Customers in Action

Dirt 101


July 15, 2015

Komatsu stands up to the challenge

Dirt 101

As metropolitan areas grow, so does the need for aggregate material. In the early 1980s, Phoenix had plenty of land available with abundant resources to supply the area. One company looking for land contacted Roger Jones about buying a piece of property in the Glendale area.

“At the time, in 1987, I was in the amusement business and had a motorcycle and go-kart track on that property,” said Jones. “I sold the land to the aggregate company, and it started pulling material out and creating what eventually became a 40-acre hole during the next decade-plus.”

Jones eventually bought back the land, and in 1999, he founded Dirt 101, an inert landfill. His company accepts concrete, asphalt and dirt from demolition, construction, paving and other companies in the Phoenix area that need to get rid of the materials in a place other than a traditional landfill. Much of the waste was used to fill in the hole, but like other inert landfills, Dirt 101 also recycled a portion of the concrete and asphalt to make new products, such as road base and grade-stabilization aggregate.

“We originally got into recycling because we were running out of space and filling the hole fairly quickly,” Jones recalled. “Recycling slowed the volume of material going into the hole and extended its life by about five years. It also gave us materials we could sell, and it makes great sense to reuse those waste products in a way that benefits new construction and reduces the need for mining raw materials. Rebar that’s pulled from concrete during processing is also sold, so that’s another source of revenue. It was a great move that benefits us and the environment.”

Almost full

Dirt 101 has about 95 percent of the hole filled. It’s also working on another 140-acre hole just across the road from the original site, which is on Glendale Avenue. Between the two locations, the company has a staff of eight, including original employee, Operator Mike Kessler. The two made Dirt 101 work despite having no experience in running an inert landfill.

“Building racetracks gave me a background in how to move dirt and compact it, which is really a lot of what this business is about,” said Jones. “I saw what other landfills were doing and emulated them. It’s really a simple business. You just need a big hole to get started, and now that we have the second location, we probably have another 10 to 15 years ahead of us.”

Good used Komatsu equipment

Dirt 101

Dirt 101’s work is equipment-intensive and largely done with used Komatsu machines that Jones acquired from Road Machinery LLC. During the past decade-plus, he’s owned several pieces, and today has a D275 dozer, a PC228 excavator and a WA470 wheel loader. Dirt 101 uses the excavator with various attachments to process materials and feed a crusher. The dozer pushes and levels, and the wheel loader moves product and loads trucks.

“A reputation in the industry for reliability was one of the first factors in our decision to look at and buy Komatsu machines,” said Jones. “Our equipment has certainly lived up to that reputation. This application is hard on equipment because it’s handling tough materials. Add in the heat and dust of a desert environment, and it can really take a toll. That’s also part of why we buy used equipment. Komatsu stands up to the challenge without breaking down and slowing our production. I honestly would rather have a used Komatsu machine than a competing brand’s new one.”

“All of the Komatsu machines have good power,” Kessler added. “I especially like the dozer and the wheel loader. The D275 allows me to push a lot of material, so it gives us good production, while also being comfortable and easy to operate. I also like the ride in the wheel loader and the way the loader bucket levels as you raise it, keeping the materials from spilling. It’s all good equipment.”

Jones worked closely with Road Machinery Sales Account Manager Corey Barton to find his latest Komatsu machines, and he turns to Road Machinery for service as needed. “Corey and Road Machinery have been terrific to work with during the years. They have parts on hand, or can get them the next day, when we need them. We don’t call them often for service, but if we do, they respond quickly.”

Increasing volume

Phoenix is in the midst of a building boom, which also includes a good amount of demolition work to pave the way for new construction. Dirt 101 has seen an increase in the volume of materials coming in, and Jones believes that will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

“Our volume of material is largely dependent on the markets and the amount of construction and other projects that produce a lot of waste. The last couple of years have seen an upward trend in these types of projects, and I think it could pick up even more, which may cause us to grow. We’ll have to see how it plays out, but I’m optimistic.”