Poor traction in snowy conditions led Brian Tibbits of Tibbits Equipment Services Inc. to create KWIK KLEET traction cleats.
Established in 1989, Tibbits Equipment Services Inc., Barre, Vt., has thrived in the equipment business by identifying unique rental niche markets and innovating new products.
According to Brian Tibbits, the company's founder, there are two areas that he has focused his growing rental business on — most uniquely is a fleet of crawler carriers.
"About 10 years ago, we saw an opportunity to invest in a fleet of crawler carriers as they were being introduced to the market and rent them to customers who were doing specialized work but did not necessarily have the demand that would justify year-round ownership," Tibbits said.
Some of Tibbits' first clients were the power companies, who found the nimble crawling ability and the enhanced 360-degree turning radius of these machines to be a real asset to their fleets under certain conditions.
"We started to find rental opportunities with power companies up and down the Atlantic Coast region," he said. "Of course, one of the real attractions to these machines is their ability to work in very wet areas. As word got out of our significant inventory of these machines, we started to see a lot of environmental contractors reaching out to us for rentals. It seems as though the more these machines are seen, the more unique applications have developed.
"We had a number of them end up working in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina doing levee work. They were the perfect carrier to drive out onto a levee to spin around, drop its load and back out again. It's almost as if it was designed exactly for that job.
"There really was just one drawback to these machines, particularly with our northeastern rentals — they are absolutely horrible in the ice and snow. The traction was so terrible that companies like the utility firms that worked on hills had to immediately return the machines as soon as ice and snow conditions developed. Here in the northeast that can make up about six months of the rental season."
There was a tremendous amount of motivation for Brian Tibbits to figure out a way to improve the traction of the machines in the crawler carrier rental fleet.
It took a number of attempts in attacking the problem from different angles, but eventually they came up with exactly the right solution — a product that is developed, owned, manufactured and marketed by Tibbits Equipment Services called the KWIK KLEET traction cleat.
"The KWIK KLEET traction cleats, which is a registered trademark, are a set of studded steel bars that clip individually and horizontally to the track system of the crawler carrier," said Tibbits. "The number of steel bars used may vary by the conditions that you're working in."
Coming up with the precise configuration of the steel bars and the steel alloy was a trial and error process.
"In ice or frozen mud, you want the cleats to grip well but release if needed", said Tibbits. "If they are frozen into a wet surface and don't release when needed, you could actually have damage to the undercarriage as a result. The type of steel alloy is critical. If it has no give, you could damage the undercarriage … and too much give, it won't work. These were all things that we had to experiment with over several years of trial and error. We also had to develop a way for the tracks to be easily added or removed depending on weather conditions.
"We have a system now where two people can install a set in about 30 minutes using an electric-powered impact wrench and a 15/16–in. wrench."
Today, Tibbits Equipment Services has 25 to 30 excavators and crawler carriers in its fleet, and with the addition of the KWIK KLEET traction cleat rental utilization is way up, Tibbits said.
Tibbits Equipment Services also is noted for its very clean fleet of late-model zero tail swing excavators with hammers. Currently, the company has 16 hammer-ready excavators in its fleet. Tibbits also keeps 30 to 40 hydraulic hammers in its rental and sales inventory for its fleet and for customers who have a carrier but need a hammer.
"We always keep backup hammers and carriers in inventory in case something goes down," he said. "We understand the value of a contractor's time, and we do everything possible to make sure that our customers never get left hanging.
"All of our machines are late model, low hour with excellent reliability," he added. "So, often using a well-worn excavator with a well-used hammer doesn't pay off. By maintaining a good-looking late-model fleet for both our carrier trucks and excavators with hammers we have preserved a good reputation and a great rate of return business."
For more information, visit www.tibbitseq.com. CEG
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