Anthony D’Alessandro is chief engineer for the Hudson County Schools of Technology (HCST) campus in Jersey City, N.J.
Anthony D’Alessandro strives to make the most of his resources as chief engineer for the Hudson County Schools of Technology (HCST) campus in Jersey City, N.J. It’s a big job. His staff of 13 full- and part-time workers must maintain the buildings and grounds at the six-acre campus, where 900 students and teachers meet for career and vocational training.
Optimizing the contributions of those employees is a high priority. For example, staffers who don’t have the required certifications for operating and maintaining the school’s refrigeration system and boilers are sent to classes to obtain the necessary training and credentials. Once certified, the employees can be assigned to different shifts as needed.
“I like to get our staff more hands-on and involved as part of the team,” D’Alessandro said. “It’s beneficial for the school, puts us in compliance with state regulations, and also helps the employees. They gain valuable knowledge, so they’re doing more than just cleaning and assisting with some maintenance.”
Seeking Better Tools
When he started working at HCST about 10 years ago, D’Alessandro quickly identified another problem that held back his team’s ability to most efficiently handle one of its large, recurring and highly visible tasks: clearing the campus parking lots and walkways after a New Jersey snowstorm.
The staff relied on a pickup truck equipped with a snowplow and salter. “When you have a couple of inches of snow, a pickup truck is fine,” D’Alessandro said. “But when we have eight or 10 or 12 inches of snow, that load puts a lot of stress on a pickup truck and you start beating up the vehicle.”
The staff also used walk-behind snow blowers to clear narrow swaths, making multiple passes in areas where the pickup didn’t fit. The process was slow and labor-intensive.
“We definitely needed a piece of equipment other than the pickup,” D’Alessandro recalled. He believed a skid steer loader or a small wheel loader would get the work done quicker.
When a new HCST business administrator came on board, D’Alessandro was able to gain serious consideration for his equipment recommendation. “So I called the local Cat dealer, Foley Inc., and that got everything rolling,” he said.
George Vorreas, a Foley governmental sales representative, discussed the situation with D’Alessandro and the business administrator, then arranged for demonstrations of a Cat 262C Skid Steer Loader and a Cat 906 Compact Wheel Loader. “They brought out those two pieces and left them with us for a week to try on our property to see which one best met our needs,” D’Alessandro remembered.
A Clear-Cut Decision
“The 262 skid steer had plenty of horsepower to do what we had to do”, D’Alessandro said, but he also considered the ease of training inexperienced operators and the potential safety concerns of working on a crowded campus.
“In my opinion, the wheel loader would be easier for new operators and safer, because in the wheel loader you sit up higher with better visibility,” he said. “Plus, there’s just a gas pedal and a brake, a steering wheel and a joystick. That made the 906 compact wheel loader a no- brainer to me.”
And, he noted, the compact wheel loader came with a quick coupler that could accommodate many work tools that are often used on Cat skid steer loaders and multi terrain loaders, making the 906 highly versatile.
The business manager agreed with D’Alessandro, and HCST took delivery of its new Cat 906H2 compact wheel loader in April 2013. The machine provides 69 net horsepower from its Cat C3.3B DIT engine. Despite being just 6 feet wide and barely 12,400 pounds, it offers a bucket capacity of 1.18 cu. yds., breakout force of 9,442 pounds and hydraulic lift capacity of 7,194 pounds.
To extend the usefulness of the 906H2, HCST also purchased several work tools, including a power angle snowblade, a snow pusher, a containment broom, pallet forks, a grapple bucket and a hydraulic-driven chain saw that extends from the quick coupler to provide a roughly 25-ft. reach.
Vorreas said D’Alessandro didn’t jump into the pur- chase package blindly. “He always wants to improve and do things a better way, and he did his homework before making a decision,” Vorreas added. “He was meticulous and precise, and we matched that with the equipment he would need.”
After more than a year of use — including a hard, snowy winter — the Cat 906 has proven to be a wise investment, according to D’Alessandro.
“The 906 cleans the property in a lot fewer man-hours, and it gets onto more of the property’s tight spaces,” he said. “It can go on the majority of the school sidewalks, and we have a very small percentage of the property where the guys still need to use snow blowers. We save time, and there’s less of the costly wear and tear on our equipment.”
The 10-foot-wide snow pusher is a big time-saver, he says. “When we clean the lots, instead of cleaning a 5-foot-wide path with the pickup, we double that to 10 feet with each pass. It’s excellent for us.”
The 906H2 also has demonstrated its year-round utility. “It’s not just designated for snow removal and ends up sitting in a garage waiting for winter to arrive,” D’Alessandro said.
He noted that the broom is used to clean the lots during spring, summer and fall, the pallet forks help move heavy supplies into the school, and the power saw and grapple bucket have made much easier work of trimming trees that interfere with lights and overhead wires, as well as with cleaning up the limbs and branches afterward.
D’Alessandro is glad to have moved beyond the limitations of the pickup truck. “I wanted to think outside the box, and Caterpillar and Foley Inc. offered what I needed,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better, and I’m very happy with the 906 and the service from the people at Foley.”
(This story was reprinted with permission from PayDirt Magazine, Spring 2015 issue)