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Cat 420D Proves Workhorse on Orlando Infrastructure Jobs

Thu July 08, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

When it comes to infrastructure construction in Central Florida –– schools, streets, and waterworks –– Gibbs & Register Inc. (G&R) of Winter Garden is often the contractor of choice.

G&R crews, numbering 80 to 100 employees in all, recently have completed:

• A nine-school expansion project in Brevard County consisting of parking lots, sanitary and drainage work;

• A major city beautification project in Winter Garden, rebuilding entire boulevards and even upgrading community parks;

• A municipal water treatment plant constructing the entire facility.

According to John Gibbs, president of the 13-year-old company, public sector site work and road projects in the past 11 years have been 80 to 90 percent of the company’s project load. Usually G&R is the primary contractor on major public works projects, often subbing portions of a project to trusted design/build firms.

Building a Cat Fleet

During recent years, as its public sector work has increased, G&R has been phasing in more and more Caterpillar equipment as the core of its machinery fleet. It’s been a good business move, said Gibbs.

G&R equipment manager Neil Barron has been instrumental in acquiring the Cat fleet, which consists of backhoe loaders, skid steer loaders, wheel loaders, motorgraders and several hydraulic excavators. Barron’s purchasing decisions came down to dollars and sense.

“When I first came into this business, I realized that, compared to our other equipment, we just didn’t have to put much money into the Cat equipment we had out there. Other machines required major repairs and now, in the four years we’ve been accumulating the Cat fleet, we haven’t had to put any repair money into it at all.”

Barron also noted that Cat resale value always holds up. “We start cycling out machines at around five years because we can still see resale value and get our money out of the equipment.”

Versatile 420D Backhoe Loader

On a street-widening project in Orlando, G&R equipment operator Ronnie Dowiot manned the controls of the 420D backhoe loader. The project required trenching and placement of water and sewage pipes, removal and replacement of several city blocks of curb and gutter and repaving. Dowiot was busy nonstop and used the 420D in all phases of the project.

Barron called the 420D the company’s “universal machine.” In this application, it’s typically equipped with a 24-in. (61 cm) general-purpose bucket and a 12-in. (30.5 cm) backhoe bucket, while pallet forks are used for transporting pipes around a job site.

The 420D has quickly become a crew favorite. With its excavator-style hydraulic joystick pilot controls, G&R operators are equally at home behind the Cat D-Series backhoe controls as they are on the excavators.

“Those excavator-style controls were the biggest selling point for me,” said Barron. “Our operators love the 420D because they can just jump from an excavator to the backhoe without thinking twice. Being familiar with the controls also means they can do a more accurate job. Their familiarity speeds up production.”

The backhoe bucket linkage also features a 205-degree rotation that makes it easy for G&R operators to dig vertical walls, undermine pipes or clamp material for hauling. The backhoe buckets feature a single pin position, eliminating the need to change pin position when moving from loading trucks to vertical trenching.

And, according G&R employees, they’ve discovered, the overall lifting capacity and digging forces of the Cat 420D backhoe loader are among the industry’s best, while the load-sensing, variable-flow hydraulic system senses the demand and adjusts flow and pressure to match.

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