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An Operator’s Observations: Top 5 Video Episodes of The Dirt for 2021

2021 marked a new year for “The Dirt” and a new host.

Bryan Furnace began hosting the weekly videos in July, bringing his experience as an equipment operator to a broad range of topics for contractors and the construction industry as a whole.

From interviews to commentary, Bryan delivers his ground-level, straight-forward perspective to bear on everything from retaining employees to the infrastructure bill.

Here are Bryan’s top five Dirt videos from 2021, as determined by the most views on equipmentworld.com:

(Want to make sure you don’t miss an episode of The Dirt? You can do so by subscribing to our Equipment World Daily Report newsletter or the Equipment World YouTube channel. We also post a new episode each week at equipmentworld.com.)

1. How Does the Infrastructure Bill Affect Contractors?

In this episode of The Dirt, we give you all the important details of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which has since become law, and how it affects contractors. Bryan interviews Daniel Fisher, senior vice president at the Associated Equipment Distributors, to find out what’s in the massive legislation – and what’s not. Though this interview took place before the bill’s passage, the information on the legislation remains relevant.

2. The Chip Shortage: How Did We Get Here?

The microchip shortage has been contributing to lower inventories for some equipment manufacturers. A variety of factors have coalesced into a perfect storm, creating a scarcity of chips. Long wait times for new chips are just the tip of the iceberg. Bryan breaks down the many reasons why it might be a long while before we see inventories balance out demand.

3. Construction’s “Weird Disconnect” with Young Workers

The old-timers’ constant refrain that the younger generation doesn’t want to work meets an unspoken reality. Many high school graduates have never done real manual labor and have no idea what to expect on a jobsite. That, combined with construction’s tradition of yelling at workers who make mistakes, is leading many young workers to wrongly conclude they’re just not cut out for construction. So they quit. After spending time talking with young workers, Bryan embarks on a discussion on how the construction industry can bridge this “weird disconnect.”

4. “No Call, No Show” Employees: Is This the New Normal?

Along with hosting The Dirt, Bryan is a part-time equipment operator who often fills in for employees who don’t show up for work. Not only are he and others throughout the construction industry seeing more no-shows, but there’s a growing trend of those workers not calling to let their employers know they’re going to be absent and when – or if – they’ll return. In this episode, Bryan discusses his observations of the problem – which appears to be more prevalent among worker 25 and under – and a possible solution.

5. Are You Playing ‘Musical Cabs’ With Your Operators?

Moving operators around frequently to different equipment can hurt contractors in the long run. Though it’s not always possible to keep an operator with the same machine all the time, the rewards for doing so as much as possible can mean big boosts for your two biggest assets: your employees and your equipment.

Equipment World serves up weekly videos on the latest in construction equipment, work trucks and pickup trucks — everything contractors need to get their work done. Subscribe and visit us at equipmentworld.com!

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Industry Roundup: Merlo names Brooks Tractor as Dealer and more

Brooks Tractor will now carry the entire line of Merlo telehandlers at each of its seven locations, which serve the major metropolitan areas of Wisconsin, and provide support to upper Michigan. The line covers all segments of material handling.

“Brooks Tractor is always looking for ways to diversify its fleet and add value to the customer experience,” said Truie Brobston, sales manager. “If we can be their one-stop shop, it helps us market the rest of our lineup. We were impressed with the technology the Merlo line has to offer and the overall fit and finish of their product.”

Brooks is also an authorized John Deere, Hitachi, Atlas Copco and Dynapac dealer.

The 20-year-old association has created a new program to support those working toward careers in the servicing and maintenance of construction equipment.Independent Equipment Dealers Association

Heavy Diesel Tech Students Earn $5,000 Scholarships

The Independent Equipment Dealers Association presented three, $5,000 scholarships to students at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin during a recent ceremony at the school’s heavy diesel program shop.

IEDA created the scholarship program this year for students enrolled in a heavy equipment diesel program who are pursuing careers as construction equipment technicians.

