Last week I visited the NFMT trade show in Baltimore at the invitation of Andy Kaplan of Dominion Utility Vehicles, a Polaris commercial dealer who carries the GEM, Brutus and Gravely vehicle lines. The National Facilities Management and Technology Conference & Exposition (NFMT) brings education, networking and new products to facilities professionals nationwide. While a host of products and services from lighting, energy, air systems, roofing, HVAC, etc are on exhibit, I was there to check out the handful of utility vehicle brands on display including the GEM and Brutus from Polaris, Club Car, Taylor-Dunn and Vantage Vehicle.
The Polaris display had one of the larger footprints on the NFMT expo floor and had on display the GEM eL XD, Polaris M1400 and Brutus HDPTO Deluxe. The latter probably received the most attention on the day I was visiting. (The NFMT ran for three days) The Deluxe is an impressive vehicle with a factory installed cab with heat and A/C standard, integrated front PTO, 24 hp Kohler diesel engine, hydrostatic drive, and 1,250 lb. cargo box. The model also has a treadle pedal so you don’t have to shift gears back and forth during tasks like plowing snow, and with the hydrostatic drive the hydraulic fluid absorbs the changing forces rather than gears. The display model had an angle brush attachment mounted on the front. Starting at around $24,000 with the attachments extra the vehicle may appear to be pricey, but the Brutus HDPTO Deluxe is a commercial level work utility vehicle and the versatility provided by the attachments allow the Brutus to do the work of several vehicles on all types of terrain.
For example, with the finishing mower attachment you can mow even on steep terrain and do so in a climate controlled cab. The angle brush can sweep sidewalks of dirt and debris in the summer and snow in the winter. For other snow removal applications there is a snow blade or snow blower. The attachments can be controlled from the cab and can be moved up, down, left, right and tilted forward or backward. A cargo box spreader attachment was added last year with cab controls for adjusting the area of the spread, the volume of material, and the vibration of the auger to prevent clogging. The PTO also has a separate throttle control so the vehicle can be operated at a slower speed but the attachment can be operated at higher power. Other attachments include a landplane, grapple, pallet forks and materials bucket. According to recent Polaris earnings calls the higher end Brutus vehicles have been selling well.
I was also able to see the new 2016 GEM eL XD up close. As advertised the new doors feel really solid. I met another GEM dealer who expressed optimism about sales for the new line in the coming year. The recessed bed on the eL XD is one of the new features for 2016. I sat in the cab and the overall look and feel of the vehicle is solid and gives the impression of a quality build.
At the Club Car display they had their relatively new Carryall 500 and 700 on display but were focusing more on their VersAttach Bed System, a configurable and removable track-based bed attachment system for carrying tools and equipment. The commercial focused team was representing Club Car at the event. They are focusing products and services on specific vertical market segments such as education, resorts and government.
Werres Corporation, a distributor of Vantage Vehicles, had one of the vehicles on display at their booth. The electric powered vehicle features a long truck bed and an enclosed cab with a design similar to mini-trucks. The Vantage Vehicle has been a big seller for Werres, and often displaces pick-up trucks for campus applications.
Taylor-Dunn was featuring one of their relatively new vehicles, the Bigfoot. The Bigfoot features 48V AC power, hydraulic brakes, 12 mph top speed, a 44″x77″ flatbed and a 3,000 lb. load capacity. Other amenities include dual USB charging ports, LED lighting, adjustable seats, tilt steering and recessed tie-downs. The Bigfoot has a range of up to 40 miles and can be configured with a cab, stake sides or aluminum drop-down sides.