Arkansas Contractor Builds on Four Generations of Traditional Values

John Ray Evans, Julie Sanders and John Hartley Evans of H.W. Tucker
Left to Right: H.W. Tucker Company President John Ray Evans, Office Administrator Julie Evans Sanders and Vice President John Hartley Evans
Equipment World

For John Hartley Evans, running a successful construction business has meant knowing when to add services or change directions to follow the money and the local market.

The vice president and third-generation owner of North Little Rock, Arkansas-based H.W. Tucker Company has spent his entire life watching the company grow and evolve. “As a kid, I was out on the job in dozers, backhoes and concrete trucks. It’s all I’ve ever done,” he says.

H.W. Tucker’s construction legacy dates back to John Hartley’s grandfather Hartley Tucker, who purchased a struggling construction firm from another contractor in 1953. Tucker took over a project paving the roads and 1,000 driveways at the Little Rock Air Force Base.

“It was a big deal in the '50s,” says John Hartley. “Anywhere we drive around here, you’ll find street after street of roads we’ve paved over the last six decades.”

John Hartley’s father, John Ray, says he had no choice but to join his father-in-law’s business; it was just expected. As the company grew, John Ray added excavation and site preparation to the portfolio, enabling the company to not only do the paving but the ground preparation that preceded it.

When John Hartley was old enough to become heavily involved in the business in the '90s, the company expanded its services once again. This time adding storm drain and underground utility work into the fold. “We go into jobs now with nothing but trees, and when we leave, they’re ready to start building,” says John Hartley.

And now, John Hartley’s daughter, Julie Evans Sanders, has joined the ranks as the fourth generation and one of the company’s office administrators. “I grew up seeing everybody working construction and I liked it,” says the construction management grad. “I liked the equipment. I liked watching them move dirt.”

H.W. Tucker Co. headquarters in North Little Rock, ArkansasH.W. Tucker has maintained the same headquarters since the company started in the 1950s.Equipment WorldThe family has earned their positive reputation across the state thanks to the work ethic instilled by the generations who came before them. “My grandfather would always say, ‘If you have to stay a little longer to finish it, let’s finish it today.’ And it was usually around 5:30 in the evening when that was said,” recalls John Hartley.

Those late nights haven’t gone unnoticed by clients. “H.W. Tucker is so good they can pick their customers,” says Clark McGlothin. “I had to convince them to partner with me. Once we worked together, they’ve done 99 percent of my site concrete since.”

The company has experienced slow but steady growth over the past 69 years, and now, it has settled into a sweet spot when it comes to size. Today, the $14 million to $15 million company has around 40 employees.

Still evolving, H.W. Tucker is looking at adding recycling into the mix as a complement to its concrete and utility divisions.

Taking a personal approach to customer service

Despite H.W. Tucker’s size, John Hartley still makes a point to visit jobsites daily. His personal relationships with clients keep operations running smoothly.

“I like to sit down with clients at the beginning of the project to talk about issues I can see arising,” he says. “Just because it’s drawn out on the plans, it doesn’t mean it’s going work.”

Because of the experience and quality H.W. Tucker brings to the table, 90% of the company’s jobs come from repeat customers.

“They are very straightforward and always go above and beyond to make sure things are completed correctly,” says Josh Tritt. “H.W. Tucker is the epitome of setting higher standards of performance.  They always do what they say they are going to do and are able to maintain long-lasting relationships with their clients.”

H.W. Tucker uses a scraper, excavators and a water truck at a jobsite.Equipment WorldThe benefits of an extensive fleet

When H.W. Tucker shows up on site, the crew is well prepared for any curveballs the project could throw at them.

And with today’s supply chain issues, that means having the latest equipment and technology, as well as tried-and-true backup equipment to keep projects on schedule even when a machine goes down.

The company purchases a few new machines each year and has more than 50 pieces of equipment in its fleet, including 11 dozers, 10 rollers, seven excavators, four motor graders and two curb machines.

H.W. Tucker rarely rents or leases equipment; it buys it new, pays it off and keeps it. John Evans says this equipment acquisition strategy came from his father-in-law who grew up during the Great Depression and preached the importance of carrying little to no debt.

“My father-in-law started out with nothing,” says John Ray. “He said, 'If we can’t pay for it in cash, we’re not going to get it.' And that’s worked pretty good for us.”

Having a robust fleet has prevented the company from having to move equipment daily – it’s staged at the jobsite ready to roll. It also helps prevent project delays.

“We’ve got enough equipment sitting at our disposal that very seldom do we get into an emergency situation if something breaks down,” says John Hartley. “If a smaller machine quits, something you can trailer legally, we’ll run another one over and keep going. But if an 80,000- to 100,000-pound machine quits, it might take you all day to get a permit. If we have an excavator in a pit somewhere loading 15 trucks, we send a backup there just in case.”

Maintaining equipment for life

And to keep all those new and older model machines moving, H.W. Tucker runs a tight ship when it comes to machine inspections and preventative maintenance.

The company employs one lead mechanic and three technicians who perform routine maintenance work, including oil changes, track work and cylinder and hose repairs.

“Our operators, for the most part, do their own maintenance,” says John Hartley. “We’ll go through once a week to make sure everything is OK but very seldom do we have problems.”

For more complicated fixes and warranty work, H.W. Tucker relies on local Caterpillar dealer Riggs Cat.

“They have the biggest hydraulic shop in the state and a huge machine shop,” says John Hartley. “A good dealer can make a bad piece of equipment good, and a bad dealer can make a good piece of equipment bad. Here in Arkansas, Caterpillar is good.”

Embracing new technology

If his grandfather were still here today, John Hartley says, he’d be most surprised by the technology used on the jobsite.

“It’s the best thing since dozers got cabs,” he says of Trimble machine control. “I cannot imagine going back to driving hubs, piling on and off the machine and shooting grades. We haven’t bought anything in five years that wasn’t wired and ready for it.”

The productivity benefits the company has gained since implementing the technology 10 years ago have been immeasurable, especially when it comes to novice operators, he says. “If somebody can run a machine a little bit, it can make you a phenomenal operator.” 

In addition to machine control, H.W. Tucker uses telematics on new equipment or equipment in daily use to stay abreast of maintenance needs.

H.W. Tucker concrete crew installing curbs in a new subdivision.Equipment WorldTreating employees like family

Skilled labor is one of the biggest challenges the business will face in the next five years, says John Hartley.

But he feels lucky to have so many loyal staff members. H.W. Tucker’s longest-tenured employee has 57 years in and shows no signs of slowing down, while numerous other employees have been with the company for two to three decades.

Offering a strong benefits package, consistent work and being personable is one of the best ways to retain people, he says.

“We treat our employees like family. They can call anytime. If there’s something going on in their personal lives, we do whatever we can to help them out.”

H.W. Tucker was a finalist in Equipment World's 2022 Contractor of the Year program. The program recognizes contractors who display the highest standards of business acumen, equipment management expertise, attention to safety and community involvement. Each year, 12 finalists receive an expense-paid trip to Las Vegas to participate in roundtable discussions and an awards ceremony.

Nominations for the 2023 Contractor of the Year awards will open this fall. For more information, visit https://www.equipmentworld.com/contractor-of-the-year.