You can get lost among the piles of brush and wood debris that cover CS Carey Inc.'s 18-acre yard in Kansas City, Kan. Twenty-feet tall or more, some stacks contain tree trunks four feet in diameter. In others, you might find hundreds of old, broken up pallets. All are destined for grinders, where CS Carey turns the product into mulch, colors it and prepares it for sale to local landscaping companies. It's intense work. But that's not the half of it. First you have to get it there.
"Any time you're dealing with trees, it's tough on the machinery," says CS Carey owner Chris Carey. "To me, it's an extreme application."
That's why he trusts the work to his fleet of Volvo front end loaders - the iron-tough machines responsible for quickly ushering the product through its transformation into landscape-grade mulch. The company doesn't just rely on its Volvo steel. It has staked its future on them.
Chris Carey started his company as a 12-year-old kid pushing lawn mowers around his neighborhood. Eventually, he had a few hundred lawns to mow, and he was hiring some of his work done. As he grew older, his equipment got heavier and so did his ambitions.
When his father asked him to help clear land for his development company, Chris jumped at it. His reputation grew, and his team is among those relied upon nationally to clean up debris following natural disasters. The company came to the rescue following a 1996 ice storm that devastated Kansas City. And CS Carey is a regular fixture along the coast after hurricanes. The company has done work in Florida, Virginia, Alabama and Louisiana. It recently sent a team to help with clean-up efforts after Hurricane Ike.
But land clearing remains CS Carey's bread and butter. The company uses excavators to remove trees before it grinds them and hauls them for sale. In his early days, Chris relied on Komatsu equipment. But he got turned onto Volvo in 2003 through the sales team at Kansas City's G.W. Van Keppel Co.
The company first purchased a Volvo L90 wheel loader. What struck Chris from the start was its fuel efficiency. There was a time when the company would refuel its old Komatsu loader almost daily. That was cut back to a couple of times a week with his new Volvo.
"That was back in 2003 - when diesel was cheap," Chris says. "When fuel is so expensive, it's nice to know we have the most efficient machine made."
So when it came time to expand his fleet, Chris kept buying Volvo. Within a couple of years, CS Carey was using Volvo exclusively, from wheel loaders to excavators. The company today runs three 20-ton Volvo L110 loaders. One of those versatile mid-sized loaders spends its days in the field, removing mulch from grinders as it helps clear the way for new housing developments or utility right-of-way. The other two haul mulch at the company's yard.
"I have not been in another machine in years. Volvo has been so good," Chris says.
The sheer power and versatility of the equipment was the big driver for Chris. Sitting in a Volvo loader, it was easy to tell the difference. Its hydraulics come easily under the command of the operator. Volvo's Comfort Drive Control knocks down repetitive wheel movements.
"The actual operation of the machine is as good as it gets," he said. "Your one hand can stay on the steering wheel the entire time and you can run the transmission and the bucket with the other hand. With five fingers, each has something you can do."
But it takes power to run a land-clearing operation. And for CS Carey, the formula is simple: Remove trees with a stout Volvo EC240B excavator and clean up the mess with his Volvo loaders.
"It can create extreme stress," he said of the nothing-fancy application.
The strength supplied by a Volvo L110 loader sets it apart. The superior power and torque of the Volvo 209-horsepower D7E engine is noticeable as the bucket drops while it is being filled. That cuts strain on the engine and reduces fuel consumption.
"It does a lot of work at low RPM," Chris said.
That's important for several reasons. In other machines, you can tell the difference after eight to 12 hours in the cab with your foot constantly on the gas pedal, Chris said.
"It may sound ridiculous, but your foot at the end of the day was just sore," Chris said. "Volvo is just really set up nice for the operator to be efficient. He can run it all day long."
Ninety percent of the time, Chris says, his operators rely on their 10- and 15-yard buckets, although from time to time they use forks to handle loads. In a land-clearing operation, the efficiency comes with quickness. As mulch pours out of grinders, it's got to be piled and loaded into trucks. Back at the yard, the material goes through additional rounds of grinding, screening and coloring. You don't want to wait at any stage.
"The bucket's fast. You're not waiting on the hydraulics - 'Come on, get up there,'" he says. "They just impressed me so much."
On this September day, two Volvo loaders were hustling mulch from a coloring machine to a pile near the front of the company's yard. It was fine stuff, ready for any kind of landscaping job.
Operator Kenny Clark had put 2,900 hours into his machine in the year's first nine months.
"I run it all day every day," he said, leaning out his window. He was using a 10-yard bucket to move material. "It's very dependable. I've never had it not start - even when it's 10 degrees outside."
Chris Carey has heard it all before. And he's taken notes.
"Every now and then, we rent a Deere or another competitor," Chris said. "There's no comparison. My operators get real upset with me if they're not driving Volvo."