Recipients were selected based on academic merit, personal character, and demonstrated financial need. Two $5,000 scholarships funded by the association were presented to David Roberts and Natasha Normand. An additional $5,000 scholarship was donated by Rick Newman, owner of Newman Tractor, which was awarded to Jacob Evers.


Palfinger and Sany End Cross-Shareholding Agreement

Palfinger and Sany have agreed to reverse their cross-shareholding agreement that began in 2012. The companies say the restructuring will allow each entity to react more efficiently to volatile market conditions.

“Following years of constructive and successful cooperation on the operational joint ventures, the cross-holding is no longer necessary,” says Andreas Klauser, CEO of Palfinger. “In addition, the complexity of our partnership is reduced.”

The operational cooperation will be expanded to support the sales structure and access to the Chinese construction industry.

Berlon Industries to acquire Lowe Manufacturing

Berlon Industries, a manufacturer of buckets and attachments, is set to acquire Lowe Manufacturing, a supplier of auger, trenching and grapple attachments, the first week of January 2022.

The Wisconsin-based manufacturers have complementary offerings for the construction, utility, landscaping, rental and agricultural markets. Dealers will benefit from a broader selection of buckets and attachments available from the combined business.

Richard Lowe will retire from Lowe Manufacturing, while Mary Lowe will remain with the business. Terms of the acquisition transaction were not released.

Genie Racks Up 12 Industry Awards in 2021

Genie brought home twelve industry awards for its innovative aerial equipment in 2021.

Keys awards included:

Highest Retained Value – EquipmentWatchLowest Cost of Ownership – EquipmentWatchLowest Total Cost of Ownership – Genie Z articulating boom lifts – EquipmentWatchIntelligent Product Award – China Machinery Industry Internet ConferenceTechnical Committee Award – European Rental Association

“For 55 years, the Genie® team has been committed to delivering equipment and solutions that provide the quality and reliability equipment owners need, as well as performance and durability to get the job done on even the most challenging jobsites,” says Genie President Simon Meester. “The recognition we’ve received throughout 2021 validates that we are living up to our commitments, and we are honored to be recognized by so many associations and publications.”

XCMG Named One of the World’s Most Influential Brands

XCMG has been named one of the World’s 500 Most Influential Brands by World Brand Lab. XCMG is the only Chinese construction machinery manufacturer to receive the accolade three years in a row, with a new 2021 ranking of 395, up 14 places from last year.

The rankings take into account the brand influence, market share, brand loyalty and global leadership. More than 15,000 notable brands worldwide are reviewed to select the most influential 500 annually.

Terex Expands S.D. Facility

Terex Utilities is adding 11,400 square feet of additional fabrication, machining and welding space to its aerial device and digger derrick manufacturing facility located in Huron, South Dakota. The upgrade also includes investment in new machining and welding equipment, modernized ventilation systems and remodeled office space.

“This expansion enables Terex Utilities to increase vertical integration of its supply chain for the best lead time and flexibility of key components such as booms, turntables, and pedestals,” says Darryl Niven, vice president and general manager of Terex Utilities.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Topcon Expands Global Headquarters

Topcon Positioning Group has expanded its Livermore, California-based global headquarters with the opening of a newly constructed training facility and the purchase of a 31,000-square-foot building and 60 acres of land nearby.

“The continued expansion of our Livermore headquarters is in direct response to a global increase in digitalization and technology adoption throughout the construction and agricultural industries,” said O’Connor. “This investment not only demonstrates our commitment to supporting the ever-growing demand for technology in the geospatial, construction and agricultural industries, it also shows our dedication to our local economy in a time when so many companies are choosing to leave the State of California.”

The additions bring the total of land owned in the Tri-Valley area to nearly 80 acres at an investment exceeding $20 million.

Doxel adds Chief Revenue Officer, Head of Commercial Sales

Garrick Ballantine has been appointed chief revenue officer at Doxel, an AI-powered project controls solution that helps contractors avoid delays and cost overruns.

Ballantine brings almost two decades of sales experience, spanning multiple high-growth technology organizations, such as Ouster, Autodesk and Planet Labs.

