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Loading leaves into truck/trailer ... how?

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by Roger, Oct 28, 2006.

  1. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,943

    For those of us who don't have a powered leaf loader, and are too small to consider buying one, and need to haul away the leaves, how do you get them from the ground into the truck/trailer?

    Yes, I mulch them down where possible, or dump them on a pile at the customer's site where possible. But, a few places, the leaves need to be hauled away. I see many here on LS have dump trucks or dump trailers, but I don't think ALL have 16, 20, or ? hp leaf loaders.

    I work solo and have a 5X10 trailer I used for debris. It has 36" high sides, and a removable end gate. For equipment, I have an 8 hp Lesco wheeled blower and a Stihl BG85 hand blower, some 8X10 tarps, and a couple of steel-tined rakes. Beyond that, everything else is hard labor, pure and simple.

    If the leaves are not close to the trailer, I put them on tarps (gather with the blowers, rake them on the tarps), and carry them over my shoulder, walking up the rear of the trailer and dumping. If the pile is close to the trailer, or can be blown close to the trailer, then I load directly into the trailer (no tarps). If the pile is damp and the leaves are heavy, I use a 12-tined silage fork to move them from the pile into the trailer. If they are dry and light, then I use two steel-tined rakes, one under each arm, hands near the end of the handle/rake head. Using a "claw" motion, I gather the leaves together between the rakes and lift them into the trailer. Remember the sides of my trailer are a bit over 4' off the ground, so I can work over the edge of the trailer, not just from the open back.

    After the leaves are in the trailer, then comes the hard part, stomping and packing them. If the leaves are wet or damp, they pack pretty well. If they are dry, then much packing is needed to get a full load.

    If the entire trailer is loaded with tarps, I can get about 30 tarps into the 5X10X3 trailer box. Dry leaves just dumped into the box will fill the box with about 6 tarps, but then comes the packing to enable me to get the other 24 tarps.

    For those with leaf loaders, you are probably saying "... sounds like too much work." You are right, it is hard work. The most energy draining part is the stomping and packing. However, carrying heavy tarps of wet or damp leaves across a yard is not so easy either.

    Does anybody have any other suggestions? Surely there are many on here who aren't big enough to warrant the cost of a truck with a 20hp leaf loader. I see many with dump trailers, and no leaf loader attached.

    I have given serious thought to a small dump trailer, but don't believe my 60-70 load per seaon justify the expense. And, the sides of a dump trailer, or a dump truck, are too high to load over the side. Even though my trailer isn't very large, the bed height off the ground is about 14", which makes access good. If I made the sides higher to haul more leaves, then I negate the possibility of loading over the sides, meaning all debris must come in from the rear. I have done this work for many years, and keep finding slight improvements. But, I'm looking for a major improvement! Lawn mowing is easy compared to handling leaves.

    Please don't just suggest mulching the leaves, because I would do so if possible. There are good reasons why they must be hauled out (most of the properties have a very high bed area to turf area ratio, leaving too little turf area to spread the leaves for mulching).

    TURFLORD LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 834

    Don't they sell green barrels where you are? :confused: I think they're about 33 gallons. Leaves go into barrel, barrel gets hefted onto should, barrel gets tossed over side or through gates in back of rack truck. A step ladder is most convenient for the vertically challenged employees.
  3. turfsolutions

    turfsolutions LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 853

    Hand loading leaves on a truck would require a min of 2 people if you did not have a leaf vac set up. Hand loading by yourself cannot be profitable. They have a lot of different size leaf vacs you can setup if you are flying solo. The smaller ones are not so good when wet leaves are abundant. Either put some money into a helper, or invest in some equipment.

    Another idea is to work with another landscape co. that has a leaf vac set up. You pile the leaves in the street, he comes and sucks the piles up for you. You pass the charge onto the customer.
  4. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,656

    I have a grass and leaf gobbler and I just run my walk-behind up on my trailer (6x12, open) when the bagger gets full. I made a platform that runs from my tailgate to the front of my trailer so I can walk across it without any safety concerns. Everytime my bagger gets full, I drive up my trailer, unhook the bagger walk into the back of my truck, empty the bag, and go back to fill up the bag again. It's the best method I could think of for being solo and not having very many leaves to pick up to justify a vacuum system for my 260Z and/or a leaf loader for sucking up the leaves.

