On Record

Marcia Gruver Doyle

|  April 05, 2012 |

Around the Table

Eavesdrop on what top contractors are saying.

By Marcia Gruver Doyle

Talking with the finalists last month during our 2012 Contractor of the Year event opened up a rich vein of experience and wisdom. You’ll get to met each of them in the coming months, but for right now I thought you’d appreciate some of their perspectives on three hot issues:

Technology

After “suffering through two or three iterations” of telematics, “we’ve seen a dramatic cost savings especially when we analyze our cycles,” relates Steve Cosper, Granite Contracting, Concord, North Carolina, our 2012 Contractor of the Year winner. “Now when we turn a truck loose at the plant or quarry, we can monitor those cycles. We can ask our drivers where they were during a certain time period, or why they chose a certain route. We’ve probably reduced our trucking expense by 10 to 14 percent, and if you haul enough asphalt and stone, that’s a big number.” (Look for Steve’s story in our May issue.)

“About a year and a half ago, we started buying new equipment with GPS on it, and it has allowed us to do our jobs more quickly,” says Jon Fye, who then laughs: “It’s scared both our competitors and our banker.” The owner of Fye Excavating, Sperry, Iowa, adds a half-humorous side note to technology providers, though: “If you come out with new technology and I have throw away my old technology, I’m coming after you.”

Training/recruiting

“We’ve found what works for us is getting young people who don’t have a lot of experience and then training them,” says Alisa Bennett, Bennett Contracting, Bradenton, Florida. “They don’t have a preconception of how to do things. Our grading crew foreman is in his early 20s and he learned everything on the job. It’s exciting to see you’re providing a long-term skill.”

“You bring me a moral man, and I’ll make an excavator operator out of him,” Fye adds. “If an operator’s immoral, it will take me a lifetime to make a good man out of him.”

Tier 4

“I’ve had good luck and bad luck with Tier 4 machines,” says Tim Davis, Jr., Straight Line Construction, Pueblo West, Colorado, a foundation drilling contractor who’s added new machines after winning jobs in emissions-conscious California. “I’ve had some of them break down and no one has a clue on how to work on them, it’s just too new.”

Which makes Jon Lane, JML Trucking & Excavating, located in the north woods of Errol, New Hampshire, hesitate. “The new emissions scare me because I work so far back in the woods. I had a job this winter 30 miles off the road. I can’t take a Tier 4 machine in there.”

“We’ve only got about 700 hours on our Tier 4 machine and I can’t say it’s much different than the Tier 3,” comments Chuck Graham, Graham & Sons, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. “But what’s going to happen in 3,000 hours? I don’t know. I’m going to upgrade now and get it over with, take my medicine. But I do feel that we took the chance, and now the dealer’s got to back us up.”

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