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Remote-Control Mustang Aids Family Displaced By Fire

Sat November 19, 2005 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

In November 2004, fire blazed through the Mitchell family home in Mequon, WI, leaving little more than two chimneys standing. The homeowners decided to rebuild and enlisted the help of Wisconsin contractors Countryside Builders, a 13-year-old family-owned and operated framing business based in Menomonee Falls.

The 3,000 sq. ft., two-story colonial home and its attached three-car garage is currently undergoing reconstruction on its original corner lot in a Mequon subdivision.

“This home is on a smaller scale than the ones we typically build,” said Dave Merkel, part-owner and son of Countryside Builders’ two other owners, Ron and Linda Merkel. The builder specializes in custom framing, finish carpentry and general contracting services. “However, any rebuild is more of a challenge that an original build, so we were excited to take on the project.”

Countryside Builders typically bids on homebuilding jobs ranging from 3,500 to 7,000 sq. ft. And in the last two years, the contractors completed two extra-large jobs –– a 16,000 sq. ft. home and a 22,000 sq. ft. home. With the rebuild coming up, and two extra large jobs under their belts, the Merkels decided it was time to go shopping for a new, larger telescopic handler.

The crew was looking to replace its 8-year-old telescopic handler. In addition to its age, the 10,000-lb., 40-ft. unit lacked the capacity and reach the Countryside Builders’ future projects required.

Past customers of Tractor Loader Sales –– a Mustang dealer based in Waukesha –– the Merkels turned first to Tractor Loader salesman Bob Williams. Williams recommended they take a look at the Mustang 1155 telehandler. Williams knew the model’s 11,000-lbs. capacity and 55-ft. reach met Countryside Builders’ desired specs., but he was also aware that the newly introduced Radio Remote Boom Control System on the 1155 would be the perfect option for the framers’ upcoming jobs.

Introduced in August, the Mustang telehandler Radio Remote Boom Control System is available on three of the manufacturer’s telehandler models, including the 1155. The system allows the telehandler boom to be raised and lowered, extended and retracted –– all from the remote control. Operators can also shut-down or start-up the engine with the remote control.

“The advantage here is that the operator responsible for placing the truss is able to get out of the cab, go to another area where visibility may be better –– he could even go inside the building –– and then finish placing the load from the remote area,” Mustang telehandler product manager John Koepf explained.

The remote control is compact, portable and easy to use. It features self-diagnostics and Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology, which was initially developed for military applications. FHSS devices concentrate their full power into a very narrow signal that randomly hops from frequency to frequency within a designated radio band, which eliminates the risk of interference with any other radio-controlled equipment that might be in the area.

“The 1155 with the Radio Remote Boom Control has made it possible for two guys to do the same work that would normally take three to complete,” said Merkel. “We are using the radio remote on the Mitchell home to set the large windows, install the siding and place the pre-fabricated dormers on the roof.”

Countryside Builders also opted to equip their 1155 telehandler with the Work Platform Safety (WPS) System. This system gives operators the ability to turn a telehandler into a personnel lift, allowing for the safe use of an approved work platform secured to the forks.

“Once the WPS System is activated, the system senses the position of the machine, neutralizes the transmission, applies the parking brake, disables the fork tilt and auxiliary hydraulic circuits, restricts use and speed of the frame leveling circuit, and prohibits movement of the boom unless the machine is leveled within safe parameters, providing platform workers with a safe and stable environment,” said Mustang’s Koepf.

The WPS System adds an additional safeguard for the Countryside Builders crew: a remote emergency shutdown switch, which gives them the ability to stop boom movement if needed.

Countryside Builders has noted actual bottom-line savings from the addition of the 1155 telehandler to its fleet.

“One of the savings we’ve realized so far is that we have not had to hire a crane, at $85 or more per hour to complete roof work,” said Merkel. “It’s almost like having your own crane available every day.”

Merkel estimates a savings of up to $900 on each trussed-roof home project on which the 1155 telehandler is used.

“I imagine we will come up with many more time- and money-saving ideas as we become more familiar with the 1155,” he said.

Size is a concern for Merkel’s crew.

“The houses may be getting larger, but the job sites are going in the opposite direction,” he said.

Capable of lifting large loads, the 1155 telehandler’s stature does not hinder its lifting capacity or maneuverability. At just over 20-ft. long, 8-ft. wide and 7-ft. tall, the telehandler, with its 4-wheel steering easily navigates around job site obstacles, such as other equipment, storage bins and the existing structures and large evergreen trees on the Mitchell property.

“The 1155 corners tighter and steers easier than our old unit,” said Merkel. “And although the machine is longer, the wheelbase gives it stability that we wouldn’t sacrifice for a shorter unit.

“Maintaining control of construction equipment and protecting the environment around you is especially important when working within an established neighborhood,” added Merkel, who adds that the majority of Countryside Builders’ work comes from word-of-mouth.

Countryside Builders believes that all contractors must remember that even though a job may seem like just another house in a long line of houses, it’s one of the most important events in a homeowner’s lifetime. Certainly, this is true for the Mitchell family, who are only a month away from getting back their family home.

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