When your business hinges on a single machine, it’s essential it be configured to do just about anything you ask of it. This is certainly true for the Case 580 Super M backhoe-loader owned by Greg Dash, owner of Liberty Excavating LLC.
Although the company specializes in Class 1 and 2 septic systems, it does a variety of jobs in the communities surrounding Dash’s hometown of Falling Waters, WV. “In the county in West Virginia where I live, if you look in the Yellow Pages, there are probably 185 different excavating contractors,” he states. “If you don’t have a broad spectrum where you can do more than just excavating, you will starve. So we do a little bit of everything — footers, dirt work, well pumps, etc.”
Dash has been in the operator’s seat since he was just 8 years old, and has been actively working as an operator since he turned 19. He formed Liberty Excavating in 2008, naming it in honor of his late grandfather’s former company, Liberty Backhoe Service. Since then, his son has joined him in the family business.
The rugged terrain found in West Virginia’s panhandle necessitates the backhoe-loader be equipped with four-wheel drive. “In March and into the end of April, it’s our wet time of the year, and we plow with that machine, too,” Dash says. “I wouldn’t be able to work this time of year if I didn’t have [four-wheel drive], not without tearing everything up. It makes that big a difference.”
A heated cab is another important criterion. “Unless it’s more than 10 to 15 miles, I basically drive to work,” says Dash, noting the cab also has a radio/CD player. “I wish I could have gotten air conditioning, but I didn’t feel like paying that much extra for something that’s usually a lot more trouble because of the dust in the summer.”
The extendible dipper stick on the backhoe end has proven well worth the investment. “It doubles if not triples what you can normally do,” Dash asserts. “Once you have it, you won’t go back to a straight stick. There’s that much more you can get done with it.”
The extendible dipper minimizes the time required to set up and reset the machine as you dig. “Instead of having to keep moving all the time, you [extend] the front of the stick out and you get an extra 4 1/2 to 5 ft.,” says Dash. He also appreciates the added reach when clearing trees or stumps. “I can get a higher reach on it... It makes it a little bit easier. It broadens the spectrum of what I can and can’t do.”
Add to this the available engine and hydraulic output, and the 580 Super M has proven ideal for Dash’s business. “Speed and power wise, you’re going to be hard pressed to beat it,” he says. “When I’m digging around sensitive areas, I can’t run my machine more than mid-speed because it’s so fast, you will wind up tearing stuff up, because it doesn’t take much.”
Dash is now considering expanding his fleet to include a compact excavator and compact track loader for Class 2 septic work, which has picked up dramatically in the area. “But I’ll be honest with you, I still won’t get rid of my backhoe because it has the power,” he says. “There are just some jobs where you need the power, the reach and the speed.”
Configured for All-around Performance
Robert Dorazio, owner of Robert Dorazio General Contractor, Avila Beach, CA, has been in construction for much of his adult life, and has owned and operated a number of different types of equipment. He’s also an avid student of the industry, paying close attention to equipment trends and how they might impact his business. As such, he has a clear picture of what will and won’t work for his operation.
Currently, Dorazio’s earthmoving fleet includes a single backhoe-loader. Its primary uses include utility installations for building construction and excavating assistance with occasional houses and commercial pads, as well as driveway access roads. “If we get concrete jobs, the backhoe digs the footings,” he adds.