Charlie Nelson Trucking & Excavating

CONTRACTOR TURNS SIDE BUSINESS INTO LONG-TERM SUCCESS

May 01, 2018

“Komatsu stands out above the crowd’”

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Owner Charlie Nelson loads trucks with a Komatsu PC290LC-11 excavator at a jobsite.

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Multiple Komatsu machines are often found on Charlie Nelson Trucking & Excavating jobsites. “I have run nearly every brand made, and Komatsu stands out above the crowd,” said Owner Charlie Nelson. “The excavators have excellent hydraulic power, and they are smooth to operate. The dozers are too, and the newer ones have outstanding visibility to the blade. In general, they last. Some of our older Komatsu pieces are still productive, so we get longevity and durability as well.”

Charlie Nelson is not exactly sure when his business became a full-time venture. He recalls that nearly 20 years ago, he started handling dirt work in the evenings and on weekends with a backhoe, an excavator and a truck.

“I was a public works employee, and I operated equipment as part of my job,” shared Charlie. “I started doing small projects on the side with my wife, Rita, and our son, Trey. Rita and I often were out late at night working, then we would get up early in the morning to do billing. People knew me from my job, so they called me. It just took off, and within a few years, I was able to quit my full-time job and concentrate solely on our business.”

Today, Charlie and Trey, who is Superintendent, are still in the field servicing customers of Charlie Nelson Trucking & Excavating, LLC. Charlie and Rita – who stays busy watching their grandkids – own the Benton, Ky., business, which serves a radius of approximately 100 miles from its home base. As the business grew, the couple hired a secretary to handle accounts payable and receivables.

“We have flipped the script as far as the markets we serve,” Charlie noted. “Starting out, the focus was on residential home sites with a little commercial mixed in. It’s just the opposite now.”

The services that Charlie Nelson Trucking Excavating offers remain the same today as when the business started. “We do site clearing, mass earthwork, drainage and septic systems, demolition and more. In general, we stay away from utilities, especially deep ones. If our clients want a site package which includes those, we will sub that portion out to a trusted company.”

The same holds true for paving. “Customers appreciate that we will take responsibility for an entire package because it gives them one point of contact,” said Trey. “They also like us because we will break out our services and provide a custom job, if that’s what they prefer. Our range varies from a few thousand dollars to a couple of million. We don’t consider anything to be too small.”

Every job equally important

As its name indicates, Charlie Nelson Trucking & Excavating does more than dirt work. Its founder notes that today most hauling is done for the company’s own projects. “We hire out our trucks if we are not keeping them busy, but with four or five jobs going at any one time, that’s not often the case,” explained Charlie.

Most contractors have a few large undertakings they point to as signature projects. The Nelsons view all of their assignments in that way.

“Each one is as important as the other, whether it’s simply spreading some rock, clearing a few trees or completing an entire site package,” stated Trey. “We tackle them, get them done and move on to the next one.”

That attitude has garnered Charlie Nelson Trucking & Excavating a long list of repeat clients. “Our goal is to always give 110 percent,” said Charlie. “This is a relationship business. If you build good ones, and you work hard to maintain them, customers will continue to call you back. That’s what we have always focused on.”

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(L-R) Charlie Nelson Trucking & Excavating’s Charlie and Trey Nelson meet with Brandeis Machinery & Supply Company Sales Rep Chad Porter on a jobsite near Benton, Ky. “Brandeis is one big factor in why Komatsu continues to be the dominant brand in our fleet,” said Charlie. “They helped me right from the beginning – when some others wouldn’t – to get a Komatsu excavator and dozer and have stood behind me every step of the way. Chad does a great job of ensuring the machinery we buy and rent is the right fit for our needs.”

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An operator for Charlie Nelson Trucking and Excavating levels dirt with a Komatsu D39PX-23 dozer.

Brandeis, Komatsu a winning combination

The Nelsons have maintained a solid relationship with Brandeis Machinery & Supply Company almost as long as Charlie Nelson Trucking & Excavating has been in business. Today, the company owns Tier 4 Komatsu PC210LC-11 and PC290LC-11 excavators and D39PX-23 and D61PX-23 dozers, as well as older PC200 and D41 machines. Brandeis Sales Rep Chad Porter helped with recent acquisitions and rentals.

“Brandeis is one big factor in why Komatsu continues to be the dominant brand in our fleet,” said Charlie. “They helped me right from the beginning – when some others wouldn’t – to get a Komatsu excavator and dozer and have stood behind me every step of the way. I know I can call anyone at Brandeis, from top to bottom, and get outstanding service. Chad does a great job of ensuring the machinery we buy and rent is the right fit for our needs.

“Another reason is the Komatsu equipment itself,” he continued. “I have run nearly every brand made, and Komatsu stands out above the crowd. The excavators have excellent hydraulic power, and they are smooth to operate. The dozers are too, and the newer ones have outstanding visibility to the blade. In general, they last. Some of our older Komatsu pieces are still productive, so we get longevity and durability.”

Charlie Nelson Trucking & Excavating equipped some of its newest units with aftermarket Topcon GPS systems. Brandeis Machine Control Specialist Joe Kiesel helped set up the machines and assists the Nelsons with model building and other items.

“The Topcon systems have made us more efficient and effective,” said Trey. “They are right on the money, but if we have a question or an issue, Joe will often guide us through it over the phone.”

Brandeis covers scheduled, complimentary maintenance on the Tier 4 equipment through the Komatsu CARE program for the first 2,000 hours or three years. The Nelsons send their older machines to Brandeis’ Paducah branch for service and repairs as needed.

“Being so busy, we often don’t have time to do it ourselves,” said Charlie. “We love Komatsu CARE. Brandeis calls and lets us know when the machines are due for service, then comes out at a convenient time and does it. It’s a real added-value. Product Support Rep Ron Griffin, Service Manager Nathan Clark, Shop Foreman Chuck Black and all the technicians bend over backward to help us.”

In for the long haul

Charlie said that business was slow early last year. However, the end of 2017 made up for it as the number of calls for projects picked up significantly.

“That’s the way construction is; there are always ups and down. Fortunately, there have been a lot of high spots in the past few years,” said Charlie. “We were swamped in late summer and fall. It looks good for the foreseeable future, so I think there’s a chance for some growth going forward.”

The Nelsons are open to looking at other opportunities as well. “You have to be flexible,” said Trey. “If customers want us to provide additional services, we will consider it. We are licensed for governmental projects, and we recently finished one. That’s another possibility for expansion.”

Whatever avenues the company pursues, Charlie says he’s in for the long haul. “Trey might take on greater responsibility, but I won’t ever quit,” he said emphatically. “I enjoy it too much.”