    I will try to get some pics of how I do leaves.
  5. Raven386

    Raven386 LawnSite Silver Member
    from CT
    Messages: 2,169

    except when they are afraid of ladders like myself!
  6. gravedigger5

    gravedigger5 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    Roger, without a leaf loader/vac, you are already doing everything possible. Reading your post, it brings back nightmares of my first season doing leaves by myself, loading into the back of a 1 ton dump truck using a tarp:cry: After that I got a 11 hp billy goat debris loader:drinkup: the only thing and you might already be doing that is when unloading a non-dumping truck or trailer, use spare tire or something large with a cable attached. put the tire in front, and hang cable out the back. Put your load of leaves on top then when you go to unload pull the tire out with the cable and about 80% of the leaves will come out. might need to tie cable to a tractor or tree to pull it out. Marc
  7. jcb287

    jcb287 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 126

    If you dont have a leaf loader then the only other real option is "2 men and a tarp" which can be a pain in the @$$!:cry:
  8. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,943

    gravedigger ... Unloading is the "easy" part! Yesterday, I spent about 2:45 to get a full load (about 30 tarps). It was jammed tight with leaves, some of them a bit damp which helped with packing. I take them to a dump, but have nothing to tie off for pulling the load out. I have a "refuse hook" (AM Leonard sells them), and able to pull off the back part of the load while standing in the back with the end gate out. I don't need to be neat in how they are dumped out of the trailer. The rest of the load is forked off with a 4-tined pitchfork, some more out the back, but most of the front of the load is pitched over the side. Unloading only takes about 0:30 of fast work, maybe 0:40 if I'm dragging.

    That's the best I can do for my age (now past 65). Every season after the first few loads, I say "there must be a better way."

    I have thought about some other suggestions of a small loader. However, I'm not sure about much time saving. I've seen the 20hp models run, and they really make short work of a pile! However, a small unit (such as might be used on a Cyclone, or other vac unit) would probably be very slow to take away a pile. And, the issue of getting it to the site, having to return after the unloading to pick up, etc may be more hassle than worth. The primary element of interest would be if, when the leaves pass through the vac unit, they are finer and would pack more easily than whole ones. I don't care about what they look like at the dump. I get no points for bringing finer chopped leaves to the dump!

    The 6hp vac units on the attachments might work fine when there is a steady flow of debris from under a mowing deck. But, starting to work on a pile might be a challenge, both to the unit, and to the patience of the operator.

    As for the barrel suggestion, I think that method would be horribly slow. Without doing a test, I suspect that I get 3-4 barrels of leaves on one 8X10 tarp. And, I can lay the tarp and rake (or fork, if damp/heavy) directly on the tarp. Loading leaves into a 33 gal barrel sounds like a long day. Also, the tare weight of a tarp is next to nothing. The tare weight of a barrel starts to add up.

    I typically use 2 or 4 tarps, and where a pile or row exists, they can all be laid out and loaded at the same time. Often 2 tarps can be dragged across the lawn to the trailer at one time. But, each situation is different; sometimes they need to be carried because of terrain, rocks, mud, etc. The distance to/from the trailer also effects how I might work.
  9. DBL

    DBL LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,219

    before we had leaf vac and dump trucks we had a trailer we built sides on and we would load leaves on taprs and tarp them over and dump the on the trailer and when the load got big enough we would cover it up with the tarp and go dump it which was just as hard pushing all the leaves off
  10. jtkplc

    jtkplc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,656

    The easiest and cheapest way to get leaves out of the back of a truck is a load handler. $170 and I can unload an entire truck full of leaves, with 2ft high sides on the box in about 30 seconds to a minute. Then I just use my blower to get the little bit that's left behind in front of and behind the tire wells.

    By the way, how much are you guys spending on these leaf loaders, maybe they aren't as much as I though? I saw a couple on ebay, one a 10hp leaf loader, new, was going for $2500 or something like that.

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