Colorado Contractor Faces $200,000 in Penalties for Trench Death

When rescue personnel arrived at a trench collapse on April 16, they found three workers trying to save a coworker who was stuck in mud and under water.

After a seven-hour operation involving 60 rescue personnel, the body of 50-year-old Luis M. Cortes-Correa was recovered.

His employer, Dunaway Excavating Inc. of Strasburg, Colorado, now faces $203,628 in proposed penalties for four violations, including not providing workers with cave-in protection and protection from accumulating water, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The workers were connecting a sewer pipe between the main line and a home under construction in Johnstown, Colorado. The area has a high water table because of the nearby Big Thompson River. They were using a pump of some type at the bottom of the trench, so they could see the sewer main, according to the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority.

The trench was 16 feet deep, and 19 feet wide at the top. It narrowed to 11 feet at the bottom and had 2 feet of water in it, OSHA reported.

As water continued to flow into the bottom of the trench, the walls partially collapsed from the bottom. Water rushed in and covered a worker who also became trapped in the collapsed mud, the rescue authority said.

After they arrived, rescuers ordered the three construction workers out of the trench for fear of further collapse. The operation soon turned from rescue to recovery “due to the continued collapse threat and constant groundwater flow,” the rescue agency said.

Rescue workers were unable to stabilize the walls of the funnel-shaped trench as water continued to flow in. While vacuum trucks and pumps removed the water, construction equipment on site was used to try to recover the body. The operation also involved removing a natural-gas and power lines.

After the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority’s recovery operation, Battalion Chief Tim Smith urged contractors to use trench boxes and other protection for workers in trenches.

“It’s more time and effort,” Smith said, “but what they don’t see is the outcome if they don’t use these safety devices.”

Rescue personnel worked seven hours into the night April 16 in recovering the body of a worker who died in a trench collapse in Johnstown, Colorado.Ian Zahn, Loveland Fire Rescue Authority volunteer photographerThe coroner ruled that Cortes-Correa’s cause of death was mechanical asphyxia/drowning.

After an investigation, OSHA determined the trench had not been properly sloped, benched nor had any protective system in place, such as a trench box. It said the employer had not provided training to workers on recognizing cave-in and accumulated-water hazards.

OSHA also determined Dunaway had not provided a means for employees to safely get out of the trench. The two ladders did not extend at least 3 feet beyond the top of the trench, and one of the ladders was damaged.

Along with the $203,628 in proposed penalties, Dunaway was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, “which concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”

“The threat of trench collapses makes excavation work among the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry,” says OSHA Area Director Amanda Kupper in Denver. “This worker’s life and family’s grief could have been spared if required precautions had been taken.”


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Elon Musk’s 29-Mile Vegas Loop Under the Strip Wins Approval (Video)

Elon Musk’s Boring Company has won permit approval and a franchise agreement to build the Vegas Loop under the Las Vegas Strip.

The 29-mile underground transportation system would connect with the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop that opened in June. That .8-mile link transports convention center goers through tunnels in electric Teslas and is Musk’s first fully commercial operational tunnel.  

The Vegas Loop would have 51 stations throughout the Strip and into Clark County and would have a capacity of 57,000 passengers per hour. The Clark County Commission approved a special-use permit October 20 for The Boring Company to apply for and receive building permits to build the tunnels, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The commission also approved a franchise agreement with Boring that allows it to operate the Loop. Boring would pay to build the Loop and then collect fares from passengers. The commissions says no tax dollars would go toward funding the project. The franchise agreement also faces a vote by the Las Vegas City Council.

Along with the Strip, the Vegas Loop would connect to downtown, McCarran International Airport and Allegiant Stadium. The Boring Company says the goal is to eventually link Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

A map of the proposed route of the Vegas Loop to be built by Elon Musk’s Boring Company.The Boring CompanyBoring and Las Vegas convention center representatives hailed the Vegas Loop as a relief to the city’s traffic congestion and an easier way to get visitors to their destinations. An example provided by Boring says a trip from the convention center to Mandalay Bay, which can take up to 30 minutes, would be shaved to 3 minutes with the Loop.

“The Vegas Loop will be a game-changer for our visitors in moving them around our exciting destination quickly, conveniently and in an entertaining ‘Only Vegas’ way,” says Steve Hill, LVCVA president and CEO.

The electric Teslas would travel through the tunnel directly to a passenger’s destination station with no stops along the way, unlike a subway system. The Boring Company provided the following sample trips and fares:

Sample fares chart for Vegas Loop
Sample fares for the future Vegas Loop, which would be self-supporting.The Boring Company

Musk envisions the Teslas reaching speeds of up to 150 mph and being autonomously driven. High-occupancy automated electric Teslas are also planned that would hold up to 16 passengers with sitting and standing room.

The convention center Loop, which opened in June, consists of a mix of 62 Tesla Models 3 and X that have drivers and reach top speed of 40 mph, because of the tunnels’ short length. They can hold up to five passengers.

The convention center tunnels are 40 feet underground. Riders can travel across the convention center campus in 2 minutes versus a 25-minute walk. The Loop debuted at World of Concrete this year. It cost $52.5 million to build. It has a capacity of 4,400 passengers per hour and three stations.