In addition, Mike Almeida has joined as head of commercial sales, with a focus on general contractors. Almeida was previously head of sales at StructionSite and has also led sales teams at Procore.

Work Set to Begin on Widening Section of National Freight Highway in Illinois

Work is expected to begin in January on widening a major freight highway in southern Illinois.

The $67.6 million project will expand 9 miles of Interstate 57 from four to six lanes between state highways 149 and 154. This is the next phase of a $264 million plan to widen I-57 in southern Illinois.

The interstate is part of the National Highway Freight Network. The southern Illinois section handles 40,000 vehicles a day, 14,000 of which are trucks. The widening announcement follows advance construction beginning on another major freight corridor through Illinois. The $1.2 billion I-80 reconstruction project will rebuild 16 miles of the interstate, which leads to the largest inland port in North America.

Governor JB Pritzker called the widening project “the most significant investment in I-57 since its original development.” He said it would improve safety and the reliability of the freight network, create jobs and support regional economic development.

The next widening phase follows the expansion of I-57 by 4.5 miles south of West Frankfort, completed in 2020, and the ongoing widening north for 3.5 miles. The construction is being funded by the $33.2 billion Rebuild Illinois program enacted in 2019 with a doubling of the state’s gas tax and with federal funds.

The upcoming project will occur near Benton and also includes installing median barrier, resurfacing the existing lanes, updating deficient guardrail, and adding rumble strips, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The bridges over the Big Muddy River will be replaced. The phase is expected to be completed in 2025.

Future phases will eventually widen I-57 to Mt. Vernon, reconstruct the I-57/64 interchange with Illinois 15 and replace three bridges, at an estimated cost of $164 million, also to be paid for by Rebuild Illinois.

“The I-57 corridor is one of the most important in our system, but it’s prone to backups and congestion that can spill over into neighboring communities,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Under Gov. Pritzker, we are transforming I-57 to accommodate 21st century transportation, as we are doing throughout Southern Illinois and the entire state.”


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12th Day of Construction Gifts: A Heavy-Duty Tool Backpack

Editor’s note: Each day until Christmas, Equipment World is featuring a new gift idea for the construction enthusiast in your life. Check back each day to our Gear section or subscribe to our Equipment World Daily newsletter to see each day’s new idea.

Reinforced for more wear and tear, this heavy-duty tool backpack from Custom Leathercraft is a solid alternative to the standard toolbox.

Constructed with 1680D ballistic polyester and extra webbing around the pockets and handles, it’s strong and large enough to hold heavy tools. The backpack features two large zipper compartments, 38 reinforced pockets, a cell phone holder, tape measure clip and a padded compartment to store electronics or valuables.

The molded base on the backpack has a square bottom allowing it to lay flat when placed on the ground and consists of soft material for extra back comfort. Three large foam back pads and a 2-way adjustable sternum strap offer support and comfort.

The double-stitched tape binding helps keep tools safe and dry, while remaining light enough to carry fully loaded to the jobsite. 

The molded base tool backpack can be purchased on CLC’s website for $139.00. 

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Tunnel Machine “Mary” Arrives for Virginia’s Largest Ever Road Project (Video)

“Mary” the tunnel boring machine has arrived for Virginia’s largest ever infrastructure project.

The 9-million-pound TBM will dig two 8,000-foot-long tunnels for the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Expansion Project.

The new tunnels will take more than two years to build and will be about 50 feet deeper than the existing tunnels. The $3.8 billion project will increase tunnel capacity and widen 10 miles of Interstate 64 between the cities of Hampton and Norfolk from four to eight lanes in places, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

It is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country and is expected to be completed in 2025.

The interstate section is one of the state’s most congested, with traffic backing up as much as 6 miles during rush hour, VDOT says.

The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Expansion Project is expected to be completed in 2025.Virginia DOTMary is named after Mary Winston Jackson, an African-American mathematician and aerospace engineer at NASA from Hampton. The TBM was built in Germany and then disassembled to be shipped to Norfolk.

