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The lack of enthusiasm about the federally-mandated Tier 4 Interim and Final fluid handling and maintenance requirements was front and center during a contractor panel held last week at Flagler Construction Equipment, a Volvo Construction Equipment dealer in Tampa, Florida.
“It’s a new game in the industry for both manufacturers and contractors,” says Rich Fuist, director of fleet operations for civil and utility contractor Ripa and Associates, Tampa, Florida. “And it’s a challenge for all the manufacturers to figure out how to get these systems to run efficiently and not be problematic.”
Don Woodruff, president, Woodruff & Sons, an underground utility and highway contractor, is more succinct: “It’s a pain in the butt. We’d rather we didn’t have to deal with the DEF and the additional filter maintenance.” The Bradenton, Florida company has more than 150 pieces in its fleet.
“It’s a big learning curve,” adds Fuist. “Your people have to be trained on how the equipment regenerates and sometimes they are not pressing the right buttons and the next thing you know you have to contact the dealer to go out and do a forced regen. There’s a lot of unknowns right now.”
“You have to get your operators trained on which button to hit,” agrees Mike Jarrell, president of Dolime Minerals, Bartow, Florida , which does business as American Construction & Engineering. With a 50-piece fleet, his company concentrates on phosphate mine work, as well as site development and heavy civil jobs. “The same is true with your service truck operator, they have to know which fluid goes in where.”
Any confusion about where to put DEF and where to put diesel can be costly. “We just had it happen on a Ford F-550, which cost us about $9,000 for a 2-minute mistake,” Fuist says.
With around 200 pieces of heavy equipment in its fleet, Ripa and Associates also faces a problem common to most contractors: making sure crews on multiple jobsites know the different procedures for both Tier 4 Final and non-Tier 4 Final equipment. (For more comments on dealing with Tier 4 Final, plus additional viewpoints on construction’s lack of skilled labor, check out the video above.)
According to the three panelists, construction has picked up in Florida, one of the states hardest hit during the past recession. “There’s a lot of commercial and residential construction going on,” Fuist says. Hospital construction is another bright spot for Ripa and Associates. Cautions Woodruff though: “There’s still a lot of housing available out there.”