Check out this video of the convention center Loop:

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Dig in Tight Spots with Komatsu’s New PC78US-11 Compact Excavator

Komatsu has introduced a new “tight tail swing” excavator well-suited for urban environments, confined spaces and crowded jobsites.

With its 68-horsepower engine, six work modes and swing radius under 5 feet, the PC78US-11 can handle precise digging, as well as large excavation tasks.

The 12-foot 2-inch boom has a greater raising angle and a short implement swing radius (6 feet 9 inches minimum), giving the PC78US-11 the ability to dig efficiently in a crowded space. At the rear, the tail swing radius measures just 4 feet 7 inches. Viewed from above, both the front and the rear corners of the superstructure are rounded, with the maximum cab extension over the tracks at just 9 inches.

For fast digging

Komatsu’s newest tight tail swing excavator is ideal for urban environments and confined spaces.Komatsu

Good operators like a quick machine, and Komastu’s faster boom up and swing speed increases productivity by 9%. To better match machine performance to the application, Komatsu arms the PC78US-11 with six work modes: power, economy, lifting, breaker, attachment-power, and attachment-economy.

For operators who prefer backhoe-style controls, a pattern change selector valve comes standard. The grading blade has a new moldboard profile to improve backfilling and grading efficiency. The PC78US-11 accepts buckets from 0.10 to 0.26 cubic yards.

Low maintenance demands

A new high-output 2.4-liter, Tier 4 Final engine gives you ground-level access to service points. The heavy-duty, high-pressure common rail fuel injection system and cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR) achieve near complete combustion in cylinder to reduce emissions.

A Komatsu diesel oxidation catalyst removes exhaust soot and enables 100% passive regeneration without a diesel particulate filter or regular refills of diesel exhaust fluid. The no-DPF, no-DEF design translates into lower owning and operating costs, reduced maintenance and one less component to replace or worry about.

Komatsu’s compact engine makes room for a fan clutch system, allowing engine and hydraulic system tuning to reduce noise by a full decibel. Typical in-cab noise levels measure 71 decibels — about the same as a household vacuum cleaner. When engine cooling is not required, the viscous fan clutch reduces parasitic horsepower draw. Overall engine improvements boost fuel efficiency as much as 13%.

Cab comfort

The air-suspension seat has deep side supports and an adjustable backrest angle to support operators of all sizes. The cab comes with AM/FM radio with USB and Bluetooth technology.

Komatsu improved cab dampening by incorporating a spring and a longer stroke on the viscous cab mounts. This, plus a beefed up deck, reduces vibration to the operator to keep him or her more comfortable and focused throughout the day. The sealed and pressurized cab keeps dust out and automatically maintains temperatures to the level set on the monitor.

A sliding cab door makes access easier, especially when you’re entering or exiting the excavator up against a wall or in confined spaces. The cab is ROPS certified and satisfies the requirements of ISO OPG Top Guard Level 1 for falling objects.

Crowded jobsites often restrict sight lines, so Komatsu added a 7-inch LCD display to the PC78US-11 with a standard rearview camera image. LED lights provide nighttime illumination of the jobsite.

The variable displacement/axial piston hydraulics for the boom, arm, bucket, swing and travel circuits offer a maximum flow of 44.4 gallons per minute. Relief-valve settings for implement circuits are rated at 4,264 psi. The auxiliary circuits put out 36.5 gpm/3,830 psi (two way) and 21.1 gpm/2,490 psi (one way).

For travel and trailer considerations, the PC78US-11 has an operating weight of 17,747 pounds.

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Almost Famous: This “Like New” 1956 Cat D6 Dozer Gets a Shot at the Movies

Erik Christenbury often gets calls from people wanting to display antique Caterpillar construction equipment. But one that stands out in his mind came about seven years ago from a coordinator on a major motion picture.

The coordinator was calling from Wilmington, North Carolina, on behalf of the director, and he needed a 1950s era dozer.

As founder and president of Chapter 12 of the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club, Christenbury was happy to assist. Assuming the movie was being shot in his home state, he sent a photo of his 1956 Cat D6 9U dozer. He had bought the machine about a year earlier – a rare find as it had less than 900 operating hours on it and all original parts.

It was about as brand new as a 1956 dozer could be. He said the director was welcome to use it.

He soon learned the movie was being shot in New Orleans – more than 800 miles away from his home in Liberty, North Carolina. Christenbury looked around for antique dozers closer to the movie location, but the director had his heart set on his D6. He wanted it in New Orleans by 5 a.m. on a Monday.

Along with the long distance, the dozer’s blade made it a wide load, so it couldn’t be hauled on a Sunday when wide loads are prohibited, unless the blade was removed. Christenbury let the coordinator know it wasn’t going to be cheap. He immediately got the OK after sending in his quote.

He and his friend removed the blade, loaded up the dozer and hit the road to New Orleans.

“We pulled up on the movie set about 9 o’clock Sunday night, and they had a security guard there,” Christenbury recalls.

It was just a little house by the side of the road. It didn’t look like a movie set.

“I was like, ‘Is this the right location for the movie?’”

The guard said it was.

“Where can we unload?”

