Hamilton Rocking & Contracting

CHEHALIS, WA, FIRM BOASTS SHINY EQUIPMENT AND A SHINY REPUTATION FOR QUALITY WORK

Oct 21, 2011

Productive and fuel-efficient Komatsu equipment

Most contractors like heavy equipment. It’s the fun part of the job. They like what the machinery can do and they like how a clean, bright, well-maintained machine looks out on a job. Few contractors, however, keep their machines looking as good as Reggie Hamilton does.

Hamilton is the owner of Chehalis, Wash.-based Hamilton Rocking & Contracting. A former race car driver who raced in the national “Legends” series and who raced late-model NASCAR-style cars regionally, Hamilton is a stickler for freshly painted, non-dented, non-rusted machines. He makes sure all his equipment is greased daily; that even on new machines, oil is changed at 250-hour intervals (rather than the 500 hours the manufacturer allows); and that each machine is routinely brought into the shop for a hard wax by hand to help extend the paint life.

“I’m definitely fussy with how my machines look and how they’re maintained,” Hamilton noted. “I like what clean, shiny, late-model equipment says about my company. I think clients are impressed when you have equipment that looks good on their job. I think employees treat a good-looking machine better and take more pride in their work. I think it’s also good business because a machine that looks good and is well-taken-care-of has better resale value.”

Hamilton brings that same perfectionist attitude toward the jobs that his company does. Hamilton Rocking & Contracting primarily builds logging roads and does a lot of crushing, much of it in conjunction with the road building. The company also does site developments, as well as some specialty, large-pipe drainage work, such as constructing fish pipes that allow fish to get upstream through culverts that had previously been blocked.

Onsite crushing

One of Hamilton Rocking’s specialties is to find and crush rock at a customer’s jobsite, which saves the customer a considerable amount of money.

“If a logging company is bringing in rock to build a road, the source might be an hour away,” Hamilton said. “Even on a small job that may only require 100 loads of rock, you’re talking $9,000 to $10,000 in trucking costs. On top of that, you have to purchase the rock itself. What we like to do is locate a rock source on their property so we can develop it, crush it and use it right there on site. It’s a much more efficient and cost-effective way to build a logging road.”

Often, an on-site rock source has to be drilled and shot before it can be crushed and used, but Hamilton has learned how to more or less “manufacture” a rock source in many instances.

“We can sometimes go into an old pit and find loose rock, or scratch around with an excavator and locate a source that’s not too deep,” he noted. “Often we’re able to come up with 1,000 or 1,500 yards of product that can be used without having to drill and blast, and that might be enough to take care of a one-time job in the area. Again, it’s a big cost savings, and our customers are quite pleased when we’re able to save them $5,000 or $10,000 on a job.”

Better roads/valued employees

Hamilton Rocking & Contracting will travel 100 miles or more for crushing and/or road-building jobs.

“Building logging roads is much different and much better than it used to be,” explained Hamilton. “We remove all trees and stumps, then we grade, slope and drain everything. It’s just like highway work without the paving. The roads are safer, and the way we build them today is 100-percent better for the environment than was the case 20 to 30 years ago.”

Hamilton relies on a small but knowledgeable and talented work force to build those roads. Key people include his wife, Kim, a co-owner who keeps the books; his brother Jay Hamilton; and longtime employee Chuck Rushton.

“Almost everybody who works here is in their 50s and I think that’s a good thing,” observed Hamilton. “We have a lot of experience so we’ve seen most anything we’re apt to run into. Also, I don’t have to wonder if an employee is going to show up. I know I can count on everybody here. They all have a solid work ethic, so we’re a smooth-running operation.”

Productive and fuel-efficient equipment

To do the type of work that keeps customers coming back, Hamilton Rocking & Contracting needs productive, reliable equipment. Recently, the company has turned primarily to Komatsu machines (a BR380JG mobile crusher, a PC270LC-8 excavator and a WA380-6 wheel loader) from Modern Machinery.

“We started out renting the mobile crusher two or three years ago, and our relationship with Komatsu and Modern just grew from there,” said Hamilton. “All of our Komatsu pieces are outstanding machines. One of the key aspects for us is fuel-efficiency. We compared the PC270 to a top competitor and found the Komatsu excavator was going to save us 15 to 20 gallons of fuel a day. At $3 to $4 per gallon, that’s real money.

“We use the excavator to dig rock and feed the crusher, as well as for sloping, digging ditches and laying pipe,” Hamilton continued. “We use the wheel loader to stockpile and load trucks. And the crusher allows us to do things that many contractors can’t do. For example, in addition to crushing rock, we can recycle concrete with it (including rebar removal).”

Hamilton did just that at a large, truck-stop job near Chehalis.

“We crushed the concrete that was there and they reused it on site as base material. We had our new Komatsu machines with the ecot3 stickers on them when the Washington State Department of Ecology was checking out the work. They gave us a big thumbs-up for using green equipment as well as for being part of an environmentally sound recycling effort. The project owner liked it also, and was even more pleased with the cost savings we were able to deliver compared to having to haul off the concrete and bring in a different base material.”

“The best” dealer support

Hamilton says he’s been very happy with all his Komatsu machines and also very pleased with the support he gets from Modern Machinery in Rochester, Wash.

“Modern is the best — period. My salesman, Jim Stevens, goes out of his way to take care of us, including delivering parts if needed. If Jim and I can’t get a deal done on a machine, Modern is willing to bring in Regional Manager Jim Hassebrock and VP Lamont Cantrell. They’ve both come to meet with me and I really appreciate that.

“Modern also has the top service guys in this area,” he asserted. “I don’t know how many times their Shop Foreman Rock Schwartz has saved me. And their fabricator, ‘Big’ Bob Nicholson, can build anything. I still have some older-model competitive equipment and I have Modern work on that for me, as well as take care of my new Komatsus.”

“All of us at Modern are pleased to be associated with Reggie and look forward to continuing to build our relationship in the years to come,” said Modern Machinery President Brian Sheridan.

Quality trumps quantity

While Hamilton Rocking & Contracting’s work load isn’t where it was five years ago, Hamilton says it has picked up from its low point in 2009.

“Business is okay. I’m not really interested in getting much bigger. We’re a small company and I like that. We used to have a quarry with about 25 employees and I prefer what we have now — about eight or 10 of us. It’s easier to manage and there’s less stress, but we’re still able to stay fairly busy and do work that’s challenging and gratifying. I’m working for the same landowners and commercial developers I’ve always worked for. People around here know who we are and know the type of work we do.”

For Hamilton, when it comes to work, quality trumps quantity.

“My dad told me to always remember that every job you do has your name on it, so don’t ever do something you’re not willing to stand behind. That always stuck with me. I won’t take a job just to do it and to make more money. The important thing to me is to do something I’m proud of and I think that’s true of our whole crew. I believe that’s why we’re still around and why we’ll continue to be around in the future.”