Maintaining Driveways and Lanes
by Tim Nephew
Sponsored by Kubota
One of the biggest challenges that faces owners of rural property is maintaining their roads and trails. The attraction of having your buildings located away from the main highway traffic and noise, can sometimes be offset by the work it takes to keep those roads in good shape and open year-round. Potholes in the spring give way to washboard roads in the summer, which are followed by snow covered roads in the winter. Maintaining roads during all seasons is a lot easier with the right equipment.
A tractor is the fundamental building block when putting together road maintenance equipment. If you are fortunate enough to already own a tractor, you can focus on getting the right implements for maintenance. If you don’t have a tractor and are in the market for one, there are some basic considerations to keep in mind.
Tractors are great multitasking tools that will help maintain roads, but they also can help you with a variety of other work projects like tilling, mowing, moving materials and snow removal. Deciding what type and size of tractor to purchase will ultimately come down to several factors including the size of your property and the different needs you may have. Depending on the scope of your needs, the sub-compact or compact utility tractors are a good starting point when determining the size and horsepower of a tractor to purchase.
There are a variety of manufacturers and engine configurations available in the sub-compact and compact utility market which tends to have tractors with a horsepower rating in the 18 to 40 range. These tractors can be configured with many different options, but most come standard with a live PTO, three-point hitch and hydraulics for lifting and moving attachments.
The versatility of these smaller framed tractors has been greatly improved by the development of attachments for the market. Everything from post hole augers, log splitters, snow blowers and even small backhoes for ditching and digging can make the smaller tractors a workhorse on your land.
Regardless of the size of your tractor, consider adding a front-end loader. Front End Loaders, (FELs), are one of the most beneficial and useful attachments that you can add to your tractor. A good quality loader is performance-matched with a tractor and constructed of good material that can withstand the extra stress and heavy use. Poor craftsmanship or inferior construction in a loader may result in bent or damaged buckets from ordinary use. The ability to add different types of bucket attachments is important when purchasing a loader for your tractor. The type of bucket used for moving dirt is sometimes much different than the one used to move snow.
Rear Mounted Blades
When it comes to maintaining a road, no other implement is used as often and with such versatility as the rear mounted blade. The rear blade is a three-point tractor mounted implement consisting of a long blade or moldboard that can be adjusted in a variety of positions or angles depending on the task you are performing. Adjustments may be made to the blade angle, the tilt of the blade and even how the blade is offset in comparison to the tractor.
The rear blade is designed to allow you to redistribute the driveway material that has been misplaced from overuse or age. The crown of the road, which is the high point of the middle of the road, has a tendency to become higher than the other parts of the driveway. While it is good to have a slight crown that allows water to run off either side of the road, too much crown will usually result in the formation of potholes making for a bumpy, rough road. Depending on the condition of the driveway, you may need to bring in more material to fill in some of the potholed areas on the road which can easily be accomplished with the front-end loader on your tractor.
Matching the size of the rear blade to your tractor’s horsepower and capability is also very important. Rear blades may be purchased in lengths from 48 inches up to 84 inches in width and even wider for large tractors. When using smaller tractors in the under 40 horsepower category, make sure that you don’t purchase a rear blade that is too large for your tractor to handle efficiently as this will put quite a bit of strain on your tractor if you happen to be moving a lot of material.
Keeping your road level and well maintained in the spring, summer or fall, involves moving gravel or class 5 material that mainly consists of rock, sand and clay. But if you live in the northern part of the country, moving snow becomes a big part of the process in the winter.
Moving snow with a rear blade is done a little differently as opposed to using the blade to level a driveway. With snow removal, your goal is to drag or pull the snow off the road by angling the blade and making several passes along the road or driveway. The blade may also be reversed and used to push snow instead of pulling it behind the tractor which also allows you to get up close to walls or embankments.
Another option when moving snow is to use a snow blower attached to either the front or the rear of the tractor. The amount of snow you receive in your area will determine if using a snow blower is a better option than using a rear blade. There are benefits to both and they each will keep your road accessible and free of snow.
Tractor mounted snow blowers come in a variety of sizes and are matched to your tractors horsepower and frame size. The benefit of having a front mounted snow blower is that it is easier to look straight ahead while blowing snow as opposed to looking over your shoulder with a rear mounted blower. An advantage of having a rear mounted blower is that you can leave your loader attached which comes in handy when moving crusted snow or large wind-blown drifts.
Whichever way you go, having the right equipment will help you maintain your roads no matter the season. To set you on the right path from the start, visit your local compact tractor dealer to help you customize the right machine and attachments that will meet all your year-round needs.