An inexperienced trencher operator can cause dangerous, time-consuming mistakes. To avoid them, make sure crew members understand all aspects of trenching, from start to finish: digging conditions, potential safety hazards, and the relationship between trencher attachment and prime mover. With this knowledge, they’ll complete jobs on time and with little potential for injury.

“It’s important to be familiar with and know the controls and adjustments on both your trencher attachment and prime mover,” says Dave Aldrich, light construction dealer development and service manager for Paladin Attachments, which includes the Bradco brand of trencher attachments. “Take time to learn how they operate.”

Always plan out the job first, taking these variables into account:

  • Trench requirements
  • Potential safety hazards
  • Digging conditions
  • Trencher tooth pattern
  • Digging chain tension

Choosing the right tooth type

There are three options for a trencher’s digging tools:

  • Cup – Most common. Ideal for black dirt, loam, moist clay, sand, and sandy clay.
  • Shark – Ideal for rocky, abrasive, or compact conditions like caliche.
  • Frost – Ideal for the extreme applications like coral, frozen ground, and fracturable rock.

If unsure, talk with your dealer or manufacturer representative about the soil type your crews will be digging into.

Trencher attachments do have their limitations, so match not only trencher teeth to digging conditions, but also the machine’s hydraulic capabilities with trench depth.

“Performance is directly related to the power available from the prime mover’s auxiliary hydraulic system,” says Aldrich. “If the trencher seems to lack power or speed, it may be due to a lack of sufficient auxiliary power. Be sure to match the size of your trencher attachment with the hydraulic capabilities of your machine.”

Also, make sure the trencher chain is neither too loose nor too tight for the style of boom and tensioning system you’re using. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the operator’s manual for proper adjustment.

Next page: Starting and stopping, Properly positioning the trencher.