Tag Archive for 'contractors'

Real Growth for 2020 Transportation Construction Market, ARTBA Chief Economist Says

he U.S. transportation infrastructure market is expected to grow at least 5 percent next year, according to the annual economic forecast released Dec. 4 by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

“The real market growth for 2020 is being fueled by increased transportation investments from federal, state and local governments,” says ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who conducted the analysis.

Total domestic transportation construction and related-market activity in 2020 should reach $300.4 billion, up from 2019’s $286.5 billion, after adjusting for project costs and inflation.

The transportation construction market grew by 8 percent in 2019 compared to 2018, driven largely by gains in highway, street and pavement work, which grew by $9.6 billion to $73.1 billion.

Airport construction work on runways and terminals increased by less than 1 percent in 2019 but was still at record investment levels.  Strong growth in the subway, light rail and mass transit sector, as well as private railroad investment helped support a strong year for transportation construction activity.

One variable, Black says, is the outlook for the reauthorization of the FAST Act transportation law, due in 2020, and the ability of Congress to find additional revenues to support the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).  Any project delays because states are concerned about whether the next federal surface transportation bill is completed in a timely matter could temper 2020 market growth, Black added.  

Overall, transportation construction market activity is expected to increase or be steady in about half of the states, the ARTBA analysis shows.  Some of the largest markets expected to remain stable or grow include Texas, California, Illinois, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin.

Black shared her findings during a Dec. 4 webinar for analysts, investors, transportation construction market executives, and public officials.

Other market variables include material prices, increased labor costs and labor shortages in some regions.   

Among the other key Black findings:

Public & Private Highway, Street & Related Construction  

  • The real value of public highway, street and related construction investment by state transportation departments and local governments—the largest market sector—is expected to increase by 6 percent to $77.5 billion after growing 15 percent in 2019.
  • Construction work on private highways, bridges, parking lots and driveways will increase from $69.1 billion in 2019 to $71.8 billion in 2020 and will continue to grow over the next five years as market activity increases in those sectors.

Bridges & Tunnels  

  • The pace of bridge and tunnel construction work stayed flat in 2019 and is forecast to grow by $800 million, or 3 percent, in 2020.  Bridge and tunnel market activity fell slightly from $28.8 billion in 2018 to $28.6 billion in 2019, after adjusting for project costs and inflation. 

Light Rail, Subways, & Railroads 

  • Public transit and rail construction are expected to grow from $23 billion in 2019 to $24.2 billion in 2020, a 5 percent increase. 
  • Subway and light rail investment are expected to reach a new record level, increasing from $10.3 billion this year to $11 billion in 2020.

Airport Runways & Terminals  

  • After growing 34 percent in 2018, airport terminal and related construction work, including structures like parking garages, hangars, air freight terminals and traffic towers, is estimated to increase from $18.5 billion in 2019 to $19.6 billion.
  • Runway work is forecasted to increase from $4.7 billion in 2019 to $4.9 billion in 2020.

Ports & Waterways 

  • The value of port and waterway investment should grow to $3.4 billion in 2020. Construction activity in 2019 was $3.3 billion, up from $2.5 billion in 2018. 

ARTBA’s forecast is based on a series of proprietary econometric models for each mode and analysis of federal, state and local data and market intelligence. The full forecast can be purchased at www.artbastore.org.

Established in 1902, ARTBA represents the U.S. transportation construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, courts, news media and the general public. 

An extensive review of the ARTBA 2020 Forecast and other related materials will be available in the January issues of all Associated Construction Publications (ACP).

Rental Hall of Fame inductees announced

Two industry veterans will become the newest inductees into the Rental Hall of Fame. Charles Neffle and Thomas Fouts will be formally inducted on Feb. 9, 2020, at The ARA Show in Orlando, Fla.

