20071021-IMG_4229Many arborists who offer tree risk assessments are new to this sort of service offering. After having customized software to a good number of these professionals, we can now share some learnings that would help others who seek to make this a new revenue stream.

About six in ten arborists that we surveyed in the summer (sent out about 2,000 surveys) indicate that they are offering TRAQ risk assessments to clients – a proportion that surprised us. It makes sense, though, as tree risk assessments were the type of service that arborists indicated was growing in demand the most.

Because Urban Forest Metrix offers the full TRAQ system in its data entry, reporting and database system, we’ve spoken to many arborists who have started using the software to help streamline the process. We’ve collected some of their observations that might prove insightful for people in other markets:

–       The TRAQ system is a bit like a pilot’s checklist. Entering in values in most sections of the TRAQ form doesn’t directly affect the results of the calculation of risk conditions, but it makes sure that everything has been properly observed.

–       What gets listed as risk conditions is a choice by the arborist, and this is where things get a bit fuzzy. There isn’t a formula that our programmers can insert in here to have condition 1 pop up as a risk condition, whereas condition 2 does not. The arborist is still using the sum of his or her training and experience and observation capacity to make this decision.

–       When it comes time to produce a report on the risk assessment, arborists use radically different methods. Some produce a simple spreadsheet showing trees with risk conditions, with many including a map. These tend to be done for institutions looking for a means to triage which trees they start to work on first. Others write 15-page reports that are highly customized to a single tree, with almost all of the material being narrative observations about the data they’ve collected, what likely has happened to the tree, and what is likely to happen in the future. In any of these cases, Urban Forest Metrix provides elements that can be included in the report (those maps, the risk conditions, the observations, etc.), but cannot be used to mathematically draw conclusions, or write up the narrative parts.

–       Even arborists that use the TRAQ method will often use a simpler method for certain projects. The town that hires an arborist to review trees after a storm is likely to use the “windshield survey” data reporting form found in Urban Forest Metrix for that purpose – determining which tree gets the bucket truck first. We developed an alternate system that allows two people in a vehicle to run the roads without stopping, entering the needed data very quickly, with one-touch inputs.