Storm clean up. Safely done.

The headlines read: “Destruction across Eastern Iowa.” It was not a hurricane. It was not a tornado. It was a derecho. This derecho delivered 100 mph winds (there is no eye) in a line over a wide swatch of land. This derecho flipped vehicles and damaged

R50 35 Splus + Woodcracker 10 20 3

Editor’s Note: The following article is brought to you by Applied Machinery Sales in partnership with

The headlines read: “Destruction across Eastern Iowa.” It was not a hurricane. It was not a tornado. It was a derecho.  This derecho delivered 100 mph winds (there is no eye) in a line over a wide swatch of land. This derecho flipped vehicles and damaged trees.  Lots of trees.

Flannery Trucking, a company of diverse offerings, was contracted to come in and clear the right-of-way behind this deracho’s destructive path.  This meant removing trees that were uprooted and damaged by the storm, or were now precariously positioned to possible cause more property damage.

In the past, when Flannery contracted out for storm clean up, the ‘usual way’ of getting the work done was climbing trees, using ropes to drop heavy limbs and, when possible, use bucket trucks.

“We started the clean up doing what we always have done with ropes and bucket trucks,” said Richard Marvin, Flannery’s point person on this particular clean up.

Because of the large geographic area to be cleared, it was soon clear to the team on the ground there needed to be a better, more efficient way to accomplish what they contracted to do.

“We went looking for a more efficient and safer way to increase our production,” Marvin said, “as well as get in and get out of the way of the homeowners. Even though at the time we were not sure what we were looking for.”   

Right of way work has specific requirements of its equipment.  “We needed a machine that had rubber tires, travel speed and the reach needed to remove trees from the top down,” said Jamey Flannery owner of Flannery Trucking.

Plus, whatever machine they chose also had to have hydraulics that did not fail in extreme cold, needed to be simple to operate getting the team can get up to speed quickly, and it needed to be compact enough not to cause traffic issues on residential streets.

A Flannery team member doing online research saw a video of the Merlo Roto with a Woodcracker implement. After “looking at numerous types of machines,” Marvin said, “the Merlo Roto definitely fit the bill the best, it just looked like it would be able to hold up the longest” for what was needed.

The Roto chosen was the Merlo Roto R50.35S PLUS.

It covered the top issues: a no flex boom that safely and easily worked the Woodcracker attachment at various heights up to 115’, hydraulics that  handled the cold very well, it was simple to operate, and even with stabilizers fully extended, it was compact enough not to cause traffic issues.

The R50.35SPLUS also offered more to the Flannery team. The 360 degree rotating turret made it possible to safely bring just-cut tree limbs down away from homes without having to move the machine. The 20 degree tilt cab, with its expansive glass surface, ensured Marvin, as chief operator, was fully engaged with the boom and its attachments and loads. Plus, the frame leveling function ensured a solid footing which was especially needed when dealing with top heavy damaged trees. And the biggest plus: this Roto came equipped with a remote control.  

Richard Marvin, had years of experience as a logger, even owned his own hazardous tree removal service for a number of years. Still, the Roto R50.35SPLUS was a new type of machine even for him.

To help get quickly up to speed, AMS-Merlo sent out Brian Hatch, their lead Merlo telehandler trainer to the site where the Flannery Trucking crew were working through the storm damaged area.

“Training for the Merlo ROTOS is always a fun and exciting experience not just for myself but for the crew I am training as well’” Hatch said.

“Richard quickly picked up on the wireless remote control operation, and within a few hours of operating, the controls started to become part of his muscle memory and his tree felling time was reduced to half.”

“I started learning this machine with the remote control,” Marvin said, “before I operated from the cab. I like the remote as it gave me a way to see the full scope of the tree work, as well as the area around the tree at one time.  I liked that once we place the machine, I did not have to move it again until a particular job was done. Then we moved it to the next place, did the work, moved to the next place, and did the work. We went down a number of streets this way.

“This machine is just becoming second nature. It is so smooth to operate; it took a week to become extremely comfortable with it. It is built with the operator in mind; it works so well.”

In the four weeks Marvin and his crew were operating the Roto with the Woodcracker attachment, he figures he has taken down over 400 trees. Marvin said he was surprised by the amount of weight the Roto boom can hold, along with the stability of the machine while holding that weight at its highest reach.

“This is a big deal,” he said, “when you are reaching over someone’s house and you have to cut it off; you have to have complete control of [the limb].”

Marvin said “The work was way harder before we got this machine. We used the bucket truck then. In this kind of situation a guy would have to use some real ingenuity to not cause damage, and not get hurt. Usually he would have to climb up and take it down in small pieces; time consuming work.”

After getting comfortable with the Roto’s operation by using the remote, Marvin then got into the cab. “I do 90 percent of the operation from within the cab, now,” he said. “Only on the extremely tall trees do I use the remote. Remote is a wonderful option.”

The combination of the Roto with the Woodcracker made this clean-up operation run very smooth.

The Woodcracker is an intuitive, easy to manipulate tool.” Marvin said. “We are really happy with this combination of Roto with Woodcracker.”

According to the factory agent for Woodcracker in North America, Kenneth Luker,

Woodcracker is a unique tree cutting piece of equipment developed by Westtech, an Austrian manufacturing company with long roots in the bioharvest industry. “At its simplest,” he said, “the Woodcracker has perfected the grapple saw. Grab the tree limb. The saw cuts the limb. The clamp holds the limb, and with the use of the Roto, brings that limb safely to the ground for the ground crew to finish cutting.”

The Woodcracker is designed to safely cut tree limbs and trees that are not in safe places, Luker said. The Woodcracker used on the Flannery project has a 35 ½ saw blade, the largest capacity available.

“With this machine I can do the work of a three man crew in 1/3rd of the time.” Marvin said. “I can do it in 15 minutes what they would take 1 hour to do. We still have crews working the bucket trucks. The Roto with Woodcracker are a part of the overall team doing this recovery work.”

“The combination of the Merlo Roto with the Woodcracker,” Marvin concluded,” makes me look like a rock star.”

 Article Written by Susan L. Doyle, Marketing at AMS Merlo  [email protected] 803-327-4949











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