“We switched to the D155 years ago, and it doubled our production”
When Rodney Turner purchased his first gravel pit in 1965, the price of gas was 25 cents per gallon. Using a primarily homemade barge, he and his wife, Margaret, dredged and pumped gravel out of their water pit for customers. They soon began selling sand as well and aptly named their operation Turner Sand & Gravel, Inc.
“My dad started out dredging the material, then added a dragline and a slackline in the 70s,” noted President LeRoy Turner, of the Wolverton, Minn.,-based business. “Those machines were labor-intensive and hard to operate. We had one employee who ran them for more than 35 years, until we finally replaced the equipment.”
Throughout the last half-century, Turner Sand & Gravel has expanded to operate a dozen pits and is currently led by the founders’ two children, LeRoy, and Office Manager LaDawn Turner. The 14-employee firm provides sand and gravel for counties and townships within a 60-mile radius and handles specific material requests as well.
“Two years ago, we worked with a contractor to provide several thousand tons of concrete rock for one of their projects,” recalled LeRoy. “They needed one-inch minus by three-eighths rock, three-eighths chips and dust. That’s not typical of anything we would normally provide; however, we felt we had enough time and a solid relationship with the customer to handle that.”
Going above what is expected and delivering the best possible service has been an important part of Turner Sand & Gravel’s success. “There are times when I’ve been in the office until 9:00 p.m. and got a call from a customer who needed a quote for a bid the next morning,” shared LaDawn. “Usually we’re able to make it work. We’re always honest and upfront about what we are able to provide; we only promise when we can deliver.”
Before Turner Sand & Gravel finishes extracting material from a pit, it begins the reclamation process to restore the area. For LeRoy, this is one of the most important steps in the mining process.
“There are some old pits from the 1930s and 40s that are an eyesore,” said LeRoy “We’re taking action to change the outlook on what people can expect when we’re finished with a pit.”
Part of that process includes making the land better suited for farming than before the pit was opened.
“As we finish taking material out of the Hawley pit, we’ve replaced it with soil from another project and leveled it off,” explained LeRoy. “That will go back into either crops or pasture when we’re done. It will be better land after the gravel is out from under it because it’ll hold moisture better.”
Thirty-five years with General Equipment
Relationships have played a key role for the business. Turner Sand & Gravel works closely with General Equipment & Supplies and has been a customer since it opened in 1984.
“In 1987, we purchased the first Komatsu WA500 wheel loader that General Equipment sold,” noted LaDawn. “I use it to load farm trucks when all the other equipment is in use. It’s been a good machine and is still reliable.”
In total, Turner Sand & Gravel has purchased 33 pieces of machinery from General Equipment, including nine wheel loaders, three dozers, four excavators, six crushers, seven conveyors and four lowboys. Today, the Turners call on General Equipment Sales Rep Nick Olson for all of their equipment needs. To kick off 2019, the company added the first WA480-8 wheel loader sold in North Dakota to their fleet.
“The state and counties where we operate recently changed their laws to increase the weight per truck, which allows us to haul bigger loads,” explained LeRoy. “The increased bucket capacity of the 480 allows us to load a truck faster and meet the new weight standard in three cycles.”
Much like the loaders, Komatsu D155 dozers have also become a mainstay in Turner Sand & Gravel’s fleet. “We switched to the D155 years ago, and it doubled our production,” recalled LeRoy. “It used to take a full day to move the material taken out by the slack line. When we added the D155, we could move it away in three hours.”
Turner Sand & Gravel also appreciates Komatsu CARE, a complimentary, routine maintenance service for the first three years or 2,000 machine hours for Tier 4 equipment.
“The service from General Equipment, including the Komatsu CARE program, has been excellent over the years and an important part of why we continue to count on them,” shared LaDawn. “Beyond prices, General Equipment takes care of its customers.”
The strength of Turner Sand & Gravel has been finding and developing its niche throughout the last 54 years. Maintaining steady business remains the goal for the future.
“We’ve tried to slow down in the past, but we’re not very good at that,” joked LaDawn. “We’re always changing and are anticipating a big year with some fairly large projects that will keep us busy. We have a lot of customers who rely on us, and we plan to continue to meet their needs.”