No matter how soft or rugged the terrain, the Land Tamer is up to the task for Buchinski Enterprises in Alberta’s backcountry.

From a productivity and financial standpoint, an equipment breakdown is the last thing a support-services contractor wants while working on gas- and oil-well sites deep in the bog-filled bush country of Alberta. That's why Buchinski Enterprises Ltd. depends on a Land Tamer 8 x 8 XHD all-terrain, low-impact, amphibious utility vehicle to help workers provide vegetation control and other maintenance services.

"Our crews travel through everything from muskeg (bogs) to slews (beaver ponds)," says Bryan Buchinski, the manager of the company, based in Manning, Alberta, Canada. "The well sites might be two to three hours from the nearest gravel road ... it's nothing for guys to be gone all day.

"They might travel in 10 or 20 miles off a gravel road, but there are no roads," he adds. "They follow cut lines (cleared land) for a while, but the toughest stretch is from the cut lines to the well sites."

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Made by PFM Manufacturing Inc., the Land Tamer is at home on land or in water. The 8 x 8 extreme heavy-duty model travels on either eight, 33-inch-high and 12 1/2-inch-wide agricultural tires, or four removable, 20-inch-wide rubber tracks; each track wraps around two tires, and the tracks decrease the ground pressure to just 1 psi. That allows the low-impact Land Tamer to easily travel through swampy terrain, mud and snow. The tires also propel the vehicle in water and keep it afloat.

Added a sprayer

The Land Tamer 8 x 8 features a marine-grade aluminum hull; a hydrostatic gear-drive system that produces full-time, all-wheel drive; an 80 hp DEUTZ turbo diesel engine; and hydraulic drive motors that eliminate the need for chain drives. The extreme heavy-duty model is designed to carry up to 3,000 pounds on land/2,500 pounds in water and offers an available enclosed cab made of unbreakable plastic glass. The machine weighs about 6,000 pounds and is about 8 feet wide (with tracks installed), 7 feet tall and 15 1/2 feet long.

Using a sprayer mounted on the Land Tamer, Buchinksi Enterprises provides noxious-weed control services, aimed at eliminating non-native weeds brought in from other areas. It also uses the vehicles to perform routine well maintenance, such as painting, changing out pumps and replacing faulty gaskets. In addition, employees use the vehicle — which can hold three passengers — to transport inspectors to well sites to check on reforestation, land reclamation and noxious-weed control efforts.

Previously, Buchinski says his company used another kind of amphibious vehicle, but wanted something more reliable. Retrieving broken-down equipment in such remote areas is an expensive and time-consuming proposition, he notes.

"Getting in and out in a day is your biggest worry," he explains. "The companies we work for know where we're going, and we check in every couple hours as part of our own safety policy. It's usually a 12-hour day."

Avoiding breakdowns

"Our Land Tamer improves employee safety because it's much less prone to breakdowns, which can lead to injuries while winching or pulling or prying," Buchinski says, "The reliability issue is huge. Before, we've had to leave machines out in the bush for a couple days before we could get enough people and equipment lined up to 'rescue' it."

The company uses the vehicle mostly from June through September. Buchinski estimates the firm spent anywhere from $700 to $1,000 a week repairing the previous amphibious vehicle it owned. "So we save thousands of dollars a year in reduced maintenance, labor and repair-parts costs," he says.

Buchinski also lauds the vehicle's versatility. For example, the winch it carries can be either front- or rear-mounted. That's invaluable if the Land Tamer gets stuck, and there's only a tree in front of or behind the vehicle for a crew to use to winch itself free, because the winch can be moved to either position.

"It also allows us to do more," he says. "For instance, we can spray weeds and carry inspectors at the same time. Before, we could only do one or the other. Now we can kill two birds with one stone. If an inspector sees something, we can take care of it right there while the inspector is there, instead of having to go back, get the sprayer, then drive all the way back to the site to take care of the problem.

"The Land Tamer is very valuable to us," he concludes. "Without it, I'd be scratching my head, wondering if it's even worth the headaches to do this kind of work with the equipment we had. It's made life a lot easier for us."

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