Troy Hann, owner of May Construction in Egan, South Dakota, knows trenchers.
Vermeer knew they had a veteran when they chose Hann to test the new RTX1250 quad track trencher. Hann has 24 years of trenching experience and about 20 machines in his fleet. When it comes to soils, he works in everything from the hard rock of the Black Hills to hardpan in the middle of South Dakota and soft loam to the eastern part of the state.
And while Troy and his crew’s skills are top notch, he was still surprised by what happened when he put the four-track RTX1250 up against one of his conventional trenchers in a side-by-side test.
“With the quad tracks we trenched 100 feet for every 60 feet we went on a conventional rubber-tire trencher,” Hann says. “And that was on flat ground. If you get on slopes the quad track machine does even better.”
Looking a bit like the Transformer line of kid’s toys, the RTX1250 is based on the Vermeer RT1250 but with four independent track systems mounted where the tires would otherwise go. The quad track system, developed and built in conjunction with Loegering, oscillates over uneven spots in the terrain to keep the machine flat footed at all times.
As a result the tractor doesn’t bounce up and down leaving you with a trench with an uneven bottom. “I’ve got a rock saw that I use a lot out in the Black Hills area and that makes a big difference there,” Hann says. The other main benefit is that the tractor doesn’t have a “breakover point.” When loading a traditional rubber-tire or dual-track trencher on a trailer, the front end of the machine rises up and sometimes comes down hard on the deck once the machine’s center of gravity passes the breakover point. But the RT1250’s independent tracks oscillate over this point so the machine’s front end never loses contact with the trailer ramp or deck.
The elimination of the breakover point is also beneficial when trenching in certain rural environments, Hann says. “A lot of our approaches are dirt or gravel roads, or railroad tracks. With the quad tracks we can come right up to the edge of those and the tool will stay in the ground at the same depth,” he says. That not only makes for a better quality trench, Hann comments, it saves time and boosts productivity.
The quad track system also increases flotation. “If it rains you can still work; you don’t sink,” Hann says. “We’ve had it out in trenching in 6 to 8 inches of water and drove right on through. If it had been a rubber-tire machine it would have sunk up to the axles,” he says.
On side slopes the undercarriage’s stability also impressed Hann, who admits he pushed it hard in the steep hills of western South Dakota. “Even if I had tried to tip it over, I doubt I could,” he says.
Refining the design
As part of the testing process Vermeer found that a diagonal track lug didn’t hold up well or provide sufficient traction, so the company switched to a track that had a straight bar, much like a grouser on a steel track. They also changed the hydraulic and fuel tanks to get the room needed to turn and oscillate all four tracks simultaneously, says Jon Kuyers, Vermeer’s rubber tire and compact equipment manager.
The RTX1250 is driven by a 120-horsepower engine, and accepts trencher, plow, rock wheel or backhoe attachments. It can trench up to 72 inches deep and 18 inches wide. The operator station rotates 90 degrees for visibility to the rear. A forward/reverse ground drive pedal leaves the operator’s hands free to work the attachment controls. As with the rubber-tire versions of the trencher, the RTX1250 allows four-wheel and crab steering.
Vermeer designed the RTX1250 so you can swap the quad tracks for rubber tires when needed in different applications and ground conditions. And there are plans to provide steel belted quad tracks in the future, says Kuyers.
But Hann says he plans to eventually trade out his rubber tire machines for quad track trenchers. “I’m hoping they’ll make it in sizes all the way down to their smallest,” he says. “I think it’s going to catch on.”
Vermeer isn’t going to toss out the rubber tire design entirely just yet, but Kuyers says there is some interest in expanding the quad-track design to other sizes of machines. “There are a lot of things that need to happen first,” he says. “You can’t just bolt on quad tracks and make it a quad tractor. There are a lot of design considerations to be taken into account.”