“Komatsu CARE simplifies maintenance’’”
One of Rene “R.J.” Pelchat’s first summer jobs involved operating a 50-ton haul truck and a wheel loader at a sand pit. Following a 10-year stint away from the heavy equipment and construction industry, he accepted a position supervising lot construction for a residential developer. By 2004, Pelchat decided to open his own excavation business.
A one-man show, he aptly named the company R.J. Pelchat Excavating Inc. and began providing excavation services for Gardner, Mass., residents. To get his new venture off the ground, he said yes to every opportunity – nothing was out of the question.
“I did anything,” recalled Pelchat. “It was a lot of little stuff, from removing tree stumps to burying sauna tubes. I just hustled and kept moving, always looking for the next job.”
Pelchat was meticulous and conscientious in avoiding damage to customers’ lawns, which quickly bolstered his reputation. Demand increased steadily and he began adding employees and purchasing new equipment. Shortly thereafter, R.J. Pelchat Excavating shifted away from residential work toward larger projects.
“Today, we’re up to six employees,” noted Pelchat. “All of our work is public or government, and we focus on bidding jobs between Interstates 495 and 95. Our first four contracts were all playgrounds for the City of Worcester. Within the last year, we’ve done site work for the Westwood police station and Walpole fire station as well as an addition to the Andover Department of Public Works.”
Annually, R.J. Pelchat Excavating completes three to four public projects ranging between $8 million and $10 million. To supplement business during the winter, it provides snow-removal services throughout greater Boston. The bitter New England cold can take a toll on any employee, which is one of the reasons why Pelchat recognizes the tenured father and son duo of Troy and Tyler Fiscus as key operators who have made his company successful.
“I trust Troy, Tyler and the rest of my team when I’m not around,” said Pelchat. “My first love is running equipment, but I have to spend a lot of time doing paperwork these days. I know they will do things right the first time by sticking to the blueprint, without cutting corners. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”
Taking on new projects
Last spring, R.J. Pelchat Excavating landed a contract to do the site work for a three-story parking garage in Newburyport, Mass. The endeavor is the first of its kind for the business and has presented several unique challenges.
“The garage sits on a two-acre corner lot and will come to within an inch of the property line when it’s finished,” explained Pelchat. “We’ve removed and replaced 5,000 yards of soil to reach compaction while shoring up the building next door to avoid causing any fundamental damage. The parking garage is structurally designed to support an additional two levels of parking, which requires larger footings to be buried 17 feet deep.”
Commissioned by the Montachusett Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA), the garage will also include a bus terminal. R.J. Pelchat Excavating is handling the site work to accommodate the public-transit system as well.
“Making room for the bus system requires widening the road and adjusting the sidewalk,” stated Pelchat. “We will also install new storm drainage and several other small features. It’s exciting to take on a new project to really test our skills.”
The firm is wrapping up the Walpole fire station as well.
“That assignment was similar to the parking garage because it was a corner lot that required 5,000 yards of excavation and imported soil,” noted Pelchat. “The ground in the area is very sandy and can’t bear any weight, so a majority of new builds require a specific soil to reach compaction. It’s great to know that we can have a positive, lasting impact in the community by providing a sturdy base for many of the public-safety structures.”
C.N. Wood, Komatsu deliver
When establishing his company 14 years ago, Pelchat teamed with C.N. Wood on a rent-to-purchase agreement for a Komatsu PC120 excavator. After three years, he traded the machine for a larger Komatsu PC200. Since then, the two businesses have worked closely together and built a strong relationship.
“The sales team at C.N. Wood has been great to me,” said Pelchat. “I’m a loyal guy, and my first Sales Rep, Roger Vincent, really set the standard for C.N. Wood.”
Today, Pelchat relies on C.N. Wood Sales Rep Bill Perla, who has helped him add several new pieces of equipment to his fleet.
“I own a Komatsu PC240LC-11, a PC170LC and PC45 excavators as well as a Komatsu Komatsu D51EX dozer,” stated Pelchat. “Compared to competitive brands, Komatsu equipment is very powerful and super fast. It increases cycle time and efficiency for any project.”
The PC240LC-11 excavator is the workhorse of R.J. Pelchat Excavating’s fleet. The 177-hp machine utilizes Komatsu’s Closed Center Load Sensing hydraulic system to provide smooth operation and maximize productivity.
In tight areas, like the MVRTA parking garage, the company uses its PC170 excavator.
“The excellent visibility makes it a great street machine,” noted Pelchat. “It’s compact and has narrow tracks but packs a lot of power. The boom has excellent reach, which is perfect in a city environment.”
R.J. Pelchat Excavating takes advantage of the Komatsu CARE for service on its machines. The program covers complimentary maintenance for the first three years or 2,000 hours for Tier 4 equipment.
“Komatsu CARE simplifies regular maintenance,” explained Pelchat. “I also use Komatsu Financial to purchase equipment. Starting my own company, I didn’t have a lot of money to invest initially, but Komatsu Financial made the process easy, and I knew I had the full support of C.N. Wood as well.”
Backtracking to go forward
As Pelchat looks to the future, he envisions adding residential work back into his portfolio. “Ideally, we’d have a mix of residential and public or government projects,” explained Pelchat. “I’ve had experience in both fields and think as we continue to grow, having multiple types of jobs is important, so we have more than one form of business.”
Before that happens, however, he wants to hire additional office employees.
“Hiring a full-time estimator is my first priority,” he stated. “The more projects we can estimate, the busier we will be. Ultimately, if I can build a team around me, the work will come and the company will continue to grow.”