Each year, the American Rental Association (ARA) honors individuals who have made a significant impact on the equipment and event rental industry at the national or international level. Charles Neffle and Thomas Fouts will be formally inducted during a ceremony on Feb. 9, 2020, at The ARA Show™ in Orlando, Fla.

ARA created the Rental Hall of Fame in 2000 to foster an appreciation of the historical development of the equipment and event rental industry and the leaders who helped the industry grow and expand. Each year, nominations are accepted to recognize individuals who have made a substantial contribution to the industry.

Here is more information on the newest inductees:

Charles Neffle, All Occasions Event Rental, Cincinnati, Ohio

Charles Neffle’s active service to ARA began in 1995 when he served on the Advertising and Marketing Committee. In the coming years, there was no committee that he wasn’t part of. He moved on to serve on the ARA board, ultimately serving as ARA president in 2001-2002. During his tenure on the board, he was instrumental in the development of the Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) program, assisting in the selection of ARA’s third CEO and the development of a strategic plan for the association.

After serving as president, Neffle went on to chair the ARAPAC Council from 2004-2006, serve on the ARA Insurance Limited board from 2007-2009 and chair the ARA Foundation board of trustees in 2009-2010.

Neffle was honored with the Meritorious Service Award in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Award in 2004. He was recognized with the ARA Foundation Loyal Donor Recognition Award in 2005 and the ARA Foundation James Keenan Award in 2007.

Today, Neffle serves as chair of All Occasions Event Rental. The company recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Thomas Fouts, Bledsoe Rentals, Lees Summit, Missouri
Tom Fouts began working in rental in 1970 and attended his first ARA convention in 1973 where he decided to make the rental industry his career.

Fouts has been dedicated to promoting the equipment and event rental industry and ARA on local, state and national levels throughout his 49-year career in the industry. He was an officer on the ARA board for five years and has served on more than 20 local and national committees and boards. 

During his tenure on the Education Committee, he helped develop education, safety and management training systems and the “Making It Work” video training series. These paved the way for many Rental U courses in the areas of rental store management and day-to-day operations. He also helped develop the RenTech educational programs during a three-year term as chair of the General Tool Shared Interest Group. 

In 2002, Fouts presented “Operation ID,” which he structured to create “Intentional Development” of leadership for local and state associations. The program was presented at multiple ARA Leadership Conferences for local and state associations to recognize strengths and weaknesses, identify individuals with leadership potential and develop processes to support stronger associations. 

Following his service on the ARA Board, Fouts served on the Rental Management Advisory Board and also served on and co-chaired the ARA Insurance Services Captive Board. Fouts has attended ARA’s National Legislative Caucus more than 20 times. On the local level, he worked to eliminate personal property tax on rental equipment and was successful obtaining stronger theft of services legislation. 

Today, Fouts serves as chair of Bledsoe Rentals and as the coordinator of the ARA Past Presidents group. 

About ARA: (www.ARArental.orgThe American Rental Association, Moline, Ill., is an international trade association for owners of equipment and event rental businesses and the manufacturers and suppliers of construction/industrial, general tool and party/event rental equipment. ARA members, which include more than 11,000 rental businesses and more than 1,000 manufacturers and suppliers, are located in every U.S. state, every Canadian province and more than 30 countries worldwide. Founded in 1955, ARA is the source for information, advocacy, education, networking and marketplace opportunities for the equipment and event rental industry throughout the world.

ESOPs as an Exit Strategy for Owners of Construction Companies

By Chris Hirschfeld, ASA, MBA, Director of Exit Planning, Somerset CPAs and Advisors

Running a profitable business is a daily challenge for most business owners. Finding an exit strategy is a challenge that every business owner will eventually face. It is especially true for many in the construction industry. If you want to sell to management, how often do they have the funds to buyout the owner? If you want to arrange bank financing for a transaction, what impact will this have on your bonding? If you want your children to remain in the business, how willing is a buyer to honor that request? If you consider selling to a competitor, what is the risk of sharing proprietary information with your competition? What if the deal doesn’t go through? How often do Private Equity firms even look at construction companies for their portfolio of acquisitions?

