Compact equipment is becoming the norm on more and more jobsites as space becomes scarce but the need for power remains constant.
Today's compact excavators not only fit into tight spaces, but they are light on their feet — so as not to disturb delicate turf — and they can be used with a variety of attachments to increase their versatility.
Following are some stories about how leading machines were able to help contractors perform their jobs as well as assist some rental companies in making a buck or two in the process.
Bobcat on call
Excavating contractor rents compact equipment, breaks into cell phone tower installation
Jerry Walck believes in the power of renting compact equipment. In fact, he says that's what sets his excavation company apart from some of the other guys out there.
"We can match the right piece of equipment with the right job, and that's how we customize," says Walck.
In the beginning, when Walck founded SiteWorks LLC two years ago, he walked into Fisher's Rental Center in Reading, PA with the hope of renting his first machine. "We started with just my last paycheck and that was it. Fisher's Rental was the first one to give me a line of credit," he says. "We started renting right off the bat, and we've never changed."
Since, SiteWorks has rented several pieces of compact equipment to perform excavation and site preparation work for the installation of cell phone towers. In order to meet the demands of primary contractors hired by big-name telecommunications companies like Sprint, Verizon, Cingular and T-Mobile, Walck has discovered that compact equipment with tracks enables him to work in all types of conditions, from confined and muddy to hilly and rocky.
"I think we optimize the equipment for the job. A lot of these guys have got the big backhoes and dump trucks, and they run into these jobs and they're confined. These sites are tiny," he says.
Cell phone tower work calls
Walck happened to fall into the cell phone tower installation market while working on a jobsite for another contractor. While there, an employee with the telecommunications company asked Walck why he wasn't performing the excavation work himself.
Today, cell phone tower installation projects make up nearly all 90 percent of the commercial work Walck takes on. SiteWorks, which specializes in utility installation, light excavation and grading, and concrete work, is usually subcontracted to excavate, install conduit and build the concrete piers that the cell towers rest on. "We do all of the civil work, and then another company comes in and does all the tower work," Walck says.
Walck and his two employees perform all of these tasks with their rented Bobcat 325 compact excavator and T180 compact track loader. Typically, the machines are used in tandem — Walck excavates with the 325 compact excavator, while another operator follows behind and backfills the trench with the T180 after placing the conduit.
In recent years, Walck has seen an increased usage of compact excavators with tracked undercarriages like his 325 by others in the excavating industry. He says more contractors are recognizing the advantages that such compact and agile machines provide. With a rubber-tire backhoe, Walck says he would have to get out, spin the seat around, lift up the bucket and stabilizers, and then move it another 10 feet to continue digging. All of that precious excavating time was being wasted, he says. Now, with the compact excavator, Walck can stay inside the cab and keep digging.
The 325 also eliminates manual labor on many jobsites because it can reach areas that larger equipment can't. "We have a lot of sites that are between parking lots or in between two buildings," Walck says. "We can get in those areas with the compact excavator, and with the way the boom oscillates, you still have the turning radius of the machine. So sites that normally take two weeks, we're getting in and out of them in about four days because we don't have to hand dig them anymore."