Simpson Trucking & Grading

THE SUCCESS OF THIS GAINESVILLE, GA., SITE-DEVELOPMENT FIRM IS “ALL IN THE FAMILY”

Apr 23, 2012

Reliable and productive Komatsu equipment

Many construction companies are family businesses. Few however, have family participation to the extent that Simpson Trucking & Grading does.

James Simpson first went to work for himself in 1964, doing small jobs in and around his hometown of Gainesville, Ga. That led him into the scrap-metal business, in which he worked for a number of years before starting Simpson Trucking & Grading in the late 1970s. Thanks to James’ work ethic, as well as the efforts of three children and two grandchildren who work full time in the family business, the company has become one of the leading, full-service site-development firms in northeastern Georgia.

“Family involvement is what’s made Simpson Trucking & Grading,” stated James, who currently serves as CEO. “It’s the personal touch. It’s the single-minded dedication you have to a business when your name is on it. We have family members on almost every job. And they don’t just show up in a pickup truck, talk to the foreman, then leave after a half hour. My kids are running jobs from the seat of a machine, and they’re on site from startup to shutdown each day.”

“We take great deal of pride in doing quality work and doing it fast, and we’ve found that our jobs get done faster when a family member is on site,” said President Greg Simpson, James’ son. “We try to lead by example. We don’t ask anybody to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves. Beyond the incentive and oversight we bring when we’re physically on a job, we’ve also found the owners, developers and general contractors we work for like it because they always know where to find us.”

In addition to James and Greg, other Simpson family members involved in the business full time are James’ son Gus and daughter Angie, and grandsons Shawn and Brandon (BJ). Greg’s daughter Hanna goes to college but works at the company during the summer and school breaks. Because of their involvement and the success of the company, Simpson Trucking & Grading won the 2009 “Family Business of the Year” award from The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Full-service contractor

Family members are crucial to the company’s success, and Greg Simpson says longtime employees are like family as well. “We have some excellent guys who’ve been with us 10, 20, even 30 years. When they’re out on jobs, we’re confident that they’re going to represent us well. They share our work ethic, and without them, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Where they are today is a company that can take on almost any type of construction project. They often get requests to bid on large earthmoving jobs in northern Georgia. While the company name is Simpson Trucking & Grading, it would be more accurate if they changed it to Simpson Trucking & Construction Services.

“On the trucking side, we have 50 trucks and trailers and we haul a wide range of material to and from our own jobsites, as well as hiring out to other contractors and the general public,” explained James Simpson. “On the grading side, we are a full-service, turnkey, site-development contractor. We do everything required to turn a piece of property into a building site, and except for asphalt paving and curb work, we do it all in-house with our own people and equipment.”

“Our calling cards are quality, courtesy and speed,” added Greg Simpson. “We give customers the job they want, we do it right the first time and we treat everybody we come in contact with respectfully. We also have the people and equipment that allow us to do fast-track work. When time is of the essence, we can move large amounts of material quickly.”

Large, fast-track jobs

Simpson Trucking & Grading typically has about a dozen jobs going on at any particular time, most within about a 100-mile radius of Gainesville. The Simpsons’ ability to quickly move large amounts of material has led to some big jobs, such as a current one that consists of doing all the site work for a new Rabun County primary school building.

“It’s a 55-acre site with more than a million yards of material to move,” Greg noted. “The project is unique in that it’s on the top of Boggs Mountain, has some aggressive timetables and a lot of rainy weather to overcome. But we enjoy challenging, high-profile jobs like that.”

Other large site-development projects under construction or recently completed by Simpson Trucking & Grading are the new Ty Cobb Medical Center in Lavonia, Ga., the ZF Windpower manufacturing plant in Gainesville, and numerous convenience stores in the region.

“At the Rabun County School job, we’re moving 15,000 to 18,000 yards of material per day on average,” said Greg. “At the Windpower project, we needed to move 700,000 yards in nine weeks. We did it in six. Our ability to take care of business on jobs like that is why we’re recognized as being a reliable ‘fast-track’ contractor.”

Productive Komatsu equipment

To allow them to move material that fast, Simpson Trucking & Grading has a large equipment fleet, including numerous Komatsu machines from Tractor & Equipment Company. Among the Komatsu units are a new PC350LC-8 hydraulic excavator, two PC300LC-7s and six dozers, including four D51s and a D155.

“Our operators really like the new Komatsu track hoe, in part because it’s got a boom that’s lighter than the competitor’s boom,” said Greg Simpson. “Instead of lifting boom weight, the Komatsus can pick up and place more material and heavier structures. It makes our operators more productive and more efficient.”

Simpson says he’s also been very pleased with the D51 dozers.

“They’ve been bulletproof. We have more than 5,000 hours on the first two, and they still have the original undercarriages. As an owner, I could have my pick of machines to operate and I choose to run the D51 myself. Same with two other family members. For most of our work, we think it’s the best dozer on the market especially when we’re on a slope. It delivers outstanding power and traction, is highly maneuverable, and has an excellent center of gravity. I really feel safe and comfortable on a Komatsu D51, even working on a 2-to-1 slope.”

Two of Simpson Trucking & Grading’s D51s have Trimble machine-control systems on them. “We were early adopters of machine-control systems,” said Greg. “Using them lets us get to grade much faster — and with no staking, it saves us money. We’re always looking for tools that make us more effective, and our D51s with machine-control systems certainly do that.”

To maintain and repair its machines, Simpson Trucking & Grading has its own crew of mechanics, but relies on Tractor & Equipment for help when needed. “Our TEC Sales Rep, Tim Aiken (VP and Regional Sales Manager), is great to work with,” said Greg Simpson. “Whatever we need, we call Tim, and TEC gets right on it. We’re very happy with the support they provide us.”

Total customer satisfaction

Simpson Trucking & Grading has grown considerably since James Simpson started it more than 30 years ago. Today, the company has about 135 employees. That’s down from 250 a few years ago, but is up from the 60 or so people it employed during the depths of the recession.

“We have more work than we did a couple of years ago,” said James. “We think things are getting better and we certainly hope it continues. It was heartbreaking to lose so many guys when the work dried up. We’re very thankful that things are picking up and that we’ve been able to bring back a number of former employees. We’re glad we’ve got work for them and glad they want to come back to us.”

Back in the beginning, James says he never dreamed Simpson Trucking & Grading would one day be the size it is today, doing the type of jobs it does. “I just wanted to earn a living and have a little company I could be proud of. Thanks to my family, our employees and our customers, we’ve far exceeded my expectations.”

“What dad always emphasized and passed on to all of us was the importance of total customer satisfaction,” said Greg. “That’s our goal on every job, no matter how big or how small it is. That customer-first philosophy has generated a tremendous amount of repeat business and referrals for us through the years. We’re confident it will be the key to our continued success in the years to come.”