The list of issues above is exactly why more and more construction companies are turning to ESOPs as an exit strategy. What is an ESOP? It stands for Employee Stock Ownership Plan. It is a vehicle by which business owners can sell their stock to the employees through an ESOP Trust. The ESOP Trust buys the shares for the benefit of all employees. Not only does it provide an exit strategy for the current owners, but it also creates an ownership mentality among all the employees because all employees will have an economic interest in the success of the business. 

An ESOP is a qualified retirement plan. Therefore, it is governed by the same rules that apply to other retirement plans such as 401k or SEP or SIMPLE IRA’s. ESOP plan documents will specify eligibility, vesting, and retirement ages, just like other retirement plans. The accumulation of value inside an ESOP grows tax deferred, just like all other retirement plans. Employees only pay ordinary income tax when they withdraw their funds from their ESOP account just like any other retirement plan. When employees retire, or leave the company for any reason, however, they must sell their stock back to the ESOP. The stock never leaves the company. The terminated employee may roll their cash proceeds into their IRA or 401k if they wish to further defer taxes on their ESOP account after retirement. The one thing that makes an ESOP unique among retirement plans is that, by law, ESOPs are allowed to hold employer stock as its only security. 

When setting up an ESOP, current owners must sell their stock at fair market value, as derived by an independent appraiser. This is a market-based price which gives owners a value comparable to what the current market would bear. Often, “fair market value” is a higher price than formulas many companies have in place within their buy-sell agreements. Once the owners sell their shares to the ESOP, the ESOP Trust will allocate shares to employees over several years. This creates a long-term incentive for employees to remain with the company. It is why ESOPs have become such a wonderful retention tool. It is like a “golden handcuff” for all employees. If they leave, employees lose their unvested balance and also walk away from the potential of future share allocations. 

One of the biggest benefits to ESOP-owned companies is that management does not have to change. Corporate governance does not have to change. The day-to-day operations do not change. The company remains local. Headquarters will not be moved out of state. The local community benefits when companies don’t sell to out-of-state companies. There is one additional benefit to the owners who sell their shares to the ESOP. If they remain employees after selling their stock, they may also participate in the ESOP to build additional wealth.

In today’s tight labor markets, ESOPs are especially attractive. Imagine being in competition for new hires. Your company can offer not only salary, wages, and a 401k plan, but also a second retirement plan that the company contributes to (not the employee). How many employers offer two retirement plans? This will make your company more attractive to potential new hires in a tight labor market.

What types of companies make good ESOP candidates? ESOP candidate companies should be profitable, with stable earnings and some growth potential. If the company has the capacity to borrow money, the selling shareholders can get more cash up front as part of the deal. Owners who want to keep the company local will find ESOPs attractive. If you already have an employee-ownership culture, your employees will treasure the ESOP benefits.

ESOPs are only available to corporations. LLCs and Partnerships would have to convert to either an S-Corporation or C-Corporation before forming an ESOP. One of the advantages of a C-Corporation that forms an ESOP is that the sellers can get tax deferral on their capital gains if the ESOP buys 30 percent or more of the ownership. One of the advantages of an S-Corporation forming an ESOP is that income taxes on corporate profits can be eliminated. S-Corporations do not pay a corporate income tax. Corporate income passes through to the shareholders who pay the tax. If an S-Corporation is owned 100 percent by an ESOP, the corporate income tax liability passes through to the ESOP, which is a qualified retirement plan. Qualified retirement plans pay no income tax. Therefore, a 100 percent ESOP-owned S-Corporation is a tax-free entity. Imagine not having to make income tax distributions equal to 30 to 35 percent of the corporate income each year or in quarterly installments. That cash can be retained and used for other corporate purposes (pay down debt, bonuses, acquisitions, etc.).