It will take about six months to reassemble the 170-piece TBM in a 65-foot-deep launching pit on South Island. When reassembled it will be 46 feet tall and more than 430 feet long. It will tunnel at 50 feet per day, not only digging but installing concrete panels along the way.

The TBM will start on the South Island and tunnel to the North Island. That should take about a year. Then the machine will be turned around, a four-month process, and dig back to the South Island for another year of tunneling.

The project is expected to create 28,000 jobs and generate $4.6 billion in economic impact, according to VDOT.

Check out this concept video of what the future HRBT will look like when completed:

Mary was built by Herrenknecht at a cost of $101 million, which included shipping.

Here’s a video that demonstrates the tunneling process, provided by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel District and Dragados/Chesapeake Tunnel Joint Venture:

The contractor on the HRBT Expansion is a joint venture with Dragados USA serving as the lead contractor and HDR and Mott MacDonald as lead designers. Other team members: Flatiron Constructors, Vinci Construction, and Dodin Campenon Bernard.

south island construction for Mary tunnel machine
The South Island of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is being prepared for tunnel boring machine Mary’s reassembly in a 65-foot-deep launching pit.Virginia DOT

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An Environmental Niche Pays Off for This N.C. Contractor

Working alongside his family in the homebuilding business, development and site work, Kevin Ennis knew he would have his own company someday.

“Just seeing the flexibility and the freedom they had was always intriguing to me,” says Ennis. “I think you realize, if you’re ambitious, you can plow your own path. The older I got it drove me to create something of my own.”

Anything that is, except a homebuilding company. “I just like equipment. I like machines. I enjoy being in the dirt and being able to start something and finish it relatively quick and see a result,” he says. Rather than pounding nails, Ennis started working for himself doing environmental inspections and erosion-control consultations. It was a new and rapidly changing field and many of the developers and large contractors didn’t have the time or staffed expertise to keep up with the constantly changing rules and regulations. That gave Ennis great opportunities.

“I did a lot of self-educating and research,” he says. “My wife had just started med school, and we didn’t have kids then, so I had a lot of time to do it. And fortunately, the market was not saturated, and I could generate revenue. All you needed was a computer, a set of wheels and healthy legs.”

Ennis became partners with the original owners of Eco Turf, Andy Smith and Clayton Phillis, in 2003 on a handshake deal, giving the company a new partner and a more diverse set of offerings for customers.

In addition to leveraging his knowledge of environmental inspections, Ennis expanded the company into design, inspection and installation of erosion-control measures, such as stormwater ponds, reconstructed wetlands and bioretention devices, to help clients stay compliant with local, state and federal environmental regulations. After Phillis decided to relocate to Florida, Smith and Ennis bought him out. (Smith, who was vice president, has recently retired.)

When the recession of 2008-2009 hit, Ennis and Smith endured some anxious nights. Neither took a salary for a while. They put the capital back into the company to keep it afloat.

Then an interesting thing happened.

As the recession wore on and contractors and developers started abandoning projects, it became clear that if somebody didn’t shore up the erosion control and environmental aspects of the sites, the financially responsible parties could be liable for civil penalties. Given the scope of its work, Eco Turf quickly found itself categorized as a critical vendor. This resulted in a growing number of emergency no-bid, get-it-done-now contracts that helped sustain the company during the downturn.

Large projects like this bioretention pond are a key part of Eco Turf’s installation business.Equipment World

Inspections + installations

Today installations are the bread and butter of the company, but environmental inspections and permitting are still a crucial part of its success.

Of its 80-plus employees, 30 are involved in the environmental compliance division. And Eco Turf’s roster of clients has some of the biggest contractors in the state, including Barnhill Contracting, KWI, Wellons Construction, Gaines and Company, Tennoca, Allegiance Contracting Group, Brinley’s Grading, Wynn Site, Fred Smith Company; and homebuilders like Lennar, Pulte, MI Homes, DR Horton, Taylor Morrison, as well as local developers and custom builders.

