The company's 100-employee workforce is split into 25 or 26 work crews. Some of the crews are for general labor and some are set up for new construction. "The crews cross over quite a bit," says Jerry Fletcher. The tasks performed by the crews determines which equipment they take with them.
Horizon Contracting's 19 Bobcat 773 turbo and 185 skid-steer loaders and T190 compact track loaders are the true workhorses of the fleet since they allow access to tight areas. "They are easily hauled with a 1-ton truck and a 10,000-lb. trailer, with some implements on the trailer, as well," says Fletcher. "So I have been able to use a trailer that can carry a machine and attachment without going to a CDL driver."
Trailers are purchased from the local Bobcat dealer. "We will modify them ourselves, welding different things on them for holding buckets or different attachments," says Fletcher. They are all set up the same so that one trailer can be used for all equipment.
Several attachments are used to complete landscaping tasks, including Glenmac Harley Power Box Rakes pulled behind Kubota tractors. The tractors are also fitted with mounting plates so they can run skid-steer attachments.
The sweeper attachments get the most use with the skid steers. "We do a lot of sweeping with the brooms on the jobsites," says Fletcher. A RockHound landscape rake, auger, forks, tooth buckets, flat buckets and hammer are other attachments dedicated to the skid-steer and track loaders.
The forks see quite a bit of use. "All of the loaders have vertical lift arms because we have our own trucks to haul our own palletized materials," says Fletcher. "They are able to pick the palletized material off of the trucks better."
According to Fletcher, his operators prefer the track loaders to the skid steers. "My guys seem to use them more than the rubber-tired machines," says Fletcher. "We don't run the tracks on the asphalt; we try to keep those in the dirt. But all of the attachments are used on the track loaders. They are a smoother ride and they are faster."
Fletcher also feels a track loader has an advantage when using the forks to unload palletized materials. "When lifting, it is not bouncing around when you take something off of the trucks," he points out.
Using the same brands of machines and attachments allows Horizon Contracting to stock fewer parts and ensures interchangeability. "As a fleet owner, we try to keep with all of the same machines," says Fletcher. "I have all of the same oil filters and all of the same belts. All of your parts are the same so you are not stocking so many different ones. That has been a tremendous savings."
Developing a market niche
Fifteen years ago, Watertown, WI-based Midland Contracting started to fill a niche in the local market for silt fence installation. It steadily grew to 20 employees in the field performing commercial landscaping for highway and subdivision projects, silt fence installation and erosion control.
Instead of targeting the cut-throat residential business, Midland Contracting works directly with general contractors. "We don't do any residential work at all," says Cory Voigt, general manager/co-owner. "We tend toward grading and sewer contractors."
Midland's fleet consists of two Bobcat T190 and three Bobcat T200 compact track loaders and one New Holland LS190 skid-steer loader. In addition, it has five New Holland four-wheel-drive compact tractors (two 80 hp, two 70 hp and one 55 hp), which are used for installing erosion mats, raking and seeding. Attachments include a Glenmac Harley Rake, a York rake and a mulcher.
The primary function of the track loaders is grading and spreading topsoil, as well as silt fence installation. "We have trenchers that we hook up to the loaders that we use for installing silt fence," says Voigt.
Other attachments include a rock bucket, a tree shear and grapple, forks and six-way dozer blades. "We mostly switch between buckets and blades," says Voigt.
The track loaders have been a real benefit for Midland by reducing flats and increasing the productivity of the attachments, such as the Bobcat six-way blades. Voigt cites increased stability, flotation and traction as major advantages. "You can do a whole lot more when it is wet with the tracks vs. the tires," he states. "We had skid steers with [over-the-tire] tracks on them, but the bolts were always breaking or they stretched and the tires still went flat."