The company will incur added expenses to an ESOP. ESOPs require a trustee, an independent business appraiser (who appraises the stock each year for the benefit statements), and legal counsel. Additionally, a record-keeper/third-party administrator must be retained to administer the plan, file necessary annual tax forms and produce the employee ESOP benefit statements. The corporate income tax savings alone, however, can more than offset the increased operating costs for an ESOP.

In summary, there are several reasons an ESOP might be an attractive exit strategy for business owners in the construction industry. It allows the owners to sell their stock at a market-based price. It provides a means by which the owners can sell the company, but the company remains local. The ESOP has a built-in mechanism for buying shares when employees leave the company, so there is always a market for minority interests. ESOPs help build an ownership mentality among employees. An ESOP provides a second retirement plan for all employees that builds value over an employee’s career. This additional retirement benefit will make your company unique and creates an attractive recruitment and retention tool. ESOP-owned S-corporations can eliminate corporate taxes altogether, creating a unique source of cash flow unavailable to most other corporations. If you have a business that you would like to turn into a legacy, an ESOP just might be that vehicle. 

The Ride to Success

Catom Trucking Grows Business Through Strong Partnership

From serving a few surrounding counties to spanning the entire Midwest, Catom Trucking has grown significantly over the years. But it isn’t catchy advertising or feet-on-the pavement sales efforts the construction and aggregates equipment hauling company credits for its success; they believe their customers led the way. 

Catom Trucking is able to fulfill unique customer needs with the help of Talbert Manufacturing and its comprehensive design process. (Photo Courtesy of Catom Trucking)

As the opportunity for construction projects increased year after year, contractors took the wheel, driving business and expanding into new territories. And when contractors needed dependable equipment hauling, Catom sat shotgun for the ride to help navigate the road to success. 

A Strong Start

Catom Trucking started in 1979 as a modest family owned and operated trucking company in Chicago. Tom and CathyStellman, Owners, recall the early days when they named the company by merging their two first names together. 

“We started out of our home with one truck and dump trailer hauling sand, gravel and asphalt,” said Tom. “We also leased one lowboy to pick up pavement equipment in the early mornings and evenings. It was a pretty simple operation.”

Many of Catom’s customers were earthmoving, roadbuilding and sewer contractors who relied on the company for getting their large equipment to and from jobsites. Catom was called upon by its ever-increasing customer base to haul everything from trenchers to excavators.

By 1995, the number and size of contracting companies Catom served grew to 25. Catom itself had grown, as well, to keep up with demand, running five trucks and 10 trailers. Up until this point, the trucking company was able to get by with “off-the-shelf” heavy-haul type trailers, but the size of equipment its clients needed hauled continued to increase and finally reached the company’s breaking point.

“Off-the-shelf” heavy-haul type trailers allowed Catom Trucking to get by in the early days of the business, but as clients’ equipment grew, so did the need for a custom solution. That’s when the company turned to Talbert Manufacturing for a solution.  (Photo Courtesy of Catom Trucking)
 

“For the first time, our customers were using 100,000-pound excavators, some of the heaviest at the time,” Tom said.

It was a logistical challenge not only for traveling through Illinois, but also across borders into other Midwestern states, where lower bridges and a multi-axle setups could be required. 

“We simply didn’t have a cost-effective way to haul the excavators in one load. The equipment would have needed to be disassembled and loaded onto multiple trailers, which was time consuming and more costly for our clients. Loading disassembled equipment also raised the risk of injuries. We knew it was time to look at a customized trailer.”

Catom needed a heavy-haul trailer that didn’t just serve the immediate need, but also could be used to haul a variety of other equipment, such as locomotives, and travel through multiple states. They knew this would minimize costs and prove to be more efficient not only for the business, but also their customers, as well. Plus, Cathy and Tom knew a trailer with the flexibility to haul a wide range of equipment would result in a strong ROI. 

