Like anyone else on the links, Mike Mullett shoots for the greens. But he doesn't carry a set of clubs.
Mullett's business, R & M Resources, is a construction company and producer of sand for golf courses and athletic fields around the state of Oklahoma. The contour of the green, the smoothness of the putting surface, the health of the turf, the reputation of the course — all are shaped by sand used during course construction and maintenance. Not just any sand will do: course architects and superintendents follow strict standards about the amount, quality and particle size, including official guidelines set by the U.S. Golf Association. It's a big investment. To build a USGA-specification green costs $3.50 to $4.50 per square foot, not including seed or sod.
Based in Yukon, Okla., R & M Resources is one of the top suppliers of golf course sand in the region. But for a long time, an unproductive tractor-trailer spec added cost and complexity to its transportation operation. When the company's end-dump trailers would reach the construction area, they could go no father than the parking lot.
Rolling terrain, deep bunkers, pitched greens, and clumps of trees challenge a truck operator like they do a golfer. An end-dump trailer is hard to operate on soft or sloping ground, even for a skilled driver. Nor is it maneuverable enough at cramped greens and tees.
So how did R & M Resources get sand to the greens?
"We didn't," says Mullett. "We would dump it in the parking lot." The contractor would have to provide a loader and pay the additional cost having someone else with a dump truck move the materials to the job site.
It was frustrating. R & M Resources is, above all, a construction company and materials producer, so the company's vehicles have to support the productivity of the business as a whole. "We liked what an end-dump gave us in term of payload," Mullett says, "but we could earn a couple more bucks and make the customer happier by taking the material from the point of mixing straight to the job site."
The solution, says Mullett, is a high-capacity straight truck called a Superdump, or Super 18. The truck has a 20,000-pound-capacity set-forward steer, 46,000-pound tandem drives and three 8,000-pound pusher axles. But the key to maximizing payload and productivity is the Strong Arm trailing axle.
Developed and built by Strong Industries Inc., of Houston, the Strong Arm is a liftable, load-bearing axle rated as high as 13,000 pounds. It trails 11 feet to 13 feet behind the rear tandem, stretching the outer bridge measurement — the distance between the truck's first and last axles — to maximize the legal gross weight under the federal bridge formula. When the truck is empty or ready to offload, the Strong Arm toggles up off the road surface on two hydraulic arms to clear the rear of the vehicle.
The result is an allowable gross weight of 80,000 pounds on federal highways and 84,000 pounds on state roads in Oklahoma. With all the axles on the ground, the Superdump can match the legal payload of R & M's frameless end-dump trailers: roughly 26 tons.
"We get the payload of a semi-trailer plus the speed of a straight truck," Mullett says. "Without any doubt whatsoever, we can pick up a couple more loads a day versus the end-dump. We're not going down the highway any faster. We're just able to get in where we want to dump, get the product off quickly and go back for more. Plus we're also able to pick up an extra couple of bucks on the contract because we're placing material exactly where the customer wants it. We're the only guys around capable of getting in and out of tight spots with a 25-ton or 26-ton payload."
To maximize the benefits of the Strong Arm axle, R & M Resources changed its dump-bed specification from aluminum to an innovative, lightweight, high-strength steel dump bed made by Strong Industries. The Superdump bed has an elliptical-shaped floor and tapered, conical-shaped sidewalls that become wider toward the rear of the bed. This shape allows the payload to spread out and loosen up as it exits the bed, like it's being poured out of the large end of a funnel. The shape of the bed keeps the load balanced and centered.
The elliptical shape gives the bed structural support without the need for reinforcement, so you have a strong, stable, lightweight bed. "This is a durable bed for all types of hauling," says Brooks Strong, president of Strong Industries. "Whether you're hauling asphalt, aggregates, concrete products, or other materials, this bed helps you maximize payload, productivity, and, of course, profit."
"We have bad roads in Oklahoma, and we were having problems with aluminum beds cracking," Mullett adds. "By going to the new steel beds, we've had zero durability problems."
R & M Resources also has two six-axle Superdumps that gross 78,500 pounds, and Mullett plans to expand his truck fleet next year. He likes the flexibility of being able to run more typical dump-truck loads like topsoil. "We can drop the load in the homeowner's front yard or driveway, and quickly move on," Mullett says. "You can't do that with an end-dump."
The biggest advantage, however, is how the Superdump's payload, maneuverability, stability, and a quick turnaround helps maintain a steady flow of material from the plant.
"Because our trucks are more productive, our production operation is busier," he explains. "We're making it easier for contractors to do their work." For sure, the company no longer has to leave material — or revenue — in the parking lot. Its Superdumps can shoot straight down the fairway to the job site.