FREDERICKTOWN, OH - As the largest contractor in Ohio, Kokosing Construction has been growing and prospering since 1951. The company is about as diverse as it gets with operations in 10 states, in 25 different fields - from asphalt paving and bridge building to laying sub aqueous pipeline and building water treatment plants.
"In a down economy, it helps to be diversified," said Wayne Queen, trucking manager for Kokosing. "It also helps to have a well-run equipment operation to control costs, which allows us to be ultra competitive on bids. It's another thing we feel separates us from the competition."
Running nearly 2,000 pieces of heavy equipment, which includes Class 7 and 8 trucks, dozers, excavators, cranes and a litany of other equipment, the company has won numerous local and national awards for its projects, the quality of its work, and the management of its operations.
"Safety and quality are at the core of Kokosing's ideology," said Queen. "While it may cost more up front for better equipment and investing in people to do a better job, it pays out in the end. As an example, we've been buying Kenworths as our primary truck for 10 years now and we can document their payback in lower operating costs and higher residual value."
The company runs 42 Kenworth T800s and a number of T370 medium duty trucks as lowboys, fuel and lube vehicles, boom trucks, flatbeds and water trucks. The company also uses a T370 and T800 as jet trucks -vehicles equipped with a tank and power sprayer (up to 65 gallons per minute at 2500 psi) to clean out sanitary lines.
According to Queen, the value of a Kenworth has been seen over time. "Some of the corners on the cabs of our other trucks have rusted out, so corrosion - due primarily from the heavy road salt we have in Ohio - really takes its toll on equipment," he said. "But with Kenworth's aluminum and fiberglass construction, it's not a problem. Our goal is to get two body mounts out of a truck, and with a Kenworth, that's a given. I can't say that with confidence about other makes."
While service longevity is a key, serviceability and cost of ownership is also a bottom-line difference maker. The company looks at its operational costs on a cost-per-hour, versus cost-per-mile basis. "We look at these numbers when we assign equipment costs on a project," Queen said. "Looking at the costs of operating Kenworths over the past 10 years show we've had no increase, other than for fuel or lubes. That's huge when you consider inflation, so our 'real' numbers have actually decreased."
And the Kenworths keep on running. "That's vital of course," Queen said. "Many in the construction world look at water trucks as the last life for a rig. But we don't. We've put into service new Kenworth T800s with 4,000 gallon tanks. They'll only put on 15,000 miles per annum and operate 7 months out of the year, but they're vital in keeping dust down on projects; for servicing our asphalt rollers; curing bridge decks; washing down concrete pavers (with 100 foot water hose with adjustable spray head). If we have a water truck that's down, that's potentially $1,000 an hour we're losing. We don't take chances with our equipment."
And Queen said it's the company's overall philosophy that if it puts out the best in quality, it has to invest in the best. "We run two shifts - so night and day operations, with much of our equipment rarely resting," he said. "Right now in the summer we're virtually running at 100% equipment utilization. So, we can't afford downtime. Plus we want our drivers to be productive and comfortable. The trucks have an excellent turning radius and are very comfortable to drive. One of our best decisions was to go with Kenworth's Extended Day Cab. The drivers love all the extra room."
The Kenworth Extended Day Cab enhances driver comfort with an additional 6 inches of length and 5 inches of cab height compared to Kenworth's traditional day cab. The Extended Day Cab also offers 2 more inches behind the wheel, additional leg room, up to 21 degrees of recline in the driver's seat, and 2 extra cubic feet of storage behind the driver's seat.
Dealer support and spec'ing assistance also comes into play. Queen says his relationship with Columbus Kenworth is excellent and a creative spec'ing process between the dealership and Kenworth engineering helped Kokosing solve a major challenge. "We had a long-term project where we had to go over a 30 to 35 percent grade over rock and dirt. We worked with Kenworth to spec a T800 fuel truck with a locking rear differential, a Hendrickson PRIMAAX(R) suspension - air bags with torsion bars, and a 470 hp engine with 1,650 foot pounds of torque driven through a 10- speed transmission with oil pump. The rear axle ratio is 4.78. The truck works beautifully."
While Kokosing generally keeps its T800s for eight to nine years or 800,000 miles (whichever comes first), there is no shortage of buyers for the second life of the Kenworths. "We have an excellent maintenance program and keep detailed records," said Queen. "We've never had to trade in our vehicles - we've always had operators waiting in line for our trucks. And another plus is resale value. We command high value when we sell our Kenworths."