Keeping Up with Demand

“We needed to grow as a company so we could grow with our customers and keep up with their demands, so we looked at what our biggest competitors were doing,” Cathy said. 

They noticed many of their competitors were running Talbert trailers. Catom already owned several standard Talbert units.

Catom Trucking owns and operates 30 custom Talbert trailers – 43 percent of its entire trailer fleet. The trailers help the company not only meet the needs of its current customers, but are designed to serve future customers as well. (Photo Courtesy of Catom Trucking)

Not only did Catom need to meet the needs of its current customers, but the company also had to ensure that whatever trailer they purchased could serve future customers. This included considering deck inserts and axle count and configurations. Because Catom had several other Talbert trailers in its fleet already, many of the components that would give them that flexibility were readily available; what one trailer needed for a specific load requirement could be pulled from another. 

The Talbert team met with Catom and its employees to discuss details. The criteria: 100,000-pound capacity trailer, achievable with multiple deck and axle configurations. 

Four months later, Catom’s first custom trailer was delivered: a six-axle raised rail trailer with a removable deck section. The design allowed Catom to install a beam insert or deck extension for longer, heavier equipment. Talbert also designed the trailer to go from six axles to seven or eight axles, which minimized the number of permits needed for traveling through other Midwestern states.

“We know Talbert trailers are built with high-quality, heavy-duty components,” Cathy said. “Having that along with specific features that are customized for our needs took our operation to another level.”

Catom could finally move some of the biggest pieces of equipment at the time in one load, which, as they predicted, saved time, hassle and money. Potential customers also took notice of Catom’s new capability, quickly moving them to the head of the pack of preferred companies.

“We started to receive opportunities to bid bigger projects,” Tom said. “Less than a year later, we needed a second custom Talbert trailer to keep up.”

The trailer may have been Catom’s second custom unit, but it was the company’s first 11-axle trailer. It also had a removable deck, jeep and stinger, which allowed heavier loads to be distributed more evenly. 


“That’s when we really thought we were going to town,” Tom said. “We were getting more and more big jobs because we were one of the few hauling companies that could accommodate the larger equipment, and having the two custom trailers really allowed us to serve these contractors quickly.”

Each trailer was basically several units in one. For example, Catom could install a beam insert onto the 11-axle trailer to haul a large excavator, then put in the flush deck and take off axles for moving a crusher or forklift. Catom could serve a wide range of clients with the custom trailers, which made for a healthy return on investment while providing a service that was ahead of the local competition. 

“We started using our Talbert custom trailers from day one and each unit has quickly paid for itself.”  

Built to Suit

Catom now owns and operates 30 custom Talbert trailers – 43 percent of its entire trailer fleet. This includes multiple lowboys ranging from 40-ton, 2-axle to 65-ton, 13-axle trailers as well as 40-ton Double Drop stretch trailers and sliding-axle tilt-bed trailers used for hauling smaller equipment. The latest model Talbert delivered, in July 2017, was a 13-axle unit custom designed to transport much heavier equipment than ever before. 

“Every inch of that trailer is built to our specs. We simply gave them the serial number of the Talbert trailer we wanted it compatible with, then sat down with their team to discuss details,” Tom said. “The process is like no other. Catom gets engineering, parts, quality control and sales all in one room so they really understand what we need – and what our customers need.” 

As equipment grew larger and became heavier over the years, the demand for trailers that could handle the equipment in one load increased dramatically. That’s when Tom and Cathy Stellman saw their modest trucking company experience significant growth and success, which they attribute to hard work and valuable partnerships.  (Photo Courtesy of Catom Trucking)

Catom isn’t about just making its customers happy, but its employees, as well. Stellman has “been in the trenches,” so to speak, and is familiar with what works. The company often looks to its drivers, too, for insight about what makes operations easier. 

