Komatsu equipment, comfortable and efficient
In business, years of hard work and dedication are necessary to develop a strong reputation. Dale Handrich, President of Handrich Trucking, Inc., can attest to that. His father started the company in the early 1970s, and Handrich joined the business in 1981. Tragedy struck the family in 1985 when his father was killed in a car accident, which put Handrich in charge of the growing trucking firm at the young age of 22.
“I decided to buy out my three siblings and run the business,” Handrich said. “I grew up and started working a little harder.”
With a small staff and lots of jobs on the books, Handrich did whatever was necessary to make the business succeed. He handled nearly everything – from vehicle maintenance to actually building the office. That dedication led to 90-hour weeks and many late nights, but Handrich made it work.
“There were many times I would be at the office until 10 p.m. waiting on a truck to return, so I could change its oil,” he recalled. “We didn’t have a mechanic then, so I changed the oil, rotated the tires and completed all the service work to reduce costs. It was tough, but I did it.”
When Handrich took over the business, the company had seven drivers, and his sister worked part time as a secretary. Through his efforts, the company has grown to a fleet of 11 trucks and 12 employees, including a mechanic. While he isn’t servicing vehicles late at night anymore, Handrich is still heavily invested in the day-to-day activities of the company.
“I’m lucky; my employees really take care of me,” Handrich revealed. “I’m 53 now, so I can’t put in the same hours, but I’m still active. I am up at 5 a.m. every day loading trucks. I love it; I won’t give that up just yet.”
Handrich Trucking hauls a wide range of materials. The company owns a variety of sevenand eight-axle trailers that allow it to move loads up to 50 tons.
“A typical load for us is 135-140 yards, but it depends on the material,” said Handrich. “We haul a lot of wood-related material like chips and sawdust, and we can fill a trailer with those loads. Beans, carrots, tires, demolition material – those add up to 50 tons quickly.”
Handrich Trucking’s growth can be attributed to the proliferation of cogeneration energy, or “co-gen,” plants in northern Michigan. These sites burn waste-wood products and recycled tires to create steam that powers turbines. Local plants began popping up in the 1980s to help support remote towns in the region; today there are still several active in the area.
“In 1983 the first co-gen opened, and we were hauling 73 loads of material there a week,” recalled Handrich. “That helped us increase our fleet to six trucks at the time. At one point, we had 17 trucks. Servicing the plants has been a major part of our business for years.”
One reason Handrich Trucking was able to continually supply the co-gen plants was its proximity to the Amish sawmills near Mio. “There are about nine sawmills that produce a lot of waste material,” reported Handrich. “To have that much work close by has been great.”
Komatsu, CEC all the way
In the early 1990s, Handrich Trucking grew to the point that it needed its own wheel loaders to load trucks, and Handrich turned to Continental Equipment Company (CEC) and Sales Rep Mike Swope. His first Komatsu was a used WA180. Then Handrich purchased two used Komatsu WA250s. In the early 2000s, he started buying new, and now has a 2012 WA250 and a 2015 WA270 wheel loader.
“The Komatsu wheel loaders are extremely comfortable and have the maneuverability to get into small spaces in sawmills,” said Handrich. “I love the back-up camera in the WA270. It gives me the ability to use the whole space.”
Since the sawmills are located fairly close to one another, Handrich simply drives the wheel loaders from job to job each morning.
“It was more efficient to drive to the mills instead of loading and unloading them a few times each day,” explained Handrich. “They get some road time, but that’s OK. We make sure to plan our work for the day so that we drive them on the road as little as possible.”
The WA270 came with Komatsu CARE for the first three years or 2,000 hours, as well as KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s remote machine-monitoring system. Those two features, plus the reliability of CEC, were key selling points for Handrich.
“Komatsu, CEC and Mike have been terrific to work with,” he noted. “They are always there to make things right and help us out. They are great.”
The decision to purchase a PC50MR was less business-related for Handrich. “Since I was five years old, I wanted an excavator. I love digging holes; it’s a thrill for me. The PC50 was ideal; it is small enough that I can haul it behind my pickup and do small jobs with it. I love it.”
Room to grow
After more than 30 years in the industry, Handrich is not too concerned with aggressive growth for his company, but he believes expansion is possible.
“I think we are in a very good place right now, but there is the opportunity to grow,” he said. “We have developed a great reputation and have strong relationships with our customers – to the point that we don’t have to advertise. If we had more drivers, we could easily keep them busy, but there aren’t a lot of people looking to do this work. Regardless if we grow or stay the same, we will continue to do what got us here – work hard and treat our customers well.”