For nearly 40 years, Champagne & Marx Excavating has been carrying the load for its customers in the Saginaw, MI, area. Its fleet of Kenworth T800s haul Michigan Specials – double-dump trailers capable of transporting 50 tons of payload. Doing the heavy work in road prep, foundation digging and other commercial and industrial projects is a fleet of excavators and dozers.
But the company carries another load – raising money and awareness in the fight against MS, Multiple Sclerosis. In 2011, Champagne & Marx Excavating raised enough money to rank it fourth in Michigan in MS fund-raising, according to the company.
MS is a very personal cause for the Marx family, co-founders of the company with Frank Champagne, who helped start the business in 1973. Now a second-generation business, son David Marx serves as president, and daughters Anne Coursey and Christine Davis serve as vice president and safety and collections manager, respectively. But it's Christine's own fight with MS that has led the company to raise awareness and funds to help battle the disease.
Its rolling champion in calling attention to MS is a T800 and double trailers with a graphics package that can't be missed. "Join the Movement" is splashed on one trailer, while the MS logo and "OrangeYaCurious.com" are on the other.
"MS is a terrible disease and we've been doing our part to help educate and raise funds to help in the battle against it," said Davis. "We came up with the special truck idea, along with our Kenworth dealer (Central Michigan Kenworth of Saginaw). We bought a 2012 T800 with the Extended Day Cab about a year ago and had the graphics package added to promote the cause. We've had nothing but wonderful comments about our MS truck and it has driven awareness and donations."
According to Davis, there was no shortage of volunteers to drive the special truck. "But our choice was easy," she said. "Tom Lavrack, who has been with us since 1986, is the driver... He's always been behind our MS efforts and always seems to be first to donate to the cause. When we told him we'd like him to drive the MS truck, he asked if he could take it home with him. He wanted to get it all polished up. He's as proud of the truck as we are."
The MS truck joins seven other T800s in service. Most are equipped with 500-hp engines, driven through 13 or 18-speed transmissions. The Kenworth AG460 suspension is normally spec'd, and 20,000-lb front axles and 46,000-lb rears handle the loads.
"We plan to work them hard for 10 years before we either trade them in or sell them ourselves," said Marx. "In a typical day, a T800 will take 15 loads, grossing out at 150,000 pounds on each trip. Then they're often off-road in dirt, mud or aggregate, which will put added stress on the truck and driveline. We'll end up at about 385,000 miles when were done, and those will be about as hard of miles as you can find."
While the durability and reliability are needed, Marx said comfort is also important. "Our drivers have been quick to point that out to us. In fact, one driver told me he'd rather drive a used Kenworth than a new truck of the brand we were driving before. That really told us something," he said.
When they're not driving trucks or excavating equipment, the 40 employees of Champagne & Marx Excavating, are solidly behind the MS fund-raising efforts. Many participate in the Champagne & Marx MS Walk and MS Bike event to help raise money. Combined, the events raised $50,000 for the National MS Society Michigan Chapter.
Davis is also very active in MS education – for the past 12 years, co-leading a six-week Gateway to Wellness program. She's also a volunteer for the MS Society. "One day during a Wellness class, a mom told me that her son had seen an orange dump truck with MS graphics. She said he jumped in the car to chase it down so she could get pictures. A smile came to my face as I told her it was one of our company's trucks," Davis said.