Around the Table

Eavesdrop on what top contractors are saying.

By Marcia Gruver Doyle

Marcia Untitled 1Talking 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:


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.”


“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.”

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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.”