The Lane Construction Corp. ranks 52nd among the top 400 U.S. contractors. It is also the eighth largest transportation contractor and eighth largest domestic heavy contractor, according to Engineering News Record. It constructs highways, bridges, dams, mass transit and airport systems in 20 states.
"Lane Construction owns most of the equipment used on our contracts, and leases as required," notes John Irvine, director of communications. This includes 41 wheeled excavators.
"Lane Construction has a legacy of using rubber-tired excavators -- even when it was not as common," reports Robert Hoffman, director of the Mechanical Department. "Lane began with Gradall excavators in the 1960s and still uses them today. Even in the late 1970s, we used the Drott 40s. Today, as with most contractors, we have gravitated to the more common wheeled excavator. We currently use Volvo, John Deere, Gradall, Liebherr, Hitachi and Daewoo excavators. We have tried many brands and continue to try units that we may not have in the past -- we always keep an open mind to change."
The Lane Construction Corp. uses the machines for ditch work; placing material over barrier walls on roadway work; setting small structures/pipe/barrier; as a utility machine around concrete paving work; grading and placing rip-rap on slopes, etc.
"Being on wheels provides mobility and ease in getting around relatively level work sites, such as roadway, airport, commercial development sites, etc.," says Hoffman. "Additionally, some of our wheeled excavators are fitted with a dozing blade, which affords backfilling trenches when doing pipe work. This is a handy feature and typically something you don't have on a conventional track-type excavator.
"Their strengths are mobility and ease of travel from point A to point B on a jobsite, within a reasonable distance, under their own power," he continues. "And rubber tires are much more appropriate for working on paved surfaces vs. tracked machines, which typically damage pavements."
In comparing similar size machines (weight classes), the operating and performance characteristics are generally pretty similar in terms of lift capacity, arm force, dig depth, etc., says Hoffman. "Although, it's not to say that some weight classes may see the tracked excavators having some advantage in dig depth and arm force," he admits.
"One difference that does set the two machines apart is wheeled excavators are limited to working on fairly hard, smooth and level ground, while tracked excavators can also work on fairly rough and variable terrain and slopes (within reason)," notes Hoffman. "Additionally, wheeled excavators require outriggers to stabilize the machine when performing work."
Yet, both types see plenty of use on the company's projects. "Similar to our tracked excavators, our wheeled excavators generally see pretty high utilization," says Hoffman. "Their capabilities, versatility and mobility lend themselves to seeing good usage on our jobsites."
A NICHE BUSINESS
Chicago, IL-based Thornton Equipment currently owns 12 Gradall truck-mounted excavators, which are rented to other contractors with operators. These machines commonly perform road work, wetland mitigation, erosion control, stabilization and hazmat response.
Gradall excavators feature a unique design. The upper structure distributes forces across the undercarriage to provide a lifting chart that is limited by hydraulic power rather than machine stability.
"Unlike the conventional knuckleboom machines that lift much more over the front and rear than they do over the sides, all Gradall machines more evenly distribute the machine weight and load over all four wheel ends, providing a stable platform and better traction and flotation while lifting on rubber," says Bill Thomas, vice president of excavator marketing and sales. "In rare instances, a single set of optional outriggers or the grading blade can be used to remove machine stability concerns while working when maximum lift is required."