“We came out of the recession trying to control our growth while being cautious about purchasing new equipment,” says Ennis. “In 2014, we started seeing some really good numbers and some good profit. And then every year, growth continued to get better and better. We’ve added two additional project managers, an additional mechanic and six management level positions on the inspection side.”

While growth is good, too much can strain management. Ennis believes the company is sized right for the market.

“We are at a size that is healthy,” he says. “For us to go from where we are now to the next level would be a considerable amount of overhead and expense.”

Hiring from within

Because of the technical nature of the inspections and work performed by Eco Turf, Ennis always promotes within if possible. “I think everybody deserves a fair chance to grow.”

Retaining employees also involves fostering an atmosphere of collaboration.

“You have to get to know and value your employees, their goals and ambitions,” he says. “If you let everybody give input and give them a chance to be successful, you create a family atmosphere, which creates longevity in your workforce.”

“I’m all about transparency and open doors,” he adds, “and I never want our employees to feel that they don’t have a say, or their opinion doesn’t matter at Eco Turf.”

contractor of year finalist Eco turf silt fence
Controlling erosion often starts with a silt fence, and Eco Turf installs miles of it every year.Equipment World

Customers agree

A customer of 20 years, Jeff White, CEO of Green Hawk, says: “They are the gold standard and the go-to guys in our market. Eco Turf and its employees are topnotch and a pleasure to work with on a regular basis. This is a great company.”

Another longtime customer, Sean Ryan, project manager and estimator for Barnhill Contracting, says: “They are one of the most well-rounded, adaptable and dependable subcontractors that we work with, and they do a tremendous amount of work for us. If they tell you they will do something, you can count on them to get it done in a timely manner.

“Eco Turf treats us with the utmost respect, and from the outside looking in, it seems that they treat their employees, vendors and all their other clients with the same respect.”

Recipe for success

Over the long-term, contractors need to know how to manage both failure and success, he says.

“You’re going to have successes and you’re going to have failures, and more failures out of the gate, than successes,” says Ennis. “But if you’re determined mentally and emotionally and have the will and determination to be successful, you’ll figure out a way to do it.”

A good example of this philosophy is to look at the careers of great athletes, he says. “There are highs and lows, and then there are careers. The key when there are lows is to not beat yourself up.”

“Examine why something failed, but get back up and try again,” he adds. “Hopefully your failures will happen early and not later when failure might be financially crippling. Then position yourself from a business standpoint to bounce back with a different approach for success.”

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Las Vegas Prepares for Major Revamp of City’s Main Gateway (Video)

Prep work has begun on a $305 million project to rebuild one of the main gateways to Las Vegas.

The three-year project would rebuild the Tropicana Avenue interchange with Interstate 15. The Tropicana Avenue bridge over I-15 would be widened and lengthened, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation. The expanded  bridge would prepare the way for a future widening of I-15. (An animated video of the future interchange can be viewed at the end of this story.)

An existing flyover would be replaced. High-occupancy vehicle ramps would be added to connect to and from I-15 south of the Harmon Avenue overpass. The ramps would allow HOVs direct access to the Las Vegas Strip, according to NDOT.

Traffic on Dean Martin Drive would be separated from the Tropicana Avenue intersection, limiting right-in and right-out access. The traffic light at the intersection would be removed. Access to and from the northwest and southwest quadrants would be maintained with frontage roads connecting Tropicana Avenue and a redesigned Dean Martin Boulevard that would flow under Tropicana Avenue.

Kiewit was selected November 8 for the design-build contract, NDOT says. From December 12 through 16, utility and geotechnical work has been occurring to prepare for construction to begin, requiring nightly lane and shoulder closings on I-15 in the project area, according to NDOT.

Tropicana Avenue experiences heavy traffic congestion leading to and from the interchange, and NDOT says projected 2040 traffic increases would worsen that congestion if nothing is done. The new interchange is expected to improve traffic flow, as well as improve property access and pedestrian connections, as well as access to events at nearby Allegiant Stadium and T-Mobile Arena and other attractions.

