Bautista Canyon in Southern California's San Jacinto Valley has a flood control catch basin at the base of Mt. San Jacinto that has been cleared out by contract material haulers for decades. The latest is Lovelady Trucking and Material, Inc., out of Fallbrook, CA.
Until about a year ago, owner Mark Lovelady's company had been making a good living here, at this Riverside County Flood Control work site. But like most small construction companies in So Cal, he has fallen on tough economic times. Most of his clients ranging from home builders to plasterers, building materials yards, pipeline companies, etc., are in the same boat, or worse, he says.
The material handling company works in a 20-acre basin area. Lovelady digs down 10 feet in the channel, picking up rip rap-sized and smaller rocks that he crushes down to 3/8 inch and 3/4 inch, to class II base, plaster sand, and a specialty 3/8 C-mix blend of sand and rock.
Mark owns several crushers: a Power Screen Chieftain, an S-3 Extec portable crusher, a Komatsu BR380 Crusher, a Powerscreen Spyder 516T, an older Power Screen Producer, plus related equipment.
Along with this is a small fleet of hauling trucks (Transfers — Peterbilt and Kenworth) each capable of off-hauling 25 tons of crushed and screened material from the basin. He also owns three Volvo front end loaders (two L180s and one L150).
"We still have loyal customers that like the quality of our product," he says. Those customers are located in Sothern California from San Diego to the desert areas. Right now he is hauling an average of 10 truckloads per day; each load weighs in at 25 tons.
"We're off about 50 to 60 percent of our normal business right now. Most people I talk to are thinking down times will last at least a year, but nobody really knows how bad it will get — a lot depends on when housing comes back. Home plasterers and pool makers have taken a big hit through all this," he added.
"We've gone from $2.3 million to $800,000. Not only volume of material but dropping of prices, too, because of the market." He has been on the site two years, with a year or more left on the contract with the county. "We were just approved for another portion of the main channel," he added.
"I've had to put in over $100,000 in the past six months to keep afloat," he says. As it is, he has had to lay-off four of his original crew. He does much of the digging, material placement on crushers, sorting stockpiles, and loading onto haul trucks himself. As part of the bid package, Lovelady said he had to pay some $30,000 in permits before he could start work, something the county would have paid in better economic times.
And like most, he doesn't quite see yet when a turnaround in the economy will occur. When asked if the Federal Stimulus Package money will help, he responds that it probably wouldn't filter down to his level soon enough. It has to be dispersed to the state, then down to the county of Riverside before he could see relief. That could be months away.
"The next six months is going to be the toughest for me, I think. I will get my share once it gets going. But is really tough. Not many (former clients) have money right now."