Wed July 21, 2021
Valley Corp., a third-generation general contracting company in Valley, Neb., was awarded the contract to build a new 8-mi. U.S. 30 from Rogers to Fremont, Neb. The Nebraska Department of Transportation project aims to move the existing highway — which currently runs through the south part of North Bend, Neb. — north of the city. The project began April 15, 2021, and is due to complete June 1, 2022.
The new four-lane highway that will bypass the town of Fremont presented a few challenges for Valley Corp. The first was how to move 1.5 million cu. yds. of dirt to the project location — a 3-mi. drive — over soft, uneven ground. Usually, articulated trucks or semi-trailers with side or belly dumps would be used while equipment crews with graders, dozers and track machines smooth out ruts and try to level travel ground.
This process slows down the movement of material to the needed job project area. Traditional trucks and trailer combinations also have speed limitations on uneven ground; can produce lots of rutting; and carry less product.
Al Hagemann, COO of Valley Corp., and Matt Bevington, CEO of Valley Corp., turned to their friends at Mid Country Machinery for advice. Mark Swedlund, partner of Mid Country and Andy Smith, sales representative, had just the solution: the Bauer Built SD-36 side dump trailer.
The SD-36 has a heaped capacity equal to that of a 40-ton haul truck. A 3-axle hydraulic suspension system allows floatation to suppress ground compaction. Six 750/45R26.5 tires on 50K rated hubs and spindles and rear self-steering axle makes for ease of operation and durability. The hydraulics also transfer weight to all six tires all the time, even when dumping on the go, thus giving it stability while dumping and equal flotation to all six tires, to increase flotation.
All that was needed was the power to pull the fully-loaded trailers.
Butler Ag Equipment, located at 2831 County Rd. 20 Ave., Fremont, Neb., was founded in 1955 and is now run by its third generation. Butler added the final part of the solution: a large Fendt 1046 460 hp tractor. The tractor has large tires and the horsepower needed to haul trailers filled with earth. It is designed as a high-performance, fixed-frame tractor that brings together every advantage on the field and on the road, according to the manufacturer.
It was now time to test this combination.
At the Valley Corp. proving grounds — located near the shop —Hagemann and Bevington were able to see the impressive machines in action.
"The floatation, speed, power and high capacity was nothing like I have ever seen — The rutting and grade disruption were substantially less than if we had used traditional methods," said Bevington. "We did not have to keep multiple machines on cleanup and leveling duty in the soft soil conditions like we normally would. This was a game changer."
The biggest surprise was that they could make the 3-mi. loop in just minutes, slowing down and being able to discharge a full load without stopping. Another positive surprise was the ease of use.
"We have a variety of operators ranging in age from 50 to 18 — men and women — who are able to operate the equipment combination with ease," said Hagemann. "The design is very intuitive, has a comfortable cabin environment and seamless integration to the trailer controls. We can show anyone how to operate this equipment. The equipment has CVT transmissions and no grease points. Maintenance has been minimal."
Another challenge came when the hitch connections started to fail under the extreme conditions.
"We had the perfect setup and the standard Fendt drawbar was straining under the speed and uneven conditions. Mid Country sent Adam Hanson, who originally designed the first side-dump trailer, right to the job site to look over the situation. After his evaluation, new extreme-duty hitches were delivered in 48 hours. Six more hitches were delivered in two weeks."
Bevington said this was a very impressive turnaround.
"They came out right away and looked over the issues. The next thing I know, they had gone back, designed a new extreme-duty hitch and delivered back to us in 48 hours. To say I was impressed is an understatement," he said.
With the new hitches in place, the earth was again flying fast and furious. Valley was loading the trailers with a Komatsu PC 490 from Road Builders of Kansas City, Mo. The tractor and trailers were going so fast that the excavator crew was working nonstop, filling as fast as they could due to the high travel speed of the tractor trailer combo.
"This project is moving forward at a speed that has not been seen in conditions like these. We are not limited by wet weather, soft ground conditions, bad access roads or bad grades," said Hagemann. "We can handle any extreme project conditions that may exist. This sets us apart and makes us primed to be able to be the go-to contractor in our area for any difficult project conditions."
(All photographs in this article are Copyright 2021 Construction Equipment Guide. All Rights Reserved.) CEG