As one of America’s oldest cities, Boston, MA, is a city steeped in history. Many of the city’s neighborhoods and streets were laid out long before the automobile was invented — making them narrow and cramped with the vehicle traffic now bustling on them.
These streets are not only challenging to everyday drivers, but as the city has moved into modern times, the area’s construction and utility contractors have also found the city’s layout especially challenging for the type of construction and repair work they perform on a daily basis. And they are not driving cars; their work requires the use of large equipment, such as excavators.
One such company is D’Allessandro Corporation, based in Avon, MA, founded in 1987 by Jon D’Allessandro. The company’s main business is constructing and repairing water, storm and sanitary sewer systems in the greater Boston area, but it also specializes in site preparation, landscape construction, fence installation and snow removal.
“The majority of our work comes from public municipal bids — around 70 percent,” said D’Allessandro. “The other 30 percent is private — like residential developments such as condos or subdivisions.”
According to D’Allessandro, business has been good. His crew has grown by holding on to key employees, which means there are many crews running simultaneously around the greater Boston area on a typical day.
New Equipment Provides Competitive Advantage
D’Allessandro is not shy about reinvesting money in his business — especially in the form of new equipment.
“I usually buy new machines, then put 5,000 to 7,000 hours on them, and trade them for another new one,” said D’Allessandro.
“Jon always makes sure that he has the latest and greatest machines for us to work with,” said Bob Gulick, operator. “It makes our job much easier when we don’t have to worry about that sort of thing.”
The latest in the D’Allessandro fleet are its Komatsu tight tail swing hydraulic excavators, the newest of which is a PC228USLC-3. The PC228USLC-3 is designed to work in tight spaces, which makes it suitable for D’Allessandro’s work in the close quarters of metropolitan Boston.
The PC228’s main operator, Bob Gulick, lost a leg five years ago in a motorcycle accident. He now operates with a computerized prosthetic limb that enables him to walk and operate machinery without problem.
“It’s a great machine for me — the cab is really big and the foot pedals and joystick controls are really placed well,” said Gulick. “The controls are so precise that I almost have to use my fingertips to run them…unlike the old days when I’d be cranking my arms up and down to get the machine to respond.”
The Komatsu PC228USLC-3 is a 51,280-lb. machine, powered by a 143 hp engine, yet can swing 180 degrees from front to rear within a width of only 13 ft., 1 in. (4 m) – less than the width of a typical highway lane. Depending on job layout, this allows the PC228USLC-3 to offer big-machine performance, while often working within a single traffic lane or within the road shoulder.
The result is a safer construction site, with minimum lane closures and reduced traffic congestion. With an 18 ft., 8 in. (5.7 m) boom and 9 ft., 7 in. (2.9 m) arm, the PC228USLC-3 boasts heavyweight operating specs: bucket digging force is 33,500 lb., arm crowd force is 24,250 lb., maximum reach of 31 ft., 10 in. (9.7 m) at ground line, and maximum digging depth is 21 ft., 9 in. (6.6 m).
A large 13,340 lb. counterweight is installed to provide high lifting capacity within the entire working range, yet side protrusion is only 5.5 in. (14 cm) over the track frames.
“I can dig 14 feet down, swing and never worry about hitting lights or cars or signs — it’s unbelievable,” added Gulick. “But the power is still there — I can lift huge steel beams with no problems or tipping. The balance of this machine is fantastic and swinging loads is easy.”
“Tight tail swing excavators really make sense for us for all of our jobs, and we have all crews running with them,” said D’Allessandro. “Our site crews can work in tight areas and be right up against buildings and still get the job done. We don’t have to worry about hitting other machines working close together or hitting materials stockpiled in the work area.”
In terms of excavators, D’Allessandro started using Komatsus in 1989 and has not turned back since.
“They just don’t cost anything to run — they’re so low maintenance,” said D’Allessandro.
In all, his excavator fleet consists of a PC78MR, a PC95MR, a PC158USLC-3, five PC228USLC-3s, three PC308USLC-3s, a PC400LC-7 and an older PC220.
