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Contractor Uses Compact Grader to Aid Larger Firms

Wed July 04, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

When big paving contractors in the Columbia area start to sweat the small stuff, they give John Scott a call.

Equipped with a Champion C86 compact grader, Scott and his crew can get out to job sites quickly and, once they arrive, the grader is able to get in and maneuver in the tight spaces that would slow down a larger machine. As a result, he finds that the majority of the work that comes to his business, Asphalt Paving & Maintenance Co. Inc., is on subcontract from larger firms.

“About 95 percent of our projects are in commercial parking lots and subdivision roadways,” Scott said, “but we usually come in behind the larger contractors. Only five percent or so are in residential driveways. We take on the overflow and specialty work where the large equipment is either unavailable or inefficient for the application.”

It helps that the company is so well established in the local construction community. John Scott has been operating Asphalt Paving & Maintenance Co. Inc. since the company first went into business in 1976. Before that, road and highway contractors often saw him on their job sites as an inspector for the South Carolina Department of Transportation. With his experience, contractors know that he is someone they can count on.

“I hadn’t planned on contracting, but my inspection work opened some doors for small jobs I could do part-time. I was just painting lines and then someone asked me ’Oh, do you think you could patch this pothole for me?’ So I started doing that and then, next thing I was doing driveways. Pretty soon, I found I was earning more in an afternoon of paving than I could in a week on my day job. I took out a Yellow Pages ad and just grew from there.”

Thirty years later, Scott maintains a crew of approximately nine employees, including two of his sons. At one point, he even operated his own asphalt plant. After a few years of commuting between the plant and the paving business office, however, he decided to sell the plant and focus on specialty paving.

For many of those years, Scott ran his business with equipment that was similar to the big machines in other fleets. These days, though, he works with a grader that’s as specialized as his business.

He got his first Champion grader, a C80, in 1997. Scott and his sons had started searching for more suitable equipment, then finally met Bryan Abernathy at Champion, located nearby in Charlotte, N.C.

“I had looked at a couple other graders, but Bryan wanted me to come up and see exactly what Champion was doing,” he said.

Champion was founded by Abernathy’s father, Gary, who began building compact graders when he found nothing on the market that met his own needs as a contractor. The operation was eventually taken over by Volvo Construction Equipment, but the elder Abernathy returned as president when Champion’s ownership recently came back to the Abernathy family. The Champion line now includes five hydrostatic-drive graders less than 16,000 lbs. (7,257 kg), including two all-wheel-drive models.

Scott liked what he found in Charlotte.

“With that hydrostatic drive, you can maneuver the grader at your own speed. It’s absolutely perfect for tight spaces and slow speed work. It fits right in for our applications; it’s big enough to do whatever we want it to do, and small enough to go where the big graders can’t,” he said.

After running the tandem drive C80 grader for several years, Scott sold it to another specialty grading business in Maryland, and replaced it with a new Champion 110 hp (82 kW) all-wheel-drive C86.

“I wasn’t really interested in selling the first one because it still ran like new. But this other fellow was in a hurry to get a used Champion; Bryan offered to put a rush on a new unit for me, so we did the deal,” Scott said.

The new C86 has been in service for just more than a year, and Scott feels that he now has all the grader he ever wanted.

“There’s nothing I dislike,” he said. “The controls are convenient. It’s a pleasure to get inside and operate. It’s like you’re in a La-Z-Boy. The front dozer blade works perfect for pushing material into corners, so it eliminates an extra piece of equipment from the job. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

While the C86 is designed to work effectively with an automatic blade control system, Scott said he has no need to invest in the automatic controls.

“We do use a laser and a bulls-eye mounted on the front of the grader, but we control the moldboard manually. The C86 provides good precision and strength for the accuracy we need in finished grading,” he said.

With Champion’s recent engineering updates, the C86 has set itself a new standard for maneuverability with a turning radius of just 19 ft. (5.8 m) — just what Scott needs to help “the big guys” out of a corner.

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