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John Deere With Trimble Helps Virginia Contractor

Fri March 25, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Jeff Winke

Some business decisions are big.

A recent one for Jack L. Massie Contractor, Williamsburg, Va., was literally and figuratively big. It acquired the first production model of John Deere’s massive 764 high-speed dozer (HSD), which it equipped with a Trimble GCS900 grade control system to maximize its performance.

In many respects, the decision to purchase the massive 31,000-lb. (14,061 kg) dozer with its 132 by 30-in. (335 by 76 cm) blade, was easy. The groundwork and history leading up to it made it seem almost inevitable.

“We were very interested in a machine that has rubber tracks and could deliver fast production speed and smooth grading results,” Scott Massie, construction manager, said. “With the 764 HSD, we changed from being a company that had four or five motorgraders to a company that now has two motorgraders sitting on our lot with each clocking less than 100 hours annually.”

Jack L. Massie Contractor had begun changing how it does business. It was finding that grading, especially fine grading, was better suited to dozers equipped with GPS-guided grade control systems. The Trimble GCS900 grade control system puts design surfaces, grades and alignments inside the cab. It accurately positions the dozer blade in real time, significantly reducing material overages and dramatically improving the contractor’s productivity and profitability, according to the manufacturer.

“With the way parking lots, roadways and building sites are designed now, there’s so many utilities, storm systems, slopes, curves and other features that it really doesn’t work for a motorgrader’s 14-foot-wide blade,” said Jeff Hamm, GPS/3D tech, with Jack L. Massie Contractor.

“This machine is smaller, quicker, yet just as smooth in grading — plus, it’s easier to find good quality dozer operators than it is to find motorgrader operators.”

Hamm also pointed out that the finish surface from the John Deere 764 HSD is similar to what they can achieve with a motorgrader.

“The 764 HSD has rubber tracks and a four-track oscillating undercarriage, so it basically leaves a tread print on the ground, just like you have with a motorgrader. That is nice; no more raking out tracks.”

The greater production speed that can be achieved with the 764 HSD with the Trimble grade control system also made the purchase decision a natural.

“The machine can grade twice as fast as a conventional dozer through stony and sandy soils,” said Massie. “And at that faster speed we are still able to achieve one-pass fine grading because we’re running the Trimble system.”

The Trimble GCS900 grade control system features an on-board Trimble CB430 control box that displays the position of each tip of the blade and compares it to the design elevation to compute cut or fill to grade. The cut/fill data is used to drive the valves for automatic blade control and is passed to in-cab lightbars that provide visual guidance to the operator.

There has been a lot of interest in the 764 HSD because of its traveling speed of 16 mph.

“People need to understand that we’re not doing fine grading at 16 mph,” Hamm said. “For us, what’s faster is our rate of production, which includes a number of factors.”

One benefit of the JD 794 for Jack L. Massie Contractor is that it can pull as well as push.

“We can grade with the 764 while it pulls a scraper at the same time,” said Massie. “This is a big deal since I’d rather have a dozer pulling a $60,000 to $80,000 bowl versus needing a $300,000 scraper on the job. If you extrapolate further, I save on needing a scraper operator on the site and even during down times I’d rather have a bowl sitting idle than a machine that costs five times more.”

“The John Deere 764 HSD with the Trimble system has given us the ability to definitely double our speed,” Hamm said. “For instance, comparing the rubber-track 764 to other steel-track dozers, the 764 HSD will turn out finished product quicker. We don’t have to worry with track cuts in grade any more, or about clean cut grading edges. It articulates in the center, so we can make a radial turn and not have the sliding of the steel tracks generating windrows and cuts. Ultimately; the 764 HSD eliminates the extra time and labor required for the follow-up and dressing off process.”

Bottom line for Jack L. Massie Contractor is this: fewer people and fewer machines are required on the job site. The John Deere 764 HSD with the Trimble GCS900 grade control system offers greater production value because it is bigger, faster, rubber-tracked, can articulate in the center, and can grade with precision, eliminating the need for rework, follow up, or clean up.

“This massive, almost futuristic machine, with the Trimble GPS grade control, is helping us redefine our business model,” said Massie. “We are faster, more productive, and yielding accurate results.”

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wis. He can be reached through

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