By Dawn Buzynski
Many experts are calling the current economic downturn a perfect storm. The declining housing market and last year's up-and-down oil prices have the construction industry in a vice grip, with smaller construction businesses feeling the most pain.
For many construction companies, now is the time to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm, but not all are scared off. Ty Trulove, owner of Trulove Excavating LLC, saw this as an ideal time to take a proactive approach - and expand into asphalt paving.
Trulove Excavating is a successful site prep and earthmoving company in the Aspen/Glenwood Springs area of Colorado. Trulove has enjoyed steady work for the past 12 years; however, all too true for construction recently, the company experienced a considerable slowdown in work. So, just a little more than a year ago Ty Trulove made the decision to venture into asphalt paving to offset the loss of excavation and site prep project work.
Trulove was motivated to make the jump into paving when he noticed that the largest asphalt company in the valley area was turning away smaller jobs. Trulove considered the potential for his business and made initial inquiries to see if there would be enough paving work on smaller jobs to justify diversifying into asphalt paving. He decided the potential was there, and Trulove started Rocky Mountain Paving.
And what started as a risky move in a weak economy has become a significant addition to the services Trulove offers. Trulove Excavating/Rocky Mountain Paving enjoyed a banner first year, and while business this year has slowed, Rocky Mountain Paving's HMA paving work remains steady with its emphasis on parking lot and driveway paving jobs.
"I have always loved the paving part of a project because it signals its completion," Trulove says. "I'm proud to now have a part in that process. Once something is paved, people can start using it."
Plus, he has found that adding asphalt paving to his business has helped generate excavation work because customers like that he can provide both services.
"Having asphalt paving services in addition to excavating services definitely has given us a competitive edge," Trulove says.
Buying the right paver
Once Trulove decided his idea had roots, he went looking for an equipment dealer. Trulove's dealer at the time didn't take the same interest in his new venture as he did, so he looked for a dealer that specialized in asphalt paving in Colorado. Trulove quickly found Faris Machinery and called Eric Poulson.
"From the beginning, Eric was very positive about our business expansion," Trulove says. "He was extremely knowledgeable about the industry and what we would need, and this was the key factor for deciding to partner with Faris Machinery."
Faris Machinery has been serving the construction industry in Colorado for more than 50 years and is a leader in paving equipment. Much of Faris Machinery's success can be attributed to the investment the dealership makes with its customers, focusing on long-lasting partnerships instead of point of sale.
"Ty recognized our reputation in the paving equipment marketplace," Poulson says. "Faris Machinery has the expertise for the training Rocky Mountain Paving needed to get into the paving business."
Poulson said they had sold equipment to Trulove in the past, but this was the first opportunity they had with Trulove on a large capital purchase - a paver. Poulson discussed with Trulove the types of paving and the terrain the company would be working in to recommend the best paver for its operations. Much of the paving work Trulove expected would be trails, golf courses, driveways, and some road work.
"Rocky Mountain Paving wouldn't be doing any mainline highway paving, but it would need a machine large enough to do county roads and intersections," said Poulson.
So Rocky Mountain Paving bought a Volvo PF4410 asphalt paver with a Volvo Ultimat screed. The PF4410 is a mid-sized, 8-ft. commercial tracked paver which can accommodate the steep and rough terrain typical in the valley area. Trulove paired the paver with a Volvo DD31HF double drum asphalt compactor rental.
"For the work we'd be doing, it made the most sense to use a tracked paver," explains Trulove.
"Wheels can slip and get stuck in this area," Poulson says. "The PF4410 definitely has the power for the pull needed for these types of paving jobs."
Learning to pave
Once Trulove obtained the right equipment, it was time to go back to school to learn how to operate it. Faris Machinery teamed up with Volvo and its renowned Road Institute to provide training to the Rocky Mountain Paving crew.
Because the paving season was already upon them, it wasn't feasible for the crew to travel to either Road Institute location for training, so Faris Machinery and Steve Passmore, regional product manager for the road machinery division of Volvo Construction Equipment, teamed up to mirror the Road Institute curriculum especially for Rocky Mountain Paving in Glenwood Springs.
"The paving crew needs to have a good understanding of paving principles to maximize their profitability with the machine," Passmore says.
Passmore, along with Poulson and the service team at Faris Machinery, conducted a day-long training seminar for Rocky Mountain Paving. The first half of the day was conducted as classroom-style instruction on the operation, service and maintenance of the paver, screed, and compactor. The afternoon session focused on hands-on application basics of asphalt paving.
"Because Ty and his team were new to paving, we looked at this opportunity as a clean-sheet approach," Poulson says. "We started at square one talking about best practices and the process of paving."
For Rocky Mountain Paving's final exam, Trulove and his crew took the new equipment out on an actual paving job. Trulove arranged with a local business owner to pave a 24-ft.-wide driveway into a commercial office complex at no charge. The result was a successful first-time paving operation.
"They did an excellent job," Passmore says. "Ty and his crew really focused on best practices and safety. They understood the machine and how it works in the paving operation."
Poulson agreed. "This training process has allowed them to have a lot of success in the quality of their paving."
The business owner was pleased, too. As a true testament to client satisfaction, the business owner ended up reimbursing Trulove for the cost of the asphalt and fuel.
Dawn Buzynski, Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, IA, handles public relations for Volvo Construction Equipment, Asheville, NC.