Grandfather’s 1940 D2

Christenbury began his antique Caterpillar equipment collection in the 1990s, starting with the D2 tractor his grandfather bought new in 1940. A dealer had talked his grandfather into trading in his gasoline-powered Cat Fifteen for the new diesel-powered tractor, which was quickly becoming popular with farmers. He paid $1,800 for it.

His grandfather used the D2 as a drawbar tractor on his cotton farm for terracing, plowing, and dragging logs out of the woods.

“He always said that was his favorite tractor,” Christenbury recalls.

Christenbury bought the worn old tractor from his grandfather. He cleaned it, got it running and slowly restored it over a period of years. He calls it the pride and joy of his collection, and it was just the beginning.

“That was what started our Caterpillar collecting,” he says. “And unfortunately, Caterpillar made a lot of different models. So as a collector, you decide, ‘Hey, I’d like to have one of each model.’ And then it just grows from there.”

Erik Christenbury, right, restored this Caterpillar D2 dozer that Erik’s grandfather bought new for $1,800 in 1940. Christenbury owns ChrisCo Machinery in Liberty, North Carolina, where he buys, sells, rebuilds and manufactures industrial woodworking machinery.Erik Christenbury

Finding a “like new” 1956 D6

Today Christenbury has about 150 pieces of antique Cat equipment he has acquired from all over the country. One of those is the 1956 D6 9U he lucked upon one day.

While driving down a highway, he saw it covered with a blue tarp in a front yard.

“I turned around and knocked on the front door,” he recalls. “An older man came to the door and gladly talked about his tractor.”

Charles Moretz had operated the D6 since his employer bought it in 1956. When his boss no longer needed it on the farm and decided to sell it, Moretz bought it and had kept it all those years. It had less than 900 hours on it, and all parts were original. Christenbury let him know that if he ever decided to sell, he’d be interested.

“Halfway home my phone rang,” he says. “It was the owner of the D6 I just looked at, offering it to me for purchase.

“Needless to say, we struck a deal on the phone, and I picked it up the very next day.”

1956 Caterpillar D6 original operator
Charles Moretz was the original operator of the 1956 Cat D6 dozer. Erik Christenbury purchased the dozer from him. It had less than 900 hours and all original parts.Erik Christenbury

He needs a hat

Christenbury and his friend were soon met by the director after they arrived at the movie’s staging area at 5 a.m.

Christenbury didn’t know the name of the movie, what it was about or how they intended to use the D6. He was surprised when the director asked him if he could operate it for them. He said he’d be glad to teach someone, that it wouldn’t take long to learn.

“We’d rather have you do it,” the director said.

Christenbury agreed and soon his hair was getting cut, his goatee shaved, makeup applied and his 1950s-style wardrobe donned. But there was one thing missing.

“Every good dozer operator wore a hat to keep the sun out of his eyes,” Christenbury told them. “You’ve got to give me a hat.”

So they did.

“They gave me this hat that looked like Indiana Jones.”

1956 Caterpillar D6 Trumbo movie set
Erik Christenbury with his 1956 Cat D6 on the movie set, dressed in 1950s wardrobe – and Indiana Jones-style hat.Erik Christenbury

Dozer operator/movie actor

After a long wait, Christenbury was told where to put the dozer and where the cameras would go. He still didn’t know the movie’s name or story line.

“I was like, ‘Well, what are we going to do with it? Are we burying dead people? Are we building something? Making a road?’”

The director said, “We’re making a pond.”

“I can make you a pond,” Christenbury replied.

And so for about 5 minutes, he moved dirt while they filmed. Later, they had him lean up against a pickup truck and pretend to talk to one of the characters while the main actors were behind him.

He was about to leave early the next morning when the coordinator who had hired him said they needed him for one more day. The director wanted another shot with the dozer.

“So I’m pushing dirt again, and they’re throwing dust in the air,” he says. “And they’re zooming up on the tracks as it’s moving and dirt spilling over the blade and that kind of stuff.”

The script described it: “A ROARING BULLDOZER’s iron snout dredges up earth.”

It lasted about 5 or 10 minutes, and the scene was done. Christenbury and his friend could head back home to North Carolina.

“Children of the Corn” reunion

While on the set, Christenbury eventually learned that the name of the movie was “Trumbo,” starring Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane and John Goodman.

“We saw Diane Lane and Bryan Cranston,” Christenbury says. “John Goodman wasn’t there yet, but I saw a lot of actors.”

The movie is based on the life of Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Christenbury’s scene was to show that Trumbo had come into some money and wanted to build a lake by his home. 

Christenbury, of course, was the dozer operator. His friend was the surveyor.

Playing the general contractor in the scene was Sean Bridgers, an actor Christenbury had met before.

At age 16, Christenbury had played a role in the horror flick “Children of the Corn Part II – The Final Sacrifice,” which was shot near his home in North Carolina.

Bridgers was also in the movie, which came out in 1992.

Christenbury, who was big for his age, was a stunt assistant and also played one of the children of the corn. “I was one of the terrors that went around killing people,” he says. One of his “victims” was a doctor he “stabbed.”

So when he saw Bridgers on the “Trumbo” set, he ran after him.

“Hey, buddy, were you in ‘Children of the Corn Part II?’” he asked.

Bridgers said he was, turned back around and kept walking.