“When we order Talbert trailers, we know what we are getting,” Cathy said. “If we need a 60-ton unit, we get a 60-ton unit, not a 60-ton-rated trailer that can’t really handle the load because of a weak neck. That’s one of the most impressive things about the Talbert trailers – the geometry of their goosenecks.”

Talbert pioneered the industry’s first mechanical removable gooseneck in 1947 and the first hydraulic removable gooseneck in 1962. The innovations revolutionized how equipment was loaded and hauled, making what was once time consuming and dangerous, quick and safe.

“What makes Catom successful? Plain and simple: When our customers have a need, we fulfill it and we fulfill it well,” Cathy said. “But, it couldn’t be done without suppliers like Talbert who mirror those same values. Any time our customers come to us with a special request, we’re meeting with Talbert to get it done.”

The road to success is never straight and can be sometimes difficult to navigate. But what makes that road to success achievable are the partners who are in it from start to finish. For Catom Trucking and its customers, that partner has been and still is Talbert Manufacturing.  

That partnership, coupled with hard work, keeps Catom Trucking growing both in terms of fleet and family ownership. Tina Stellman, Tom and Cathy’s daughter, has also contributed to the company’s growth since 1997 and shares with her parents the same passion for fulfilling customers’ needs. 

“We feel strongly about maintaining a family owned and operated business,” Cathy said. “As I step back from the business, I look forward to Tina continuing the great relationships, passion and customer commitment that has made Catom what it is today.”

Paving the Way for Success

When Charlie Swift started Southeast Asphalt and Maintenance LLC in 1996, his budget determined his equipment, and his equipment determined the jobs he could take. 

“Basically, I started out with the cheapest equipment I could get,” he said.  

For Swift, building an asphalt sealcoating and maintenance company from the bottom up meant getting things done on an extremely limited budget. Through the humble beginnings of his business, Swift quickly learned that when you rely on inexpensive, used equipment, you’re only as good as your worst piece – and that was anything but efficient. 

Since adding the DA-350 to the Southeast fleet, Swift has discovered a significant bidding advantage over many competitors. The dual applicator has made it possible to place lower bids, bid on a wider range of projects, and complete them in less time.

Early on, his equipment set the parameters for his potential. Projects took longer to complete, and he was only able to bid on small projects, such as parking lots for banks and other local businesses. Determined to keep finding work, Swift maximized the potential of his second-hand sealcoating equipment. 

“As I gained more experience, I kept getting better and better and saw my business growing busier and busier,” he said. 

Finally, Swift reached a tipping point.

“I was getting enough work that I could start upgrading equipment. It made it possible for us to handle larger jobs,” he said. 

The jobs continued to line up and Swift hasn’t looked back. It’s now been two decades and Southeast has expanded to have a national reach. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, a majority of the company’s work is centered in the southeast, but knowing his equipment is up to the task, Swift isn’t afraid to bid large projects across the country.

A driving force behind Swift’s confidence to bid bigger jobs was the Neal Manufacturing Division of Blastcrete Equipment, LLC’s DA-350 Dual Applicator, purchased in 2014. It wasn’t the first time he had bought a Neal Manufacturing applicator, but it was the first one he purchased new. 

For Swift, it didn’t take spreadsheets or months of operation to see the value of his newest machine. The DA-350 dual applicator, equipped with a spray bar and even-flow squeegee, was quick to demonstrate its value, project after project. Prior to adding the DA-350 to his fleet, Southeast would take on large lots using a truck-mounted hand-spray applicator. With the new machine, some hand spraying is still required, but only around the edges. 

Once the prep is complete and the edges are sprayed, one person is able to drive the DA-350 to complete the remaining surface. Instead of three workers hand spraying with three tips, one employee can conquer the same area in a fraction of the time, cutting overall project time and freeing up the additional crew members to move on to other jobs. Swift said the dual machine makes quick work of large lots, helping him complete jobs that once took 10 to 12 hours in as few as four.  

