The new Hydro-Ax 764 and 864 site prep tractors have taken on additional heft from previous versions, directed toward performing their primary mission with ease: land clearing.
This heft is evident throughout the machines, from the front frame to the rear frame to the lift arm structure and geometry. “They are stiffer, heavier machines,” says Chris Williams, Blount product manager for the Hydro-Ax line.
Land clearing is a market the Forestry and Industrial Equipment Division of Blount International is intimate with since it has produced more than 9,000 of these machines since 1970. Besides fire hazard mitigation, right-of-way clearance and site development, the tractors have taken on another task in recent years: security perimeter clearing around airports, factories and other facilities. Housing developments have become another market, especially since the machines create mulch, a desirable option to hauling wood debris off site.
“Contractors tell us horsepower equals production,” Williams says.
Both tractors have a 6.7-liter Cummins QSB engine that provides more power and higher torque with less noise than the previous machines. The engine provides 220 horsepower on the 764 and 260 horsepower on the 864.
In addition, the tractors gained extra nimbleness. A 90-degree articulation gives them maneuverability in the underbrush. “Our center joint has been on our forestry tractors – a severe-duty application – for five years with no failures,” Williams says. And the turning radius of the 764 and the 864 Hydro-Ax is 2 feet less than on the former model, the 721 Hydro-Ax.
“We really appreciate the tighter turning radius,” says Dave Dodd, president, DDI Equipment, a Hydro-Ax dealer in Grand Junction, Colorado. “Owners don’t like to see what they call ‘barking,’ or a machine rubbing against a tree enough to take the bark off. This helps us avoid that.”
Dodd not only sells these machines, he also is an end user through Enviro Land Management, a contracting firm where his grandson, Denver Dodd, serves as an operator/project manager. Denver has been using a prototype of the 864 since last summer. “You can get on steeper slopes than you could with the previous machine,” Denver says.
The units’ have three independent hydraulic systems: the main hydraulic system, which is now load sensing, leading to better fuel economy, the Quik-flow attachment hydraulics and a dedicated circulation and pilot pump, which offers enhanced hydraulic cooling.
“Our dedicated steering system gives operators more response and production,” Williams says. The company also offers the choice between a steering wheel or joystick controls. Denver says he much prefers the joysticks. “They’re more comfortable and relaxing to run, especially when you’re in that cab for 12 hours a day,” he says.
The side-by-side radiator, hydraulic and charge air coolers keep everything cool in temperatures up to 115 degrees.
Visibility in the brush
An all-new cab gives operators 360-degree visibility, with windows extending low enough the operator can see the front and rear tires. “Operators can see what they’re doing without having to look around a post,” Williams says.
The cab’s heating and ventilation has been revamped, offering more heating and cooling capacity. Line-of-sight gauges help operators monitor machine functions without having to look to the side, where the gauges used to be positioned.
According to Williams, one of the Hydro-Ax’s main selling points is its power to run large high-flow attachments. The units’ Quik-Flow selection system allows easy installation of a variety of high-flow attachments such as power mulchers, stump grinders and rotary mowers. The harness connection to the attachment identifies the tool and dictates the flow from a dedicated variable-displacement pump. Pre-programmed electronic controls on the dashboard provide the precise flow required to operate more typical attachments and can be customized for any additional attachments.
The company also has an optional quick attach system. While Hydro-Ax offers a number of factory matched attachments – including a rotary ax brush mower, felling sawhead and stump grinder – other attachments are also available, such as drum mulchers from Fecon, Tushogg and Seppi.
“We’ve had people call these machines ‘lawnmowers on steroids’ because they can take down a 20-inch tree with one of our DDI 8000 attachments and mulch it in a matter of minutes,” says Dodd. “They’re impressive.”