Later, Christenbury got a second chance to get reacquainted. He was on the set later in the day when Bridgers walked around the corner.

“You don’t remember me,” Christenbury said, “but I was in the ‘Corn’ movie with you way back when.”

Bridgers started to remember.

“We talked and he was real nice guy,” Christenbury says.

“It’s funny,” Christenbury recalls telling Bridgers. “The only two movies I’ve ever been in in my whole life, you were in both of them.”

Actor Sean Bridgers on Trumbo movie set with Erik Christenbury
Actor Sean Bridgers poses with Erik Christenbury on the “Trumbo” movie set. Bridgers played the general contractor for the pond’s construction, while Christenbury operated his 1956 Cat D6 dozer.Erik Christenbury

Watching “Trumbo”

When “Trumbo” came out in 2015 several months after Christenbury had hauled the D6 to New Orleans, he took his father and his friend to see the movie at the local theater.

In the opening scene, Trumbo is looking out over a lake.

In the theater, Christenbury punched his buddy in the arm.

“We didn’t make the cutting room floor,” he tells his friend. “They cut us out.”

“What do you mean?” his friend says.

“There’s that lake we were supposed to have built.”

Christenbury laughs while recounting the moment.

“So sure enough, they cut that out of the movie,” he says.

Despite all the work and being cut from the film, Christenbury enjoyed the experience. It was fun seeing the movie stars. It also helped that he was paid well.

He adds that he was in good company, noting that Bridgers met the same fate.

“His part got cut out of the movie, too,” Christenbury says. “So I didn’t feel too bad.”

As for the D6, it’s fame for now is relegated to antique equipment events.

“We proudly take it to shows and demonstrate the machine, giving lots of new operators a chance at the controls,” he says.

“It’s not everyday you get to operate a ‘like new’ 1956 machine.”

Trumbo movie script excerpt pond building scene
A glimpse of the movie script for “Trumbo” for the lake-building scene that Erik Christenbury operated his 1956 Cat D6 in.Erik Christenbury 

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Check Out These 4 Rugged Construction Phones, Including the New Cat S22 Flip

The ruggedized phone has seen a resurgence of product releases this year, and this time a seemingly retro product – yesterday’s flip phone – is getting a new look. We’ll first look at the newest offering in this category and then review the other ruggedized phones that have made headlines this year.

Cat…with a flip

Cat S22 Flip phoneBullitt GroupThe siren call of smart phones has frustrated many construction supervisors observing crew members on their phones instead of working. One possible answer: ban smart phones and require a flip phone.

There are a couple of options out there, including the just-released $234 Cat S22 Flip, an Android 11 Go phone that runs on T- Mobil’s 4G LTE network.

“It really simplifies what a phone should be,” says Adrianne O’Hare, senior manager, brand marketing for Bullitt Group, the Cat phone licensee. “It has all the same rugged features and credentials that you would expect from any Cat phone.”

The S22 is simplicity and functionality wrapped up in an exterior designed to take on construction. Drop proof, dust proof and waterproof, the S22 offers voice and text, fast internet browsing and access to essential apps. Users have access to email, camera, social media, maps, search, talk-to-text and Google Assistant.

“There are a lot more businesses that are looking to go into a low-cost device that’s easy to use and offers fewer distractions,” O’Hare says. “Android Go is like a hybrid version between what’s available on a traditional flip phone and a smart phone.”

The essentials of the familiar flip design are still there: no calls when closed, so no need to worry about accidental dials. When closed, the front window gives you at-a-glance date, time and battery life. The S22 also has a large glove-friendly keypad, a dedicated programmable side button for push-to-talk capabilities and amped up volume that gives you the ability to hear in noisy environments. The 2,000-mAh removable battery lasts and “an entire day and beyond,” Bullitt says.

The phone meets toughness standards, including IP68 ingress protection and MIL SPEC 810H certification. Waterproof to 5 feet for 35 minutes, it has also survived repeated drop testing from 6 feet onto steel on every side and corner,  and the hinge has been tested 150,000 times, Bullitt says. The 2.8-inch internal touch screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5 and optimized for use with wet-finger or glove-on working technology.

“The large keys were important since those in the field are always wearing gloves,” O’Hare says. “You don’t have to worry about taking off your gloves or if you’re in a wet environment.” The S22 can also be used in potentially hazardous work environments and is certified to be non-incendive, Class 1, Division 2, Group A-D, 4T.

Although the Cat S22 is available only on T-Mobile at present, Bullitt says it is in discussions with other partners.


Sonim XP3plus

Sonim XP3plus
Another rugged flip phone offering is Sonim Technologies’ XPSplus, built on the company’s predecessor XP3 model. Advantages over the previous model includes a larger display, additional programmable buttons and an intuitive user interface with dynamic soft keys.

The unit also has a larger battery that offers 15 hours of talk and 440 hours of standby.

The XPSplus is compatible with a range of industrial-grade accessories, including headsets, remote speaker microphones and vehicle mounts. It has an 8-megapixel front camera; non-camera models are available.

