebogen takes a task that can be awful and turn it into an enjoyable, successful project."
"In March we completed two miles of road clearing that would have taken twice the time, and twice the manpower with our old methods. With the 718 we had it done in record time, and nobody broke a sweat," Porter says.
"On another municipal job removing 50 dangerous trees along city streets, the SENNEBOGEN was able to complete 48 of them. And one of the trees was a massive 60+ inch, multi-stem Silver Maple. The crown of this tree arched over the road, utilities, and a house. It was late in the day and I closed the street and sent most everyone home so I could focus on just this one technical tree removal. This tree would typically be most of the day for 3 guys and a bucket truck. I had it safely and neatly staged on the ground in about 50 minutes."
"And the thing is, it was fun."