Taylor County, Georgia is split right down the middle by the Fall Line geological formation. Basically that means that half the county is classified as the Piedmont region, consisting of rolling hills and clay-based soils. The other half is in the Atlantic Coastal Plain region — markedly flatter with sandy soil, largely a coincidence of how a map was laid out in 1852. But Taylor County has approximately 400 miles of roadways, ranging from paved highways to dirt back roads. All of them are maintained by the County Road and Bridge Department. And the roadways present some of the most diverse conditions you’ll find anywhere. Try maintaining that.
In addition to grading, cleaning, and maintaining the roads themselves, the Taylor County Road and Bridge Department (RBD) must also repair roadways following storms, cut right-of-ways, remove trees, limbs and debris, and mow — more on that later. Performing large-scale commercial tasks such as that on a county budget is no small undertaking. Faced with an aging fleet of equipment, they needed to find a viable long-term solution. The folks at the RBD found the solution through ASC Construction Equipment and Volvo Construction Equipment with reliable equipment that was easy on fuel and tough on everything the county roads could throw at them.
Mill Penny is ASC’s territory manager for the region that includes Taylor County. And as he watched the RBD struggle with dying equipment, he knew Volvo equipment could help. “As the fleet had gotten older, they were hit with more maintenance bills, and downtime on these older machines,” Penny says. “Now that they updated the entire fleet, their uptime has shot through the roof, and they don’t have any of the repair or maintenance costs that were associated with running some of the older machines.” Today that fleet consists of three Volvo G930B motor graders and a Volvo ECR88 compact excavator.
Taylor County is about 200 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and is bordered on its entire northeastern edge by the Flint River. Tropical storms, flooding, and washouts are not uncommon occurrences, particularly where sandy roadways are concerned. That’s where the Volvo motor graders become essential for maintaining the county’s roadways.
The Volvo G930B motor graders provide increased performance, along with less lug-down, faster recovery, reduced emissions, and greater fuel efficiency.
“On fuel, it’s about 15 to 20 percent better than with other brands,” Penny says, “And as many hours as these machines are logging, for every gallon they save, it saves this county money.”
These are savings that are essential to the RBD’s budget. Another significant cost-savings for the county relates to the reliability of their Volvo equipment. The county’s previous fleet of equipment was less fuel efficient, less effective, and less efficient.
“Of course what they want is an efficient machine that’s highly reliable,” says Gary Atkinson, Volvo Construction Equipment district sales manager for the Southeast. “They want something that goes to work every day, and stays at work. When they turn the key, it starts and stays running all day. So, that’s the number one issue — it’s got to be reliable. The next thing is it has to have the power to do the job and good visibility so the operator can see the working environment. And it has to be comfortable.”
“I ran one of the motor graders recently for nine and a half hours straight, and I was not tired at all at the end of the day,” says Johnny Lawhorn, road and bridge superintendent, Taylor County. “The other operators agree; they say they can run an entire day comfortably inside a Volvo.”
All of those qualities carry over to the fleet’s additional Volvo machine, the ECR88 compact excavator. One of the duties of the RBD is mowing which includes grass and graduates to bushes, thickets, steep embankments, and trees. To keep roadways clear and maintain adequate right-of-ways and safe shoulders, the RBD needed a unique tool for the job.
The ECR88 is equipped with a specialized mower attachment designed by Atlanta-based American Hydraulics that offers a full range of motion from more than a dozen feet below ground level, to steep hillside angles, to branch trimming more than 20 feet in the air. Both the mower arm and the mower itself are operated from inside the climate-controlled cab. The articulation and reach provided by the excavator boom and arm cannot be replicated by a standard tractor-mount mower. In winter, the excavator is re-commissioned for snow removal and trenching work.
The RBD fleet of Volvo motor graders is registered with CareTrack®, the Volvo telematics program. A variety of reports and schematics are sent to the RBD and Volvo and ASC to keep tabs on the equipment and track its performance. “From a diagnostic point of view, it’s a great tool,” Atkinson says. “It is also a great to help in coaching the operator to use the proper gear ratio and proper engine speed for fuel consumption. And of course, what that translates to is lower owning and operating cost of the machine over an extended period of time.”
What the county also has is the trusted support of their local dealer, which they found in Mill Penny and the team at ASC.
Says Jerry Weldon, County Commissioner of District 3, Taylor County, “Honestly, if I called ASC today and said we had a problem with one of our machines, if they couldn’t come out today, they would be here first thing tomorrow morning. They work hard to put us back to work as quickly as possible and there is always someone with an answer.”
While 400 miles of roadway is less than many counties in the state of Georgia, in a rural setting like Taylor County, the ability to safely travel a backcountry road is central to life for the folks who live there. In a world where budgets are tight and quality is still king, the RBD must provide a consistently safe and reliable system of roadways in Taylor County.