Drop proof and waterproof, the XP3plus withstands falls onto concrete from about 5 feet and can be submerged for 30 minutes in 4.9 feet of water. It operates in temperatures ranging from -4 degrees to 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cat S62 Pro, Cat S62

Cat S62 Pro dropping in dirt
Cat S62 ProBullitt GroupCat licensee Bullitt Group also introduced two smart phones this year, the full-on spec-heavy Cat S62 Pro, introduced in April, and the sleeker Cat S62, introduced in June.

The Cat S62 Pro came with a nice surprise: priced at $649 it was significantly lower than its $899 predecessor S61, introduced in 2018. It features a high-definition FLIR Lepton 3.5 thermal imaging camera, helping users locate and diagnose damp areas, leaks, hot spots, electrical shorts, blockages or elevated temperatures.

This thermal imagery can also be blended with images from the phones 12MP dual pixel Sony camera or used with FLIR’s variable intensity multi-spectral dynamic imaging technology, which overlays linear detail from a scene onto the thermal image.

Cat S62 phone on rock
Cat S62Bullitt GroupThe military-grade Cat S62 doesn’t have the FLIR camera but does offer both heft and sleekness. Bullitt says the phone doesn’t have the rubber overmolding or raised edges of the S62 Pro but “it’s got the same rocket engine.”

Its 4,000-mAh battery can last for up to two days before needing a charge. The phone, priced at $498, includes a fingerprint sensor for security, login and remote payments. 

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Inside the Ritchie/SmartEquip Deal: What Happens Next?

When Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers acquired SmartEquip for $175 million in September, Ritchie CEO Ann Fandozzi said it would give Ritchie “asset-specific full-lifecycle parts and service support” to dealers, OEM partners and equipment buyers. 

Of equal importance as SmartEquip considered suitors was continuating its multi-brand approach in the construction industry, says Alex Schuessler, SmartEquip founder and president, international group, talking with Equipment World. 

SchuesslerSmartEquip”There was a lot of interest from other industries and private equity firms, but what really drew us to this partnership with Ritchie was a continued commitment to our existing customer base,” Schuessler says. “It was important for us to preserve industry neutrality. It took us a long time for our customers to feel comfortable that we were truly neutral, so that was absolutely critical going forward.”

In turn, SmartEquip, which provides software to support equipment lifecycle management, gives Ritchie a play on the parts, service and maintenance side of things, says Jim Kessler, president and COO, Ritchie.

“We knew how long it would take us to do this on our own and replicate what SmartEquip has already built,” Kessler says. “So for us it was the perfect match. We had customers who need this service and we weren’t able to provide it; it was an open hole for us. We know what the equipment is. We know where it is in the life cycle, how many hours on it, but we weren’t helping in that part of the value chain.”

But Kessler also emphasizes that the SmartEquip deal doesn’t mean it is in the parts stocking business. Rather, Ritchie is looking to add customer ease and value, he says.

“The magic in all of this is the equipment life cycle, and Ritchie has done phenomenal work in focusing not just on the moments that equipment changes ownership, but also what you do to support the equipment owners, dealers and manufacturers,” Schuessler says.

Hidden owners

This especially comes into play with second and third owners of a machine where perhaps dealers and OEMs lose track of them. “We were looking at ways of ensuring that they have a longer view across the equipment life cycle and across the number of owners,” Schuessler says. 

“We’ve long been aware that there are tremendous opportunities there with that second, third or fourth owner,” Schuessler says, “and it’s been frustrating because we’ve had no systematic way of supporting them. I think we’ll be able to help both equipment owners and dealers right off the bat.”

The trust built between SmartEquip and its dealer and OEM customers has been hard fought, Schuessler says. The firm began in 2000, right on the heels of the dot-com craze when everything was about reducing the number of intermediaries in a transaction. 

“That’s not at all what we wanted to do,” Schuessler explains. “We wanted to bring efficiency to the relationships of dealers and OEMs on one hand and the fleet owners on the other.” In the process, SmartEquip gave OEMs and dealers a systematic way to tie in deeper into the life cycle and go into those second and third owners. “Now with Ritchie we can automatically do this together, and we can offer it straightaway,” he says.

For the foreseeable future, SmartEquip will continue to operate as a standalone business headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut. 

Both companies have a global footprint. SmartEquip has been operational in Europe for around 10 years, Schuessler says, and just announced a previous agreement with Tokyo-based Diamond Construction Equipment and that its network was fully operational in Japan. (Diamond Construction is co-owned by four large Japanese equipment rental companies and Mitsubishi.) Ritchie’s purchase of SmartEquip allows it to “be so much more responsive with our international business,” Schuessler says.

Supply chain perspectives

You can’t have a discussion with supply chain front row players such as Ritchie and SmartEquip without delving into the issues that are plaguing all industries these days. Schuessler sees two issues: components and whole goods.

“In Japan, rental fleets tend to hold on to their equipment two to three times longer than they would in North America or Europe,” Schuessler says. “Of course, as equipment gets older, parts consumption goes up, as do service needs. That means two things. For those fleets that tend to have a longer life, the value we can bring to them by making those parts efficient also goes up over time relative to other parts of the world. If you take a step back to look at the overall life cycle, the contribution that technology brings to the lifecycle costs in an aging fleet tends to be higher than it is when you only hang on to it for two to four years. 

