Some companies like niches. Not Polino Contracting Inc. Known as one of West Virginia’s largest heavy/highway contracting firms and active in several nearby states. It is not afraid to shift its specialty as the market changes.
Run now by the third generation of Polinos, initially the company focused on road and railroad construction, quarries, and coal mining in the 1920s, shifted to surface mining in the 1950s, and to coal handling operations in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1990s, the focus moved to heavy/highway contracting and remains there today, consisting of approximately 80 percent of its business. The past several years have seen a further diversification into flyash hauling, landfill and environmental contracting, site development, mining construction and reclamation, ready-mix concrete, pre-cast concrete products and more.
“An ash-haul contract was up for bid at the Mt. Storm Power Station,” said John West, vice president of operations. “The plant was built in the late ’50s/early ’60s. The previous contract holder was running eight 35-ton Cat trucks through the narrow, maze-like confines of the plant and out to the dump site.
“We looked at every phase — truck designs, bed and tail gate configurations, fuel and oil consumption, time studies, weather conditions, peak seasons for coal output, you name it. We studied all the options — including conveyoring — and the only thing that would work was to find a similar-sized truck that could haul nearly twice as much. To top it off, if we got the contract, we had just a 70-day window to make it happen.”
Tony Altieri, estimator and projects manager, said, “We contacted several rigid truck companies, including Hitachi. From the beginning, it was obvious that they wanted the contract. They were the only one to bring an engineer along for the plant tour. They sat for hours and brainstormed with us, figuring out how to modify its EH1000, which was similar in overall dimensions to the Cat, but carries nearly twice the load. We realized that if we could lower the profile an inch, we could carry another 2 tons per load. Being able to make slight modifications meant a lot to us.”
“The scary thing was that the more we looked at the EH 1000, the more it solved all the problems we could see,” added West. “It was such a perfect solution that we actually appointed someone to play devil’s advocate, but we couldn’t find a weak spot. That research changed our thinking about trucks completely. Hitachi negotiated with the tire manufacturer for us and Dave McDowell, of Rudd Equipment, found us a great stainless steel ash body manufacturer in Pennsylvania. We bid based on Hitachi and we won. Then everybody did an outstanding job to make it all come together in the mandated 70 days.”
Given the unique layout of the haul route, Polino hired all the drivers who worked for the previous contractor. Initially, they were a bit intimidated by the new trucks, but within two days they were totally at ease.
“The bottom line is that the Polino family and the staff here are determined to have the versatility to do whatever it takes to stay in business and make a profit,” said West. “We stay diversified. If one aspect of our market does poorly, our employees and our equipment are versatile enough to move into another area.”
Polino Contracting is serviced by Rudd Equipment Company, Pittsburgh, PA.
(This article appears courtesy of “Breakout” magazine.)