The other workhorses of the tight tail swing crew are the larger, 73,146-lb. PC308USLC-3s, and the smaller PC95R-2 — also created specifically for work in confined areas such urban highway and bridge construction or demolition work.
The 179 hp PC308USLC-3s are also a tight tail swing design, but in a larger more productive package. Both the Komatsu PC228USLC-3 and PC308USLC-3 come standard with simple joystick controls, a large cab, air conditioning, and multiple operating modes. The PC308USLC-3 features stability and digging force specifications, while swinging within a width of 17 ft., 5 in. (5.3 m) or less.
“The PC95 is a great little machine — good for real tight and confined areas,” said William Gurka, operator. “It’s got great power and control and enables me to be very precise when I’m digging.”
Komatsu’s PC95R-2 has an operating weight of 20,635 lb., with a bucket breakout force of 15,873 lb. In addition, it has a maximum digging depth of 14 ft., 7 in. (4.4 m) and a maximum digging reach of 23 ft., 10 in. (7.3 m).
Low Maintenance is Key
D’Allessandro purchases its equipment through C.N. Wood Company Inc., a family owned and operated equipment distributor — and the largest Komatsu dealer in New England.
“We purchase all our Komatsu equipment through C.N. Wood, but we handle all our own equipment maintenance, and usually only call C.N. Wood if we have some warranty work — which has been extremely rare,” said D’Allessandro. “In all, we have great mechanics on staff who takes preventative measures when it comes to the equipment maintenance.”
Low maintenance machines are key, when you pride yourself on providing the 24-hour emergency assistance his company offers — including utility repairs, snow removal and sanding. D’Allessandro needs his machines up and running.
“The Komatsu machines have good service points that makes it easier to perform maintenance on them,” said Justin McCarthy, mechanic manager for D’Allessandro. “We’ve had no major problems on any of the machines, and C.N. Wood does a great job of getting us parts if we need them.”
Wheel Loaders Provide Backfilling Power
To handle all the backfill and storage needs of his company, D’Allessandro also owns three storage yards in strategic places around the city. At these locations, he is able to store all the equipment and materials he needs, including gravel, sand, machinery, pipe, drain structures.
There are screeners on site to screen the material coming in from various job sites, which they prepare for use on the same sites as backfill. In addition, wheel loaders manage moving the sites’ materials.
“We really like the hydrostatic drive in the new Komatsus,” said D’Allessandro. “In fact, since this past November, I’ve bought five more of them.”
In all, D’Allessandro has nine Komatsu wheel loaders: two WA200-5s, five WA320-5’s, a WA450-5, and an older WA350.
Perhaps the most integral in the fleet are the five 166 hp WA320-5s, which feature a breakout force of 29,057 lb., electronically controlled Hydrostatic Transmission (HST) with variable shift control system and low fuel consumption.
In addition to managing the piles and material at the three storage yards, the wheel loaders also handle most of the backfilling jobs on the various job sites.
“Their travel speeds are excellent, enabling us to get in and out of a job without disrupting traffic too much,” said D’Allessandro.
“There’s an interesting history with backfilling here in Boston,” added D’Allessandro. “Some of our neighborhoods are built on areas that used to be marshes — like Back Bay and most of the South End.”
In order to fill this area in and make it suitable for building on, it took nine train carloads of gravel arriving every 45 minutes, day and night for almost 50 years. Area landmarks, including Trinity Church and Copley Square, now sit on this land.
Growth — Without Sacrificing Quality
Considered a mid-size contractor in the area, D’Allessandro’s goal is to continue the company’s limited growth plan.
“We don’t want to be the biggest utility contractor in the greater Boston area, we just want to continue our steady growth, and stay focused on doing quality work,” said D’Allessandro.
According to D’Allessandro, a combination of employees that are focused on quality with the competitive advantage of its Komatsu tight tail swing excavators both figure prominently in the continued growth of D’Allessandro Corp.
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