“On the parts side, the shortage means that the search cost is higher, and so much of what SmartEquip does is reduce the search costs. When we began as a company, it was not unusual for a technician to spend as much time looking for the right part from a preferred supplier as they would holding a wrench in their hands. While we can’t change the scarcity aspect of it, we do have the ability to find the parts out there that pertain to a particular serial number.”

In this tight supply market, Ritchie is focused on how it can add value, Kessler says. “We’re also working on our technology to make sure that when you are ready to transact in the future it’s easy to do,” he says. For example, Ritchie’s Inventory Management System “makes it easy to transact with us,” he says. “There are other value-added things that our customers would appreciate.” 

“We’re very happy to have them on board,” Kessler says. “We don’t have a rush to try to force something, so we want to make sure we build a technology that’s going to be easy for everyone to use. This isn’t about Ritchie trying to change it and make it something that it’s not. We want to make sure that when the marketplace is ready that it’s easy to use, and everyone’s going to have full transparency of how it’s going to work for them.”

Schuessler says the real benefit will come when today’s “spot technologies” telematics, fleet management, etc. are knitted together. “There’s no new technology required; it’s all about the workflow now,” he says. “If a machine throws out a code, we should be able to order a part and have it waiting at the service bay with a work order already filled out and technician instructions on what needs to happen. Raising the efficiency is right there to be had.”

Industry Roundup: Four Dealerships Rebrand Under National Equipment Dealers

National Equipment Dealers (NED), which has grown to 14 locations in four states since being established in 2018, has rebranded four dealerships it acquired in the past few years.

Now operating as NED are Four Seasons Equipment in Texas, MAY-RHI in the Carolinas, Richardson Services 1991 in South Carolina and Earthmovers Construction Equipment in Florida.

“With this change, we will have much cleaner messaging and improved brand recognition as we continue to grow,” says Corey Rogers, NED vice president of marketing. 

In addition, NED announced that it has acquired Grove River Machinery in the Savannah, Georgia, area, which will also operate as NED. “Our merger with NED will provide us the means to grow our Hyundai market share way beyond our past capabilities,” says Dale Richbourg, former Grove Machinery sales manager, who is continuing on the NED team.

Established by Ken Richbourg 20 years ago, Grove River Machinery has represented the Hyundai product line for 14 years. The new NED Savannah branch will add Bell articulated trucks to its offering. “As fellow Hyundai dealers, we have known the Richbourg family and Grove River Machinery for many years,” says Mitch Nevins, NED CEO. “The timing is right and we are excited to bring them into the NED family.”

Brandt Tractor completes Cervus Equipment deal

Brandt Tractor, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Brandt Group of Companies, has completed its acquisition of Cervus Equipment, creating  Canada’s largest equipment dealership and adding 64 agriculture, transportation and material handling equipment locations to Brandt’s John Deere dealership network. The deal makes it the largest Deere dealership in the world; the company now owns 120 full-service dealerships and more than 50 service locations and employs more than 5,100 people.

Northwest Equipment becomes Mack electric vehicle dealer

Mack Trucks dealer Northwest Equipment Sales, Boise, Idaho, has become a Certified Electric Vehicle Dealer, making it the first Mack dealer in the Northwest U.S. to do so. The company began the process for certification in February 2021; to reach certification, dealers must meet numerous safety, charging, infrastructure and training requirements.

Northwest will have four bays available for servicing battery electric vehicles.

LiuGong adds two dealers

LiuGong North America has named Alpha and Omega Nitrogen & Equipment Rental & Sales, Odessa, Texas, and AAA Forklift Material Handling, San Leandro, California, as new dealers.

Founded in 2016, Alpha and Omega offers construction equipment and material handling products in west Texas, southern New Mexico and the greater Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas. 

AAA Forklift has served the Bay Area for more than 20 years, offering forklift and material handling needs across multiple industries.

LeeBoy signs three Virginia dealers

LeeBoy has signed Power Equipment, Louisville, Kentucky, Valley Supply & Equipment, Hagerstown, Maryland, and Richmond Machinery, Richmond, Virginia, to its dealer network

Power Equipment, a subsidiary of Bramco, will represent LeeBoy in 11 counties in western Virginia. Valley Supply will handle 16 counties in northern Virginia and Richmond Machinery will handle the rest of the state.

Trail King adds Wyoming, Illinois dealers

Trail King Industries has added Frost Machines, Cody, Wyoming and US Equipment Sales & Rentals, Plainfield, Illinois to its dealer network. 

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Product Roundup: JLG expanding its aerial lift product line

JLG to add rotary telehandlers

JLG announced that it is partnering with Italian manufacturer Dieci to bring a new line of rotary telehandlers models to market. The JLG rotating telehandler line will initially consist of three models, the R1370, R1385 and R11100 with max lift heights from 67.3 to 97.1 feet and max lift capacities of 11,000 to 13,200 pounds.

Long popular in Europe, the rotating design works well on narrow city streets or anywhere space is constrained. This feature also enables you to get more work with less repositioning of the machine. The new line of JLG rotary telehandlers will be available with 13 attachments at launch for added versatility. 

