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Doosan, Alaska Contractor ’Get Er Done’

For specialty contractor Scott Yaskus, the road to success is overloaded with obstacles that need to be overcome.

Thu February 05, 2015 - West Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

On the DX140LC: “I use it to remove old tanks from the ground, a job that is difficult because once you dig around the entire perimeter, you cannot get to all the sides again, so you have to drag the tank out of the hole,”said Yaskus. “T
On the DX140LC: “I use it to remove old tanks from the ground, a job that is difficult because once you dig around the entire perimeter, you cannot get to all the sides again, so you have to drag the tank out of the hole,”said Yaskus. “T

For specialty contractor Scott Yaskus, the road to success is overloaded with obstacles: cold weather, limited working season, long travel distances, a shortage of available rental equipment and stringent deadlines. His 11-year-old company, however, has met these challenges to achieve an unprecedented market share of projects throughout the biggest state in the United States.

Yaskus and his 19 full-time employees travel to every corner of Alaska working for petroleum retail service stations. They do everything from full site development to 24/7 field service, including repairs, remodeling, new construction, and testing and certifying.

When Yaskus started his company, he already had 14 years of experience working in Alaska, providing fuel station construction, maintenance and operation. Initially his firm, Prism Design and Construction, did service and some installation work.

“Out of the blue one day, a major petroleum retailer called me to repair the car wash portion of a service station,” Yaskus said. “I had never done one, but eventually I figured it out. Next, they had me do remodels, and then three new builds. The business kept growing to where my company now has a majority market share of all the retail fuel-related work in Alaska.”

He said between 1998 to 2000 there was a huge push to get service stations upgraded. After that, the work tapered off and several firms got out of the business. He started his business in 2003 when there was not a lot of work. That’s certainly not the case today.

“My biggest concern is getting my people where they need to be with the materials and equipment to do their job,” said the owner of the Wasilla-based company. “One day a crew could be flying somewhere, the next day driving 400 miles to a job site. We take pride in doing the project correctly the first time. For that you need everything right — people, supplies and Doosan equipment. We’ve got those bases covered.”

That’s good because there are a lot of unique circumstances that his company has to regularly deal with — particularly fewer, shorter workdays. Service stations throughout Alaska want to avoid any disruption from May to September , the prime tourist season, when many of them do 80 percent of their annual business.

“After summer ends we have to do all our underground work from September to November,” Yaskus said. “Our paving season shuts down in October. To continue working in winter, we have to use heated tents. Still, we have to wait until spring to complete the paving work.”

Although most service station remodeling and teardowns are limited in summer, Yaskus can take advantage of up to 19 hours of daylight to do service, maintenance and new builds. In winter, the amount of daylight shrinks to as little as six hours. Temperatures can be as low as -30 to -40 and the work still goes on.

Tight Schedules

As an example of how time-sensitive a project can be, Yaskus said that on a raze and build, he may have 90 to 100 days to demolish a building, strip the site, remove all debris, install new tanks and fuel system, build a new structure and have it fully operational.

“That’s why we have a broad range of skills, so the entire project flows smoothly,” he said. “We do all our own demolition, dirt work, electrical, piping, tank installation and carpentry. Now we sub out very little. Not many firms can do this much of the job themselves. That’s our niche. In fact, the clients we work for only put out bids to a few select contractors who they know can meet the deadlines and still keep up the quality of work. We work very hard to be on that short list and our Doosan equipment helps keep us there.”

Limited Rental Equipment

A shorter work season has made it difficult for Yaskus to rent high-demand construction equipment at times. When machines were available, the economics of renting could be overwhelming.

“When I traveled to a place like Fairbanks [400 miles away], I tried to rent an excavator for a two-day job,” he said. “No luck. So I decided it would be better to have my own equipment and haul it to job sites when I could.”

Two other factors led to Yaskus seriously looking at purchasing an excavator. In 2005 and 2006, he started doing more site work, including removing tanks, tearing down buildings and putting up new installations.

“I used to sub out much of that work and it was costing me a fortune,” he said. “I was paying and still had to be onsite directing the project. I figured I could save money, have better control of the schedule and have equipment available throughout the year if I had my own.”

Economically, it was a winning situation.

“When I would rent an excavator for a month it would cost $15,000 to $20,000, and then I would need it again three weeks later. Sometimes only for a few days at a time,” he said. “I did the math and realized that if I could buy the most cost-effective machine, I would be way ahead financially and be able to use it at any time.”

According to Yaskus, the best machine turned out to be a Doosan DX225LC crawler excavator.

“It was a great value,” he said. “After the renting availability issues and the cost, the DX225LC turned out to be a huge plus. I ran it for about five years and never had to make any repairs.”

Next he purchased a DX140LC for working in tighter sites. That machine impressed him with its lifting power.

“I use it to remove old tanks from the ground, a job that is difficult because once you dig around the entire perimeter, you cannot get to all the sides again, so you have to drag the tank out of the hole,” he said. “These tanks usually weigh 10,000 to 20,000 pounds and often snag on anything they come in contact with. The DX140LC pulled them right out.”

About a year ago, he added to his inventory of reliable Doosan products when he purchased a 166-horsepower DX235LCR, a near-zero reduced tail swing unit, from his local Doosan heavy equipment dealer — Miller Construction Equipment Sales Inc. The DX235LCR has just 3 in. (7.6 cm) of tail overhang over the side, making it ideal for working on confined job sites.

“The DX235LCR is a real good fit because we regularly work around light poles and buildings,” Yaskus said. “A gas tank is usually 8 to 10 feet in diameter and 30 to 40 feet long. When you have to dig a couple of those out of the ground, there is not a lot of room to maneuver. The tank area can take up to a quarter or half of the site, so an excavator that can work in limited space is a must. The guys love this machine and it’s hard to get them out of it.”

Yaskus said that as his volume of site work continues to increase, the economic advantages of having his own excavators is substantial.

“I put about 1,600 hours on the DX225LC excavator from 2006 to 2011,” he noted. “The DX235LCR accumulated that many hours in its first year. It wouldn’t bother me if we only used it for 500 hours — it would still be very valuable. I figure what I previously paid in rent will pay off the loan on this machine within two years, and the following years will be free.”

In addition to his excavators, Yaskus also has a Doosan DL200TC (tool carrier) wheel loader. He takes it to almost every job, using the pallet fork attachment to unload trucks and move materials around the site.

“It provides a smooth ride and is an excellent pick-and-carry machine,” he said. “The DL200TC is a good, all-around piece of equipment.”

Yaskus is sold on the reliability and value of Doosan products.

“Having good, reliable Doosan excavators has really helped my business grow. I recommend them to everyone who asks about them. When we got our 225 we were the only ones up here with a newer Doosan. Now you see them all over the place. That speaks for itself. This is a harsh environment and substandard equipment gets weeded out quickly. Our Doosan equipment has met our needs and has proven to be extremely reliable and cost effective. Our dealer Miller Equipment has been there when we needed them to resolve any issues that creep up. Thankfully they have been few and far between.” he said.

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