After Southeast Asphalt purchased Neal Manufacturing’s dual applicator machine, which features a squeegee and spray bar, they quickly saw its value, project after project.
 

A Class of Its Own

Since adding the DA-350 to the Southeast fleet, Swift has discovered a significant bidding advantage over many competitors. The dual applicator has made it possible to place lower bids, bid on a wider range of projects, and complete them in less time. Swift also increased profits, estimating Southeast can earn 35 to 40 percent more each day using the new machine.

Swift pointed out that for many projects, similar productivity can be reached with other commercial ride-on sealing applicators, but to him, there are times when there’s no comparison. 

“The pump,” Swift said, “is the differentiating factor. Their pump is capable of handling more material and heavier material than any other pump I’ve used. The Neal Manufacturing pump is known for that. They don’t need as much maintenance or cleaning, either.”

The DA-350 uses the company’s heavy-duty aggregate pump, which achieves 100 gallons per minute. It also manages heavier sand loads. 

“Diaphragm pumps work great for a standard sand load of 2 to 4 percent, but some projects require a heavier sand load. That’s when I need the DA-350,” Swift said.

Swift will run a sand load of 4 percent up to 8 percent through the DA-350 without hesitation. His fleet of resurfacing applicators also includes machines equipped with diaphragm pumps. But when a project requires anything over 4 percent, he knows it will be going through the Neal Manufacturing pump.

Prior to adding the DA-350, Southeast Asphalt would take on large lots using a truck-mounted hand-spray applicator. With the new machine, some hand spraying is still required, but only around the edges. 

Good, Better, Best

Swift doesn’t hesitate to declare that Neal Manufacturing makes the most dependable and efficient asphalt resurfacing applicator he’s worked with. He also wasn’t shy about approaching the manufacturer when he had ideas for improvement. According to Swift, Neal Manufacturing engineers not only welcomed his input, but worked with him to develop custom improvements for his applicator. 

“It was easy,” Swift said. “When I worked with the engineer, he had some solutions and suggestions, as did I, and we came out with a great machine.” 

The most notable improvements were made to his machine’s hydraulics and switches, specifically, the hydraulic dump valve. On a standard DA-350, the dump valve is controlled by a toggle switch and manually operated with a foot pedal. Swift’s DA-350 features a modified hydraulic dump control. The custom control makes it possible for the operator to open and close the valve as fast as he or she wants. The modification also allows the operator to set and hold the valve at a desired rate without having to continually monitor the control. 

“With the standard foot pedal, if you want it open 20 percent, you have to manually hold it right there. With mine, I just open it up to the dump rate I want, let loose and it stays put. I don’t have to worry about holding a certain pressure, if I set it at 50 percent, it stays at 50 percent,” Swift said. “The feature helps simplify things for the operator, who already has a lot going on – driving the machine, dumping sealer, trying not to dump too much – this modification makes it much easier.”

Dual Threat Contractor

As a business owner, Swift has discovered numerous advantages to owning a DA-350 dual applicator, the most significant of which has been its ability to transform Southeast into a dual-threat contractor. The DA-350 combines a six-tip spray bar capable of spraying 11 feet combined with an 8-foot squeegee. The option of a riding squeegee unlocks an entirely new segment of the asphalt sealing and maintenance contracts.

Many contractors don’t invest in a riding squeegee applicator because it’s not necessary for most jobs, especially smaller ones. For Swift, the ability to tackle everything from local bank parking lots to massive distribution centers has been a game changer. 

“Eighty percent of contractors can’t offer the squeegee method unless they do it by hand. Having both on one riding machine puts you in a different category of contractors,” Swift explained. “We get invited to work for large distribution centers all over the country because of our capabilities. Contractors who don’t offer the ride-on squeegee method can’t bid those jobs.” 

Swift will still tell you that you’re only as good as your worst piece of equipment, but in recent years he’s been more concerned about reaching the full potential made possible by his best piece of equipment.