With more than 70% of a machine’s weight composed of steel, Volvo and SSAB intend to reduce the carbon used in its manufacture.Volvo Construction Equipment

Volvo CE‘s first fossil-free steel vehicle

Volvo has been pushing the envelope for a decade or more when it comes to environmental improvements to its equipment and operations. Its latest innovation is the first vehicle made with fossil-free steel in Volvo Construction Equipment’s factory in Braås, Sweden.

The concept vehicle, unveiled October 13 in Gothenburg, Sweden, is a load carrier for mining and quarry work. According to Melker Jernberg, president of Volvo CE, the company intends to have fossil-free steel used in all its products. Volvo says more vehicles with fossil-free steel are coming in 2022, including a series of concept vehicles and components.

The steel for the concept vehicle was provided by SSAB, headquartered in Stockholm, with facilities in Finland and the United States. You may recognize one of SSAB’s more well-known products here: Hardox wear plate and Strenx performance steels for dump trucks and other high-abrasion applications. 

Liebherr MK 73-3.1 crane
Crowded streets and confined jobsites are no problem for Liebherr’s new MK 73-3.1 crane.Liebherr

“You want that drywall where?” Liebherr’s new crane easily lifts over the gnarliest obstacles

The new MK 73-3.1 crane from Liebherr offers compact dimensions, making it a good choice for projects in densely built areas or where you need to perform multiple lifts to different points on a jobsite without having to reposition. According to the company, setup can be accomplished in as little as 10 minutes.

The smallest of Liebherr’s mobile construction cranes, the MK 73-3.1 measures 45 feet (13.8 meters) long, 8.8 feet (2.7 meters) wide and 13 feet (4 meters) in height, but it also includes all the features of its bigger brother the MK 88-4.1. The new crane can be operated electrically on site or powered by its integrated drive unit. The electric mode is quiet and emissions free, which is desirable in urban environments. A single Cummins six-cylinder diesel engine provides both drive and lifting power. Smart assistance systems and an adjustable elevating cabin support the lifting and positioning of heavy loads.

Max lifting capacity for the MK 73-3.1 is 13,225 pounds (6,000 kg),  and 4,400 pounds (2,000 kg) at full radius. The top hook height is 87 feet (26.5 meters) high. Slewing radius is 11 feet (3.5 meters). The crane weighs 36 tons and can take on 2.9 tons of additional ballast for heavier lifts.

Terramac RT7U
The Terramac RT7U can be customized to meet customers’ needs.Terramac

Customize your crawler carrier from Terramac

Shown at The Utility Expo, the Terramac RT7U is purpose-built for utility applications and capable of accommodating a wide array of support equipment.

The carrier’s rubber tracks and low ground pressure enable crews to access remote locations with difficult terrain.

Terex Washing Systems M1700X
Terex Washing Systems

Easily transport Terex’s new mobile washing screen

Terex Washing Systems launched the M1700X mobile washing screen at Ireland’s Construction & Quarry Machinery Show.

The screen can produce up to five products (three aggregates and two sands), the company says. The M1700X is easily transported, has a short 15-minute setup time and has optional hybrid power. 

Junttan PMx2e
Junttan’s introduction of the world’s first electric pile driving rig will support Aarsleff’s mission to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that originate from fossil fuels.Junttan

Junttan launches world’s first electric pile-driving rig>

Junttan Oy and Per Aarsleff A/S have formed an alliance to bring the world’s first battery-powered electric pile-driving rig to market.
The PMx2e is modeled after the diesel-powered PMx22. The electric pile-driving rig will offer the same “robust structure and usability as the PMx22 but consumes less energy per pile, reduces noise and delivers more power and instant torque,” Junttan says.
The rig features two detachable 396 kWh battery packs to allow for 8 to 13 hours of continuous pile driving. The battery packs replace the counterweight on the machine and can be charged with a normal 63A mains outlet.
Aarsleff Ground Engineering AB is a Swedish subsidiary of the Danish construction company Per Aarsleff A/S and is one of Sweden’s leading companies in ground engineering. The goal between the manufacturer and end user is to create more environmentally friendly construction sites through the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions that originate from fossil fuels.
Junttan Also Signs Dealer Agreement with XCMG for Foundation Drilling Rigs
Junttan USA Inc., a subsidiary of Junttan Oy, will represent XCMG foundation drilling rigs in the United States.
The rigs, custom-built by XCMG for Junttan, will be backed by a full line of drilling tools, temporary casings, shoes, drive adapters and teeth. The XCMG line of drilling rigs has a range of operating weights from 45 to 200 tons and torque values between 130 and 800 kNm. >
The partnership will expand Junttan’s product line from primarily pile-driving equipment into foundation drilling equipment.>

2021 Contractor of the Year: Pruss Excavation Refashions Fleet After Meeting Dual Flood Challenges

The construction lineage is deep in the Pruss family. Matt’s grandfather, Jim Sr., started Pruss Excavation in 1968. His father, also named Jim, joined him four years later, and Matt came on board in 2001.

But Matt’s start in construction goes much further back than 2001.

“I got on an excavator when I was 10 years old. When my dad told me to dig, I just kept on digging,” he says with a laugh. “Mom freaked out, but I enjoyed it.” And as he was growing up, both he and brother Scott, who now serves as superintendent with Pruss Excavation, pitched in when his father found himself shorthanded.