Here’s a preliminary animated video tour of the future interchange:

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Industry Roundup: Florida Kenworth Dealer Relocates and Expands

Florida Kenworth Dealer Relocates

Kenworth of Jacksonville has expanded its customer support in Jacksonville, Florida with a newly constructed 55,000 square-foot facility on a 12.2-acre site.

The facility, which is nearly double the size of the previous location, features 28 services bays and offers extended business hours, 2-hour truck diagnosis, 24-hour towing and mobile service availability, a drivers lounge, and other premium services.

United Rentals Named One of America’s Most Responsible Companies

For the third consecutive year, United Rentals has been named one of America’s most responsible companies by Newsweek. The award recognizes the equipment rental company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility, particularly related to environmental, social and corporate governance programs.

United Rentals was the highest ranking equipment rental company on the 2022 list. The company ranked 85 on this year’s top 500 list, jumping 98 places from 2021.

Michael Lambert joins IronTek Solutions as strategic account development manager

IronTek Solutions announced that Michael Lambert will join the company as strategic account development manager. Lambert previously worked at Skyjack for 17 years where he most recently served as used equipment manager.

In his new role at IronTek, Lambert will be responsible for growing the client base and geographic reach of Fleet Up Marketplace. IronTec Solutions is an equipment services company that provides rental yards and equipment dealers with software and marketing solutions to increase profits and save time. IronTek’s flagship product, Fleet Up Marketplace was launched in 2020.

“Knowing the equipment industry and the challenges associated with selling used equipment, Mike is a huge asset to rental yards and equipment dealers,” says Carly Cahlik, CEO and founder of IronTek Solutions.


Fecon appoints regional sales manager>

Fecon has hired Dallas Zeller as regional sales manager for the Midwest region.

Prior to joining Fecon, Zeller worked at Kirby-Smith Machinery. In his new role, Zeller will assist distributors in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin in the sales of all Fecon vegetation management equipment and accessories.

BobcatParts.com Expands to Canada>

Canadian customers will now be able to order select parts, accessories and attachments directly from Bobcat via BobcatParts.com, the company’s e-commerce platform.

More than 20,000 items are available through BobcatParts.com, including a variety of remanufactured parts. Free ground shipping is available on all orders over $99 as part of a limited-time introductory offer.

Liebherr says it is committed to long-term strategic sustainability goals, including emissions, energy and employee healthLiebherrEcoVadis awards Liebherr gold sustainability rating

Independent corporate responsibility auditor EcoVadis has awarded Liebherr with a gold medal for sustainability. The ranking places Liebherr in the top 5% of all rated companies for sustainability and within the top 3% of manufacturing companies globally. More than 75,000 companies participated in the audit, which scored participants on the following areas: environment, labor and human rights, ethics and sustainable procurement.

The company, which has more than 48,000 employees, says it is committed to long-term strategic sustainability goals, including emissions, energy and employee health, as well as participation in the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).

“Responsibility and care for the environment has always been a key component of Liebherr philosophy,” says Tatjana Grissemann, corporate responsibility manager, Liebherr. “We have been part of our respective communities for many decades and we have always cared for our local environment. Today, we carry that same responsibility with us, but as part of the global supply chain, we have a global responsibility.”>

Rokbak aims for Net Zero Emissions and Waste by 2040

Rokbak, with the support of parent company Volvo Group, has outlined its plans to significantly reduce carbon emissions and waste at its Motherwell, Scotland plant with a goal of achieving net zero by 2040. >

The articulated truck manufacturer signed at Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) certificate in 2019, ensuring all electricity delivered to the plant comes from renewable sources. The move is anticipated to reduce the plant’s carbon footprint by 992 tons per year. Additional steps being taken to improve sustainability include: the installation of 54 submeters to monitor energy use, moving from natural gas to electric-powered heating and cooling, partitioning the plant into smaller spaces, installing motion sensor doors and using green gas from a landfill. >

When it comes to reducing material waste, the site is already nearly landfill free and will soon apply for Volvo Group certification for demonstrating that at least 95% of waste is diverted from landfill. All steel and wood is recycled with food waste going for composting and Rokbak is actively working with its suppliers to reduce the amount of materials consumed in the first place.>

“The targets we have set ourselves at Rokbak and Volvo Group are tough, but I believe they are achievable. Volvo has shown its willingness to invest, and our staff and customers are also keen to do their bit,” says Karen Anne Duffy, HSE & sustainability manager for the Motherwell plant.>

It’s back!: Caterpillar reintroduces 651 Wheel Tractor Scraper

New self-propelled scraper designs don’t come around very often, so when they do it’s big news, especially for any contractor who does high-volume earthmoving.

