Clearing land in Georgia has been evolving over the last few years. In the past, clearing land consisted of cutting trees and brush, pushing all the debris into piles and burning it.
But now, faced with environmental concerns on top of the drought conditions that exist in most Georgia counties, clearing land has taken on a new look. Mulching trees and brush down to ground level has become a trend that is economically and environmentally advantageous while lessening the chances of fire outbreaks. Many people believe that mulching is a “win-win” situation for all parties.
One participant in this trend in southeast Georgia is Kevin Royster of Little R Site Prep of Blackshear.
“I’ve been around Caterpillar equipment my entire life, and have operated or worked on everything from skid steers to D8 dozers,” Royster said.
As the owner of Little R Site Prep, Royster has found a niche in the land clearing and development industry that is providing him with a lot of work, and providing his customers with results.
And he credits a lot of this to the Caterpillar machines he operates and to Yancey Bros. Co.
“My father, Carswell Royster, ran heavy equipment for over 50 years, and I just sort of grew up operating those machines,” Royster said. “About 15 years ago I started my own company and purchased equipment from a variety of different dealers, but I was never completely satisfied with the machines or service I was receiving.”
Now, Royster and Little R Site Prep’s work is done primarily using a pair of Caterpillar 297C multi terrain loaders equipped with mulching heads.
“I left Cat once, but I’ve come back and don’t foresee ever leaving again,” Royster said.
Depending on the terrain and coverage of the land, the contractor clears between 2.5 and 10 acres a day.
Currently working on a 1,100-acre (445 ha) job site of 7-year-old pines, palmettos and overgrowth located between Atkinson and Waynesville, Royster and his crew are mulching the vegetation down to the dirt. The land will be harrowed under after he finishes, and, 12 months later, a large golf community will spring from the former woodlands.
“We work a standard 8-hour-a-day, five-day, workweek, and by following Cat’s daily and weekly maintenance recommendations we have avoided any unexpected downtime,” Royster said.
The leap into making this purchase didn’t come without hesitation, though.
“Before I purchased these Caterpillar rubber track loaders, I was a little skeptical. I had been operating a couple other brands of rubber track loaders and mulching machines for a number of years and was really dissatisfied with their performance. Downtime, and the lack of dealer support, was hampering my operations and costing me money,” Royster said.
David Pinter, Yancey’s sales representative working out of the Brunswick Yancey store, contacted Royster and offered to take him on a factory tour of Cat’s compact loader manufacturing facility in North Carolina.
“During the factory tour, my eyes were opened to the level of durability built into these machines and the commitment Cat and Yancey are making to the mulching segment of the industry,” Royster said. “Their engineers asked me as many questions as I asked them, and that impressed me that they were willing to learn from someone who operates this equipment every day. Since that time I have been in contact with the folks in North Carolina several times, and most of the recommendations I made have been incorporated into the machines and work tools Yancey now sells. It makes me feel good to know that I have had a part in improving the Cat equipment that is being sold across the country.”
Royster’s team performs daily and weekly maintenance on its equipment itself, but other than that, “I don’t want to be forced to work on my equipment or have to worry about the scheduled maintenance and oil changes. That’s something my employees don’t do as well as they do running the equipment. I let Yancey take care of all those things and we concentrate on running our equipment and clearing land.”
Added Royster, “We do our daily walk-arounds on each machine and clean the mulched material from around the engine compartment and air cleaners twice a day. Once a week, on Friday afternoons, we spend a couple of hours breaking down each machine and cleaning the radiators, oil coolers and belly pans. I rely on Yancey for everything else because they are the experts in these areas.”
Royster specifically mentioned the benefits of Yancey’s S.O.S. (Scheduled Oil Sampling) Service.
It “has saved us a lot of downtime. For somebody that’s not in it for an overnight buck or as a hobby — meaning someone that wants to build a successful and profitable company — dealer support is invaluable. Yancey is my partner, and I count on them to keep my equipment up and running,” he said.
Victoria Filanosky has been an equipment operator for Little R Site Prep for five years, and currently runs one of the 297C rubber track loaders.
“I really like the Caterpillar machines,” Filanosky said. “The daily maintenance is easier to perform, the field of vision is great with no blind spots, and the sealed cabs are wonderful. It’s nice to operate a machine and not have to breath in dust and dirt, and not be covered in grime at the end of the day. It makes operating my machine more enjoyable and makes me more productive.”
Royster has worked with Preston Smith, Yancey’s BCP manager in Atlanta, over the past several months.
“The mulching package that Preston and his guys developed to help keep debris out of the air handling system of my machines has made a world of difference. It has cut our clean-up time way down and allows my crew to get back mulching quicker, and that means we are able to clear more land per hour. That puts money on our bottom line,” Royster said.
As mulching has become more popular with contractors in the land clearing industry in southeast Georgia, many have turned to Royster for advice.
“I refer them all to Yancey. Some take my advice … others don’t. But the ones that don’t can’t match my productivity and uptime.”