Reporter: Update: Cold weather forces contractor to revert to B20 use

It was a great experiment and it’s not over with yet. With winter temperatures reaching 26 below zero on the Syracuse, New York, Destiny USA mall expansion project, A. P. Reale & Sons, the Ticonderoga, New York, site development contractor, switched the B100 biodiesel it had used through most of the project to B20. “When your equipment won’t run, it won’t run,” relates Charles Manfred, project manager with Reale. But B20, laced with additives, did the trick through the rest of the winter.

Reale was able to use B100 on its 39-piece fleet until mid-November, when the machines started having trouble starting. The company then switched to B50, and went down to B20 about two weeks later. Since then, they’ve had two problems with machines not starting, both handled with a fuel filter change. “It was pretty easy to track which fuel mix worked best since most machines ran almost a full tank everyday,” Manfred says.

Manfred is undeterred, and as temperatures warm up, Reale will once again use B100 exclusively. “In the meantime, we’re going to research ways we can try to make it through next winter with B100,” Manfred says. A possible alternative: using large shelters to keep the fleet a cozy 55 degrees.

To date, the company estimates it has used about 29,000 gallons of B100. Machines sipping biodiesel on site include a Volvo EC460B excavator, Komatsu D21A dozer and John Deere 670D grader.

Reale has plenty of incentive to find a way to use B100 in minus-zero temps. Project owner Destiny USA wants a 100-percent fossil-fuel-free project and stipulates all contractors use B100. And they’re willing to pay for this vision, giving Reale the cost difference between diesel and B100. “We’re excited about this opportunity to work with an owner who cares about these things,” Manfred says.
– Marcia Gruver

Editors Note: Equipment World first reported on this story in August 2007.

Rising steel costs boost equipment prices
Manufacturers set to implement increases

Contractors can expect to pay more for equipment in the future, as manufacturers prepare to raise machine and component prices. A steep increase in the price of commodities – specifically steel – is the oft-cited culprit. A worldwide growth in demand for steel, particularly in China, has not only raised prices, but also created a shrinking supply.

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Ken Simonson, chief economist, Associated General Contractors of America, calls steel prices “red hot,” and says the industry should be prepared for continued high prices. “Unfortunately, there is worse to come,” he says. “Steel suppliers have been burning up the fax wires announcing huge price increases and canceling previous quotes.”

Volvo Construction Equipment will raise prices globally by 5 percent across the company’s entire product range, including machines, attachments and parts. “With no sign of commodity prices cooling in the foreseeable future,” says Scott Hall, executive vice president, Volvo Construction Equipment, “it has become unavoidable that these costs be offset in the form of a price increase.”

Caterpillar also announced a price increase, set to take effect in July. Although the company has not taken a mid-year pricing action since 2005, Caterpillar machinery and engines will increase up to 5 percent worldwide, and company officials say prices may change again later in the year.

Some manufacturers have not announced specific price increases, but expect to make some changes in 2008. Mike Bazinet, director, global communications, Terex, says while the company makes decisions on a product-by-product basis, the company is influenced by the same external cost influences as other manufacturers. “Based on factors such as rising steel prices, we would expect to take some price increases in the back half of this year,” he says.
– Amy Materson

Letter to the editor

I am going through the latest issue of Equipment World and noticed that you are now starting to print in Spanish. How many Mexican magazines print in English for English speaking people working in Mexico? If people don’t want to learn English let them go back to where ever they came from. If you feel you need to start helping the poor non-English speaking Mexicans, then please remove my name from your mailing list. I don’t need Equipment World any more.

Allen Moss
Moss Earthwork
Ocala, Florida

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