Matt went on to get a construction management degree, something he didn’t know was available until Freshman Day at the University of Nebraska. He had planned to go into business, but after the dean of the university’s construction management college learned his dad was a contractor, he convinced Matt to switch majors.

“We had some amazing professors who gave us real-world scenarios,” Matt says.

One example: it’s bid day and the students are estimating a project. The professor would go through the students with a handful of papers with vendor and sub quotes. “He would literally just throw them your way,” Matt recalls. “Some quotes didn’t have bonding and some didn’t include taxes, and you had figure out the good ones to develop the bid.”

Matt thought the exercise was exaggerated until he got back into the family business right after college. “It was not,” he says.

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“A lot of contractors would just chase the flood work,” he adds, “but Matt stuck around, and he kept the job moving. It was a big deal. Matt knows he can’t just be an owner and pick up a paycheck. He’s very involved and he drives the ship on their modeling.”

This flood remediation experience came into play when the company bid on an emergency $1.05 million contract with a 144-hour turnaround.  The job required over 33,500 tons of materials to be imported to close a breach that was 350 feet long and over 25 fee deep with flood water still flowing through it.  “We had a pre-bid meeting at 1 p.m., they wanted bids at 4 p.m. and would sign the contract at 4:05 p.m.,” Matt says. “We were low by $11,800 and got it done early.” The project required a dozen operators and 30 trucks. 

“A week later we were low bid on another fast-track levee repair,” Matt says. “We were low by $55,000 on a $2.8 million contract with a 168- hour completion.  We successfully completed that repair on-time as well.”

Matching fleet to job demand
The company's fleet of pull-behind scrapers -- now at 32 -- has helped them tackle wet conditions.
The company’s fleet of pull-behind scrapers — now at 32 — has helped them tackle wet conditions.

“We have had more machines than people throughout the years, and we’re still that way,” Matt says. This also allows Pruss Excavation to stage an upcoming jobsite while finishing another and thus lessen time spent on mobilization.

Its fleet of pull-behind scrapers now numbers 32. “Pull-types are awesome in the wet and the sand,” Matt says, noting that the company also uses Cat 627 self-propelled scrapers in drier conditions.

Although the bulk of his fleet is in the large machine category – including dozers, excavators, articulated trucks, scrapers and scraper tractors – Matt also uses skid steers as support machines. “We’re also heavy into Topcon GPS,” he says, “and in addition to dozers, scrapers, and motor graders, we also put the excavators on grade control. We’ve found it very user friendly.”

While operators are responsible for daily greasing, Pruss uses NMC to handle PM tasks. “They’ll service my entire fleet, no matter the brand,” he says. Engine, transmission and other major repairs go to dealers.

Today’s machine telematics also help with service, he says. “When we get a warning, dealers can diagnose and know where the machine is and what they need to fix it.” 

But he’s also learned these convenient diagnostics can eat up tech time if an easy fix is not readily apparent. “I always press my dealers for warranties that cover diagnostics,” Matt says. “I don’t want to be billed for the time it takes them to figure out a problem.”

Father Jim Pruss (left) and brother Scott Pruss (right) flank Matt Pruss at the Contractor of the Year event.
Father Jim Pruss (left) and brother Scott Pruss (right) flank Matt Pruss at the Contractor of the Year event.

Being named the 2021 Contractor of the Year has special resonance for Matt: His father, Jim Pruss Jr., was named a Contractor of the Year finalist in 2004. Both his father and brother attended the Contractor of the Year event last month and witnessed his win.

Neither is surprised he came away with the award. Matt’s clients and vendors also notice his attention to detail in how he approaches his jobs.

“He’s a heck of a businessman,” says his dealer representative Kevin Peterson with NMC. “And you can see it in the way he’s grown.”

“They know the type of leadership it takes to run a great small business,” says Ridder. “They just get it done.”

“We let our work to speak for us,” Matt says. “We want to under-promise and over perform instead of the other way around.”

Watch Matt Pruss receive the Contractor of the Year award below:


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Chancellor to detail £7bn spending pledge for local transport

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning to detail plans in the Autumn spending review on Wednesday to pump £7bn in local transport improvements in Midlands and Northern cities.

The pledge will amount to around £1.5bn or 20% of actual extra new cash to supplement previous spending commitments on infrastructure in the regions over the next five years.

It will be directed at areas outside of London to level up transport with new train and station upgrades and the expansion of trams, with £1.2bn also allocated to improve bus services.

Its forms part of a £26bn raft of spending commitments trialed over the weekend ahead of the Autumn spending review.

Local transport infrastructure commitments will see West Yorkshire given £830m while South Yorkshire receives £570m.

Around £1.05bn will be freshly committed in the West Midlands, £710m for the Liverpool City Region, £310m in Tees Valley and £540m to the West of England.

Rishi Sunak confirmed previously the Government had announced £4.2bn in allocation for regional transport, adding the Government would now top that up with £1.5bn while giving out the allocation for where the cash will go within the oveall local transport infrastructure cash envelope

“Greate cities need great transport and that is why we’re investing billions to improve connections in our city regions as we level up opportunities across the country.

“This transport revolution will help redress that imbalance as we modernise our local transport networks so they are fit for our great cities and those people who live and work in them,” he said in briefing mover the weekend.