When the initial formations of the milling machine were developed in the early 1970s, Donegal Construction Corp. didn’t exist. Throughout much of the next decade, when these low horsepower, rear discharge cold planers enjoyed their heyday, the Greensburg, PA-based contractor was in its infancy as an asphalt paving and dirt contractor.
It wasn’t until the CMI Corp. ushered in the modern era of high horsepower milling machines with the industry’s first front discharge cold planer that Donegal even considered getting into the business. “Prior to 1989, we hired Adam Eidmiller Inc. for all of our milling,” recalls Don Pfeifer, vice president of Donegal Construction Corp. “We kept three of their five milling machines busy throughout the season.”
With company principals at Eidmiller retiring in 1989, Donegal officials saw an opportunity to expand the business in a new direction, so the paving contractor purchased its former vendor. The milling business turned out to be a natural fit with Donegal’s existing paving operations. This wise acquisition has paid off through expansive growth in the milling side of the business, which in turn has expanded the paving operation.
The Modern Era
“Early milling machines had comparatively low horsepower ratings and were basically modified trimmers with rear discharge conveyors,” explains Larry Jack, vice president of marketing for Terex Roadbuilding.
Although these machines would successfully grind off the existing road surface, they had several drawbacks. Low horsepower ratings limited productivity, and these machines could not keep up with the growing demands of contractors. Also, the rear discharge conveyor hampered visibility and raised safety issues.
“Terex Roadbuilding’s predecessor, the CMI Corp., introduced the PR500FL in 1989, and that was the industry’s first version of today’s milling machines, which include more powerful engines and front discharge conveyors,” says Jack. This was also the same year that Donegal saw the opportunity with Eidmiller and entered the milling business.
“At that time, we laid as much asphalt as any other large paving contractor in Western Pennsylvania,” says Pfeifer. “We had a lot of jobs requiring a miller, and we saw this as an opportunity to expand our business.” And expand they did.
When Donegal acquired the business, it inherited five milling machines, three of which were consistently tied up by Donegal’s paving crews. It wasn’t long before Donegal added three more milling machines to the fleet. Within five years, Donegal tripled the original fleet size, employing more than 15 cold planers and crews.
Through expansion of the customer base and purchases of milling operations in North Carolina and Florida, Donegal has grown beyond its Pennsylvania borders and operates throughout the Northeastern and Southeastern United States. With a fleet of 36 milling machines and more than 100 crew members, Donegal stands today as one of the largest milling contractors in the Eastern United States. According to Pfeifer, “Roughly 75 percent of our business comes from the milling operations.”