If you’re not familiar with what these beasts of the field can do, the new Cat 651, with a push from a dozer, can load 104,000 pounds of material in 30 seconds. That’s as much dirt as a 50-ton truck can handle — and it takes at least two and half minutes to load a truck.

Cat has reintroduced its 651 Wheel Tractor Scraper with a bunch of changes, upgrades and enhancements including a new powertrain, controls, hydraulics and structure. This single-engine model offers 44 cubic yards of heaped capacity and a 52-ton rated load. It also shares the same bowl design and many components as the Cat 657, allowing contractors with mixed fleets to stock fewer repair parts and lower owning costs. It replaces the 651E self-propelled scraper, which Cat discontinued about 15 years ago.

A 629-horsepower Cat C18 engine powers the redesigned 651. When paired with a push assist from a Cat D10 or D11 dozer, and its eight-speed transmission, the 651 can load at speeds up to 34.8 mph even in abrasive or rocky conditions.

The scraper’s new Advanced Productivity Electronic Control System integrates the transmission and engine drivetrain to provide smooth and responsive shifts. The electronic clutch pressure control features advanced shift control logic for smoother speed and directional shifts, while part-throttle shifting controls transmission shifts for smoother shifting between gears. Preventing loss of momentum during shifts, the shift torque management system carries higher torque through shift points.

For operator comfort, the cab on the 651 is as large as that of a twin-engine 657 and 21 percent larger than Cat’s E-series scrapers. Ingress and egress have been improved with the addition of a powered access ladder. Relocation of the HVAC system, steering column and pedal improve visibility. The new comfort seat rotates up to 30 degrees to the right for loading and offers an additional 2 inches of fore/aft movement to reduce operating fatigue. The seat’s adjustable armrest aligns with the implement control level with T-handle design for more comfortable operation. 

To keep your operators sharper longer, a new high-pressure steering system requires less steering effort and reduces fatigue. Improvements to the hydraulics include an electrohydraulic implement system for improved multifunction capability and a short throw for the T-handle implement control. Cat’s advanced ride management system improves smoothness by eliminating end-stroke events of the seat suspension cylinder

An optional three-camera Work Area Vision System (WAVS) shows the cutting edge, right side and rear of the machine on a 7-inch in-cab color monitor. Available sequence assist reduces up to 14 individual operator commands per cycle with a single button for improved cycle consistency, fewer repetitive motions for the operator and less fatigue.

Production efficiency

When it’s cold out, an auto-stall feature, new for the 651, assists in warming up the transmission oil faster so you can get to work sooner. Configured with sequence assist, the new payload estimator option uses bowl lift cylinder pressure to accurately calculate machine payload to within plus or minus 5 percent of scaled weight, optimizing payload and jobsite efficiency. Using the bowl lift cylinder, the reliable payload estimator system requires no recalibration or operator interface.

The scraper’s new ground speed control allows the operator to set the desired top speed, and the machine will find the gear that works best for the engine and transmission. This lowers the engine load factor and fuel burn compared to top gear selection. When operating on a downhill slope, the 651 detects a machine overspeed situation and automatically engages the compression brakes with no operator input. Hydraulic wet disc brakes replace air actuated brakes from the previous model to improve performance and serviceability. 

Cat651 Quick Specs

Engine: Cat C18, 585 hpHeaped capacity: 4 cubic yardsRated load: 104,000 poundsWeight loaded: 249,000 poundsTop speed loaded: 34.8 mph
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Apprentices Help Build Their Own Training Facility – And Used the Latest Tech to Do It

In 2019, the Southern Nevada Operating Engineers was faced with a problem.

