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New truck outfit

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Posts: 2
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Topic starter

Hi everyone, 

I'm trying to create a list of everything needed to outfit a truck to do mortgage and boundary surveys of residential properties. This truck/surveyor will not be involved in commercial or large scale surveys, topographic maps, etc. 95% mortgage surveys for closings. Mostly <1 acre lots, though could have some 10-15 acre land jobs here and there - these would be in the minority. This would be a 1 man shop.

Assume I have little to no knowledge of the industry - what does a truck need?

Total station, tripod, flags, stakes, prisms, etc.  I'd love brand/model recommendations if you would like to offer! 

(To be clear, surveys would be performed by licensed, professional surveyor who would obviously know what tools are needed)


Posted : March 17, 2023 8:50 am
Posts: 1266
Member Member

If one man than a robot will be needed. Here is where you will get difference of opinions on brands. I like Trimble but the con is the reflector-less beam is wide unless you by the hi power one. So if it were me i would probably choose leica robot for this as it has a tight edm reflector beam. But i have heard the trimble s series can get better like the sx12 has i have no confirmation on that. You could get by with a total station but thats a lot of walking to and from the gun to take shots. If no off road then shoot a tripod shonny or other mag locator robot pole bi pod prism shovel spade extra rebars pk nails others flagging. A good 100 ft tape a set of chaining pins for a extra hand. Not a lot needed. So a smaller pickup would be fine. If you need to do rtk for datum then the equipment list grows and so does the size of vehicle to haul it. A sledge claw hammer. I would consider if its one man and competent having a ram mount mounted for a good laptop. That way he or she could do a quick upload of data check it see if anything was missed so no return trip is needed. If done right it could be drawn and any corners set that were missing before he left the site. Load a good mapping software like streets and trips with a Bluetooth or cable gps dongle and you or he can plan the order for logistics with it. Pretty neat to see all those needed surveys and color coded and have a idea of drive time all pre calculated . I used that stuff years ago and shaved a lot of unnecessary drives and was better equipped at where to go first. Also I reckon if your state requires a traverse closure on those little lots or not. How many you need to complete per day. Just ideas. Hope they help. And how much detail you need on each one. I have seen some very detailed ones and others get what is needed and move on.  Had one boss we had to locate everything landscaping beds i mean everything. Would have been quicker to scan the darn things as much detail he wanted.  Steps porch walk way’s driveway ac unit spigot sprinkler system heads. 

Posted : March 19, 2023 6:14 pm
Norman Oklahoma
Posts: 6863
Member Member

You should be made aware that "mortgage surveys" are a rather controversial topic hereabouts. Because just what constitutes a mortgage survey, what level of effort goes into them, and what one charges for that effort, varies a lot from place to place, and from office to office. In some minds the only equipment needed is a cloth tape for no more than a few minutes of time for which less than $100 per site is charged. Naturally, such a product leaves a great deal to be desired. Others think that anything less than a full and comprehensive boundary survey, including all improvements, is unprofessional.

Whatever you and the professional you intend to hire decide it means I'm going to assume that you want the equipment on hand necessary to do the latter.

  • total station instrument (robotic if used by a one-person crew), with reflectorless capability
  • data collector (pairs with the total station)
  • tripod
  • rod, with bipod (minimum 1, 2 is much preferable)
  • prism glass, with carrier (1 for each rod/bipod)
  • magnetic locater (aka "pin finder")
  • 100 foot cloth tape
  • engineers hammer
  • shovel
  • digging bar
  • machete, loppers, hand pruners

This is a very minimalist list. Every field surveyor is bound to have a few small items to add. 

Figure about $30k for the total station and data collector, if purchased new. $1k for the rod/bipods/prism glass. $1k for the magnetic locator. Figure about $500 for the rest, plus the small personal items. 

The supplies/consumables you will need to get started are not inconsequential:

  • field books
  • wood hubs, 6", 8", 10" lengths
  • lath, 18"', 36" lengths
  • survey tacks
  • MAG nails (shiners or washers with your company name stamped in them go well with these) 
  • iron rods
  • plastic caps (for the iron rods)
  • spray paint, a dozen cans of the upside down kind, various colors but mostly pink
  • flagging, a few different colors but, again, mostly pink

You would probably spend $1000 on the initial stock, and expect to restock 2 or 3 times during a year. 

And, of course, you will need some sort of vehicle to carry all this around in.

I've left out a great many things that you would definitely want for more advanced work, and might wish you had nevertheless. Like a chain saw, a battery powered hammer drill, more tripods with tribrachs and prism carriers.  

Don't forget the office side. Your surveyor will need a CAD capable laptop and CAD software - at a minimum -  to turn the field data into a marketable deliverable. Access to a large format plotter would be a big plus.

Finally - most companies cover basic safety equipment such a survey vests, gloves, and safety glasses. The big, profitable ones with little staff turnover throw in logo'd shirts and jackets - and sometimes boots. It seems to me to be a small price to pay for happy, loyal staff. 



Posted : March 19, 2023 10:13 pm

Carlson BRx7 GNSS Receiver

Posts: 2
Regular Member Member
Topic starter

@norman-oklahoma @olemanriver

Thank you so much both for your detailed responses and sharing your knowledge. This is exactly what I was looking for. I had done quite a bit of research and was trying to ascertain that I wasn't missing anything given my rudimentary knowledge.

The items you mentioned, especially outside of total station, prism, and data collector will be very useful in putting a budget and supply list together.

Any thoughts on going with a free CAD software like LibreCAD or alternative, vs having to pay $200 a month for AutoCAD?

Posted : March 20, 2023 9:15 am
Norman Oklahoma
Posts: 6863
Member Member

Posted by: @surveyor1503

Any thoughts on going with a free CAD software like LibreCAD or alternative, vs having to pay $200 a month for AutoCAD?

I recommend that you look at IntelliCAD based products like Carlson Survey and/or Microsurvey. About $2k up front and about $200 per year to maintain the subscription if you choose to.  There are some slightly cheaper alternatives but carrying it too far would be like biting your nose to spite your face.

Posted : March 20, 2023 1:33 pm