Compact Track Loader Helps Contractor Do More In Less Time

Story by Mike Larson, Editor | September 28, 2010

Dick Fuhrman & Son Bulldozing, Inc., Hazelhurst, WI, has recently added Wisconsin's first new Case 420CT Series 3 compact track loader to its fleet of equipment.

Fuhrman & Son's new unit is part of a new family of equipment recently introduced by Case, and is the very first 420CT Series 3 purchased in Wisconsin.

It is also the first compact track loader that Fuhrman has ever owned.

The company had previously rented a compact track loader when it needed one, but increasingly frequent rentals over several months this spring convinced owner Rick Fuhrman to buy one for the company's fleet of equipment in June.

Says Fuhrman, "We are always looking for ways to be even more efficient. One way for us to do that is using a compact track loader to do work we had been doing by hand or with combinations of equipment."

Fuhrman continued, "For example, we used to backfill basements with a small bulldozer and then have workers with shovels finish the areas where the dozer couldn't travel near the edge of the new excavation. Now one worker with the compact track loader can do the whole job more quickly and eliminate the hand work besides."

Family Business For 45 Years

Dick Fuhrman & Son Bulldozing, Inc., was founded in 1963 by Dick Fuhrman with a Case 1150B bulldozer, a Case W7 loader, and a dump truck.

After working in partnership with his father for many years, current owner Rick Fuhrman took over leadership of the company in 2005.

Today the business is still largely a family operation. Rick operates equipment every day, does much of the equipment maintenance and repair, and also handles the estimating and sales.

Rick's father, founder Dick Fuhrman, still frequently operates equipment, while Rick's sister Laurie works in the office. Rick's wife Laura not only manages the finances and administration, she also helps operate equipment when needed.

In addition, the company relies on four full-time and two part-time employees who operate equipment. Says Fuhrman, "We have a small crew of versatile and skilled operators who can all run each kind of equipment in our fleet. That gives us the flexibility to meet customers' scheduling requirements and to focus our resources most effectively."

Fuhrman & Son's current fleet includes three quad-axle dump trucks, two scrapers, three dozers, three hydraulic backhoes, three loaders, a single-drum compactor, and now one compact track loader.

The fleet includes equipment from Case, Caterpillar, Kobleco, Bomag, and Mack. Nearly all of it has been purchased, used, from Miller-Bradford & Risberg.

Says Fuhrman, "We have a strong relationship with Miller-Bradford that reaches back more than 25 years. Occasionally we've purchased a brand-new unit, but buying reliable, high-quality used equipment has made the most financial sense for us, overall."

Work Increasingly Commercial And Municipal

The bulk of Fuhrman & Son's work takes place within 30 miles of its headquarters in Hazelhurst, about 27 miles northwest of Rhinelander in north-central Wisconsin. Some projects, however, are up to 60 or more miles away.

The company's mix of residential, commercial and municipal work has shifted to nearly all commercial and municipal work over the past few years. Although it still excavates some residential basements, grades for garages, and constructs the long gravel driveways common throughout the rural north woods, Fuhrman more often works on the sites of clinics, commercial and office buildings, parking lots, and township roads.

Its services include the full range of site- and roadway-prep work, including clearing, topsoil stripping, gravelling, grading, excavating, building retention ponds, roadway sub-grade work, blacktop stripping, gravel hauling, and, in winter, snow removal.

Though relatively small, the company frequently works several projects simultaneously, relocating operators and equipment to match the various projects' requirements.

On a current job, for example, Fuhrman & Son is subcontracting to do the site work for a new clinic for the Lac du Flambeau tribe in Lac du Flambeau, WI. General contractor on the project is Ellis Stone Construction Co. of Stevens Point.

On the job, Fuhrman & Son cleared the approximately 3-acre site, logged off about 30 cords of pulp wood, took out the stumps and brush, stripped the topsoil, excavated the trenches for the building's footings, graded the site, and did preliminary leveling for the area under the 29,000-square-foot clinic building.

Later in the project, Furhman & Son will backfill around the footings, finish grading the site, and do the preparatory work for the parking lot.

Compact Track Loader Offers Flexibility

"For a long time, I didn't think we needed to own a compact track loader," says Fuhrman. "We did a lot of finishing work by hand and with a small dozer. But this past spring we began renting one several days a week as we found more and more uses for it. The added productivity and versatility convinced me to buy one," he says.

When Fuhrman purchased the compact track loader, he thought it might be used a few hundred hours per year. In the first month and a half that Fuhrman & Son has owned its new compact track loader, the company has already put more than 150 hours on it. "It is easy to move from job to job. It can do a lot of different things with attachments. And most importantly, it lets one person do many smaller jobs from start to finish. We even use it in place of a small dozer. That's productivity," he says.

Rick Fuhrman says that the compact track loader's combination of small size and grading power helps with project scheduling. For example, he says, when using a bulldozer to level a floor for the inside of a structure, the leveling work has to be done before the structure is up. With the compact loader, he has the flexibility to do the work either before or after the walls are up.

Currently, Fuhrman & Son uses its new compact track loader about three days out of four. "On a really hard-work day," says Fuhrman, "it uses between 15 and 20 gallons of fuel."

Its most frequent operator so far is Tom Lewandowski, who says it has more power than he expected and delivers excellent traction in the sandy soil prevalent throughout the area. "It goes right through a 15-cubic-yard pile of dirt. I can spread 250 yards of fill in a day," he says.

Lewandowski also says that in his experience a compact track loader offers better control than a dozer when spreading gravel, so there's less waste.

Rick Fuhrman says he's impressed with the multitude of specialized attachments available for the unit, like the rock picker and power rake that recently saved having to rent a portable screen.

He also likes the way a compact track loader can get right to the edge of a fresh excavation and backfill accurately.

Rick Fuhrman says that in addition to working on job sites, the compact track loader has come in handy for cleaning, loading equipment into trucks, and lifting motors for maintenance around the shop. "It is really smooth, both in ride and operational control," he says.

Summing up, Fuhrman says, "The list of reasons to have a compact track loader as part of our operation just keeps growing every day. The machine is proving to be a versatile tool that fits many needs. It's helping us be more productive, and that's good for us and our customers."