The Las Vegas community had exploded in size around the training facility it moved into in the mid-90s. The once prime location was no longer an ideal spot for heavy equipment training and operation.

It was time to move and rebuild for the future – and who better to do the rebuilding than the students and instructors themselves?

“Some of the apprentices we worked with onsite had never been in equipment before this project,” says Larry Hopkins, SNOE director of training. “They went from zero experience applicants to having the privilege of working alongside several instructors, coordinators and seasoned tradespeople to make this facility come to life.”

The new 28,000-square-foot center sits on nearly 100 acres and features state-of-the-art training rooms, classrooms, a machine shop, welding stations, and grounds to move dirt and simulate projects.

“It was a very proud moment to see it start from bare dirt and rock to what we have now,” says Chris Trolson, SNOE assistant director of training. “It’s fulfilling to see our students go out there and take ownership of this. You could feel the pride because they can see what they accomplished.”

Southern Nevada Operating Engineers JATCStudents assisted with everything from grading the site to paving the parking lot, and they used the latest technology to do it. Under the guidance of operating engineers and instructors, SNOE students used full 3D Trimble Earthworks automatics on an excavator and on a mastless dozer, as well as Trimble Siteworks and WorkManager to facilitate the data.

And for many of the students, the technology was second nature. “Our students just out of high school or their early 20s are much less afraid of the technology than those of us who have been around for 35 or 40 years,” says Hopkins. “They have an advantage growing into this technology. They’re excited about it.”

Education embedded with technology

In addition to the technology used to build the facility, tech is embedded in almost every aspect of the training programs and classrooms.

Twelve 25-square-foot classrooms are equipped with 4K smart boards, cameras and AV for interactive learning and guest speakers. The boards are also a good starting point for familiarizing students with machine displays. “Instead of trying to crowd 10 to 12 kids around a cab, we can show them Trimble emulators on the board,” says Trolson. “You see the a-ha moments once they get into the field. They build off that experience.”

In addition, simulators acquaint students with the equipment before turning them out in the field. “You’ll have 500 bad passes before you get a good pass on a piece of equipment,” says Trolson. “With simulators, we can get rid of a lot of that before we go out in the field. It helps build that confidence so they know they can do it.” The trainers plan to add virtual reality simulators down the road for an even more immersive experience.

Students in the heavy-duty repair program are also engaged in technology from day one. “They have to be familiar with the computer technology that is running the heavy equipment and how to troubleshoot it,” says Hopkins. “I’m not exaggerating when I say there are 200 to 300 different kinds of systems and menus on these different makes and models of equipment. It can be a nightmare. That technological training is wrapped into everything we do.”

Southern Nevada Operating Engineers JATC under construction.
Southern Nevada Operating Engineers JATCBuilding a labor force

Since opening its doors in July, the instructors have already trained several classes of operators and technicians. In an industry desperately seeking workers, the trainers say there is a lot to be optimistic about.

“Work is starting to pick up and my phone has been ringing off the hook,” says Trolson. “We have a lot of applicants we’re going to be putting in the field. Our regular classes are always full.”

“We’re not having issues recruiting,” added Hopkins. “Contractors just need to give us a call, and we’ll provide the people they need.”

The facility routinely has 125-150 apprentices training at any one time, primarily from the four surrounding counties in southern Nevada. The trainers have seen an uptick in women and minorities entering the program in recent years as well.

And as for graduates, the market is good. “Every one of those apprentices who helped with the facility construction has not been out of work since,” says Hopkins. “They went from working on this project straight to contractors and are still going today.”

Once those new recruits hit your jobsite, the education doesn’t stop. Trolson’s best advice for mentoring new employees: patience. “Teach them. Bring them along. You’re investing into the future with this person. You have to put the time and effort into it to get the payback.”

The Southern Nevada Operating Engineers JATC will be used as the new live demonstration and operating site for Trimble Dimensions, held November 7-9, 2022.