Jan. 29 2020 06:00 AM

Use our zero-turn and stand-on mower comparison charts to find the right fit.

Photo: The Toro Company

Zero-turn riders keep getting more productive, more comfortable and easier to service.

What’s the next phase in this evolution? To get that answer, we talked to some of the manufacturers about the trends they’re seeing in the ZTR market and the lawn and landscape maintenance contractors who are powering those trends.

Larger decks

Manufacturers are increasing deck sizes, partially as a response to the labor shortage the industry faces, according to Mitch Hoffman, marketing manager at The Toro Company, Bloomington, Minnesota.

Photo: Hustler Turf

“Labor continues to be a major concern for contractors,” says Hoffman. “So, there’s a lot of focus on making sure that they can maximize productivity for every one of their machines, so they can get a lot done with one operator as opposed to two or more operators using smaller machines.”

“Mowers with larger deck sizes allow company owners to take on more jobs and generate more revenue without the costs that come from needing additional manpower,” says Brad Unruh, director of new product development for Hustler Turf Equipment (an Excel Industries brand), Hesston, Kansas.

Brian Carawan, owner of BT Carawan Landscapers in Greenville, North Carolina, agrees that larger decks help his crews be more productive. “We recently standardized all of our equipment to 60-inch and 48-inch decks. That also simplifies maintenance, as we also only have to stock two types of blades for all of our crews,” he says.

Electronic fuel injection

Though an EFI engine nudges a mower’s price up a bit, an increasing number of landscapers are willing to pay for it.

Photo: The Grasshopper Company

“To have EFI, that’s important to us,” says Damien Raasch, production manager for the landscape maintenance department at David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc., Germantown, Wisconsin. He oversees 52 crews using 60 ZTR riders and 50 stand-ons. “With our mowers that have it, we’ve seen up to a 30% savings in fuel cost.”

Aaron van Ranst, owner of Prestige Lawn and Landscape, Baldwin, Wisconsin, also likes EFI. “The gas efficiency with EFI is major. We’ve noticed that it also kicks in a little more power. It also makes the mowers easier to start after a long winter,” he says.

More comfortable seats

Manufacturers continue to entice buyers with comfier seats. It’s a change that hasn’t gone unrecognized by van Ranst. “I’ve noticed that driver comfortability has kept improving to where we can work all day and not have to worry about injuring our backs,” he says.

“Operator comfort has become an increasing priority,” says Lloyd von Scheliha, product manager at Exmark, Beatrice, Nebraska. “When a mower rides smoother over bumps, the operator stays fresh longer.”

Ease of servicing

Increasingly, greaseless spindles, removable parts and easy-access ports and doors are being included on mowers, simplifying maintenance tasks. “That’s always a bonus, when things are easy to access,” says Carawan. “That just guarantees that the maintenance is actually going to happen.”

Raasch likes the trend toward reduced maintenance. “I prefer not to service a part; I’d rather just change it out,” he says. “It’s easier, and it’s less man hours … The more time that the guys are sitting there pumping oil into some of the moving parts, the less time they’re out serving clients and generating revenues.”

To download a copy of the comparison charts, go to www.igin.com/2020-mower-comparison-charts.

The author is senior editor of Irrigation & Green Industry and can be reached at maryvillano@igin.com.