It’s not every company that can boast having NASA and Mickey Mouse among its customers.
But then again, Hubbard Construction Company isn’t just any company. Since 1920 it has grown into the largest heavy civil construction company in Florida, culminating in revenues of more than $300 million last year, according to Volvo Spirit magazine.
A visit to the southeastern United States includes travel along roads, bridges and infrastructure with the Hubbard signature. The company, indeed, has taken part in an enormous spectrum of projects in the region, including working on Tampa Bay, Orlando and Jacksonville international airports, the launch pads at Cape Canaveral and, of course, the home of that famous mouse,Walt Disney World.
So when Hubbard’s paving division, Orlando Paving Company (OPC), decided to add a skid steer loader to its asphalt grinding operation it naturally expected the best.
Steve Ricke, Hubbard’s equipment manager, had three priorities — low cost per hour, high uptime and excellent productivity.
Arguably, though, the Volvo MC110 skid steer loader chose Hubbard rather than the other way around.
Ricke started off renting a couple of Volvo machines as a short-term measure “because we were having trouble with a piece of equipment.”
Ricke said: “But the time kept piling up and we noticed that there wasn’t a lot of downtime, so we figured we should take a harder look at it.”
It wasn’t really a blind choice, though. Hubbard already owned Volvo articulated haulers, wheel loaders, excavators and backhoe loaders. That said, it had no direct experience with Volvo compact equipment, or its new skid steer loaders, which are currently being launched in Latin America and will be introduced in Europe in 2008.
“But it really caught our attention,” said Ricke. “So when it came time for us to buy, we chose Volvo.”
OPC’s MC110 is fitted with a high-flow cold planer used mainly for milling bridge tie-ins, road joints and road drop-offs inaccessible to larger milling machines. It is also used for cleaning up piles of asphalt and debris.
Traffic congestion means that a lot of OPC’s work is carried out at night. There are advantages — daytime temperatures in August was 93.2 degrees with humidity topping 80 percent — but there are also downsides. One is safety.
“We’re working on a major highway, right near the airport, and there are a lot of people driving this road at 70 mph who don’t know where they’re going,” Steve Lanza, OPC project superintendent, pointed out. “That’s why Volvo fits the bill — safety is one of the key things they are known for.”
Grinding asphalt is one of the toughest jobs for a skid steer loader, particularly in Florida’s sticky heat.Well-designed hydraulics and cooling are crucial, especially when there’s a high flow planer attached. Units must also be able to absorb constant shocks.
“We need something that can take that kind of beating,” OPC Project Superintendent Henry Washington said. “I get nothing but positive feedback about the Volvo from the guys.
“We haven’t had any problems — and we’ve been doing this type of work with it for over a year.”
And it’s not just skid steer loaders that can get worn down from this type of work — it’s the operators themselves.
Brant Larson, OPC superintendent, said he’s used other skid steer loaders that constantly beat you up.
“Well, first of all, construction is not normally a comfortable job. But I don’t hear any complaints about the Volvo. Basically it does everything we need it to do — and then some.”
Equipment Operator Darren Brown is a confirmed fan.
“I’m on the MC110 five to six hours out of every eight-hour shift,” he said. “The seat is very comfortable and the controls are easy to use — especially the push buttons on the levers.”
It also is better balanced, he said.
“Other units bounce around too much, but the Volvo holds itself on the cut.”
Daily service checks are made easier by the simplified layout while the hydraulic reaction times are quicker.
“I would definitely tell my bosses I’d want another Volvo,” Brown added.
As always, however, back-up is crucial. Hubbard’s vehicles are serviced by Volvo dealer Flagler Construction Equipment, headquartered in Orlando and which recently won Volvo CE’s Circle of Excellence Award for customer support in North America for the third year in a row.
Ricke said it’s a relationship based on mutual respect and a desire to get the job done right.
“I have phone numbers for everyone right up to the president of Flagler. I know I can call and they will respond,” he explained.
Flagler Sales Representative Bill Trimble believes that Volvo and Hubbard make a good team because they are both progressive companies, always working to stay ahead of the curve.
“I think both companies are on the cutting edge because they know things change rapidly in this business,” he said.
“Hubbard use a lot of different types of Volvo equipment and they are a very good measure of how it can hold out in these conditions.”
Ultimately, though, everyone in construction knows that the very best, and most visible form of endorsement is to be used by successful companies.
“I get calls from our competition saying, ’I see you have a Volvo — how do you like it?’” said Ricke.
“It’s all friendly and I’m not going to steer them wrong.We honestly believe that Volvo represents quality.
“If there are new technologies, we tend to try them out. If it works, you might just come with a better way to do the job.”
This story was reprinted with permission from Volvo Spirit magazine.