RDL Excavation & Construction


May 9, 2012

Komatsu equipment - “the most bang for our buck”

When Robert Cone and his father Luther (L.J.) started doing work under the RDL Excavation & Construction name, all they had was a backhoe. What they lacked in equipment, they more than made up for in determination and experience.

Both had decades of excavation and construction work under their belts working for other companies. They also had several family members with experience who came on board when RDL was founded in 2007. One of those was Robert’s son, Dale, who makes up the third generation in the business — RDL stands for Robert, Dale and Luther. Robert’s daughters, Wendy Ballard and Laura Nesbit, handle office work, and Laura’s son, Caleb, represents the fourth generation of the family in the business.

“At the time, we were all working for someone else and wanted to be in business for ourselves,” recalled Robert, who owns the company and serves as president. L.J. is the company’s salesman, Dale is a foreman and Caleb is training to be a foreman. “We decided to take the chance because we believed we could make it work, using our experience. Fortunately, the oil business was booming at the time, and we had several contacts from our previous jobs. That gave us a good foot in the door with potential customers.”

Robert estimates that RDL Excavation & Construction does about 98 percent of its work in the oil fields around the company’s home in Loving, N.M. In the beginning, projects generally consisted of septic-tank and tank-pad construction on well sites.

“Because there’s so much work in the oil fields, it didn’t take long for us to establish ourselves, and the jobs kept getting bigger,” said Dale. “Our main focus now is constructing entire locations, including pads for drilling rigs and building the roads to them. That involves everything from staking the site and final grading to hauling in and laying down caliche for the pad and road. It may also involve constructing a holding pond.”

In addition, RDL Excavation & Construction also performs well-site reclamation, which involves removing caliche and any contaminated soil. Crews can also level the site and reseed it. The Cones say they generally have four or five projects going at any one time.

“We’re actually over and above where I thought we would be at this point,” noted L.J. “We’re very pleased with that success, especially considering that nearly all our work comes from repeat customers. That says RDL is delivering a quality job, and our customers appreciate that we can do everything on their project.”

“Customers also like that we’re very hands-on,” Robert added. “We’re working on the jobsite right alongside our employees, so if customers need to talk with us, they know where we are.”

Komatsu lasts longer

Being able to do everything on a well site means having equipment that can stand up to the often abrasive material that’s part of the southeastern New Mexico landscape. RDL uses four Komatsu dozers (a D155AX-6, two D65EX-15s and one D65EX-16) and two Komatsu GD655 motor graders, all purchased from Road Machinery LLC’s El Paso branch. They work with Territory Manager Gabe Mendivil on purchases.

“When we first starting looking for equipment, price and service were big factors,” said Robert. “Road Machinery assured us they would back the Komatsu equipment and meet our needs from a service standpoint. The pricing was very competitive. That made us take a good look at Komatsu equipment, and we’re very glad we did. Road Machinery held up its end of the bargain, and the Komatsu equipment has exceeded our expectations. We definitely got the most bang for our buck.”

“For example, because the material is so hard on equipment, undercarriages usually don’t last long,” added L.J. “That’s probably the biggest expense associated with running a dozer. Our experience has been that Komatsu undercarriages last considerably longer than the competitive machines we’ve run. That lowers our cost because we’re not replacing them as often.”

“Another aspect we like about the D155 and D65-16 is the Sigma blade,” Dale continued. “We can definitely see a difference in the amount of material that’s moved and stays in front of the blade compared to a standard blade on any other dozer. Again, that increases our production and lowers our per-yard costs.”

While RDL uses dozers for mass grading, it uses the Komatsu motor graders for finish work. “As someone who’s run motor graders for many years, including some of the first Komatsus in the 1980s, I can tell you that the newer Komatsu motor graders are very advanced,” insisted L.J. “The visibility is really good and allows the operator an excellent view of the blade and the material. They’re the best I’ve ever run.”

RDL Excavation & Construction handles most service work on its equipment, calling on Road Machinery as needed. “We’re a good haul away from El Paso, but any time we’ve needed something, Road Machinery has done a very good job of getting to us promptly,” said Robert. “Gabe is great to work with, too. He makes sure we have what we need, when we need it.”

Ups and downs

While the Cone family brought field experience with them when they started RDL Excavation & Construction, now they have nearly five years of management experience to go along with it.

“We started during a good time, and then things dried up in 2009,” recalled Robert. “During that year, we struggled a bit, but stayed above water and survived. During the past two years, the oil business has returned to where it was when we started. So, in five years, we’ve seen the ups and downs of being in business for ourselves. We believe that’s made us a stronger company, and will serve us well in the future.”

“There’s a good chance that the oil industry will stay strong for quite some time,” predicted L.J. “There seems to be a push for more domestic production, and that bodes well for us. We believe we’ve set ourselves up to take advantage of it by building the business the right way.”