Building Efficiency with the Right Fleet
Sun Valley—a quiet resort town in Southern Idaho that offers everything from camping, hiking, and mountain biking to world-class cross-country skiing and other wintertime sports—is home to a multibillion-dollar tourist economy. The scenic mountain town has expanded steadily over the years—hotels, theaters and other commercial building projects continue to invigorate the valley, while condo developments and high-end luxury subdivisions continue up the hillsides unabated. Sun Valley is also home to Burks Excavation, LLC. Burks Excavation was founded in 1996 and has played a role in the development of this scenic mountain town ever since.
“We do a lot of custom homes, site work, commercial projects, subdivision work, water/sewer infrastructure, wetland projects,” explains Bo Burks, owner of Burks Excavation. “We also do site prep for paving and concrete work.”
For Burks, the primary driver of his business is the area’s tourist economy. “There are a lot of high-end second homes, but with that, there's a lot of new businesses coming to town. We have a new hospital that came in 10-12 years ago, and with that, nurses, doctors, EMS people, fire and police. There are a lot of landscape companies for these second homes, so that's the main driver. It's a tourist town.”
Fleet Strategy and Unique Challenges
One of the greatest challenges for a business of Burks’ size is determining the right fleet strategy. Business owners should right-size their fleets based on the projects they’re working on now, with an eye on what they want to be doing in the future.
Burks recently invested in several new pieces of equipment with the help of Burks Tractor—a CASE 621G wheel loader, 850M dozer, CX130D and CX210D excavators, TR310 and TV370 CTLs and a CX60C mini excavator.
“We came up with our fleet strategy based on the types of typical projects that we do, and the typical project that we go after are custom homes. The sites can be very challenging, they can be very tight—it's not often that we're on a very large scale as far as acreage of a work site. Everything's an acre or less, but we might be moving, on a typical job, maybe 1,000 to 5,000 yards, depending on how deep in the ground we're going and what we're doing.”
“We do a lot of hillside excavations. We really started in the last couple of years doing some hotel projects in town, so the sites are conducive to a medium size excavator, which would be our CX210D. We do the mass excavation for the underground parking and truck out all the material, but then once we start doing our back-filling, it all goes down to small equipment and that smaller equipment ranges from the CX80 down to the TV370 and the smaller rollers, compactors, and that's generally for us and we do a lot of landscape grading and we've actually found, we used to do everything with the 850M dozer and now we're finding that the TV370s do a much cleaner, quicker process for that.”
The mountainous terrain and loamy valley soil also pose several challenges on jobsites. “We have a lot of what we call 10-inch minus. Basically, a river basin once ran through this valley. There is an overlaying area of topsoil or loamy soil that can be one to three feet in depth and then we get into river rock, sand, cobblestone – it’s super unstable and it really affects us when we're doing infrastructure work.”
Examining the Burks Excavation Fleet
CASE 621G Wheel Loader
CASE G Series wheel loaders are the Tier 4 Final, feature-packed successor to the company’s F Series. In addition to increased power and fuel efficiency, the G series provides an all-new operator environment, controls and digital interface.
“The thing that got me right off the bat was the onboard screen. I just love that amenity to be able to see everything, to know what your machine's running at. Guys can go through and figure out how many gallons an hour they're burning. All that information is there and it's really handy. It's super smooth, it's quiet. It has a nice seat in it. It has a lot of power, it loads trucks quickly, and we're very impressed with the machine.”
The cab of the 621G is engineered for improved comfort and ergonomics. This includes three seat options, including a premium heated air-ride seat, as well as seat positioning, control adjustability and leg room that provides ideal comfort for operators of all sizes. A one-piece rounded windshield, rear grid defroster and optimally placed redesigned external mirrors all improve visibility on all sides of the machine.
“The 621G is definitely a high performer—plenty of power. When we've used it for snow removal, we have a 16-foot wide scoop plow that we put on the front. No issues at all.”
In addition to its best-in-class power and best-in-class drawbar pull, Burks chose the 850M dozer for its redesigned ergonomic cab, improved visibility and versatile control settings. “The ergonomics inside the cab are really comfortable. They're pretty quiet. The visibility out of the front is good. You have good visibility with the way that they slope the nose on the machine.”
A robust, hydrostatic transmission ensures constant power transfer under load and allows for on-the-spot counter rotation with full-power turns. Operators can customize machine responsiveness by adjusting steering and shuttle sensitivity settings. “I learned to run a dozer with a decelerator. When we first received the 850M, that's how we had it set up, but I just could not get in the groove with it. So I went into the computer and switched it over to, I believe it's just the transmission decelerator, so it runs at full RPM and then I decelerate the transmission and I absolutely fell in love with that, because I have full quickness on my blade control, yet I can slow the machine down to manipulate how I want to operate the machine.”
“The reason why we choose an 850M is because it's a big enough dozer that if we need to hog material, we can do that, and it's still nimble enough that we can do finish grading and fine grading with it, in and around residential sites or wherever we are that it's tight—in the mountains, around sidewalks, things of that nature. Sometimes the 850M's too big, but I would much rather have that issue 10 percent of the time and not have something too small 50 percent of the time.”
“It's an amazing dozer, we love it. It's got great power and it does a phenomenal job for its size.”
D Series Excavators
Burks has two CASE D Series excavators, a CX130D and CX210D, and has noted the responsiveness, smoothness and consistency of the CASE Intelligent Hydraulic System (CIHS).
The CASE Intelligent Hydraulic System and its four integrated control systems make the best use of the machine’s hydraulic power and momentum, resulting in added strength and fuel efficiency. Using improvements to the Spool Stroke Control system, D Series excavators re-use hydraulic fluid whenever possible to automatically increase cycle times and efficiency. The operator experiences a more productive machine without losing the precision of the machine’s controls.
“Shortly after we got that machine (CX210D), we started a hotel project. It was a 30,000-yard excavation and I was absolutely blown away at how fast that machine is. It's super well-balanced. We have thumbs on all of our machines, and so even with the thumb, the machine is very, very well balanced. You don't get a lot of shake, it has a lot of good hydraulic pressure to the tracks. You find that that's an issue a lot of times, because when you're trying to do multiple tasks at one time, you're moving the machine and you're swinging, you're moving your stick and your arm around. A lot of times the machine stops, because there's not enough hydraulic pressure. You don't get any of that with the CX210D.”
Another benefit of the intelligent hydraulics is fuel savings. “The fuel economy on the excavators has really changed our game. It's pretty nice when we can fuel the CX210D and I can run two hard days—we'll put a solid 14 hours on the machine, 'cause you're stopping during the day and the machines automatically shut off, which is another great feature to have, because guys get in the habit of getting out and then they're doing something, and they forget they left the machine running.”
TV370 and TR310 Compact Track Loaders
The CASE TV370 is a 74-horsepower machine that combines a maintenance-free Tier 4 Final solution with the strength and reach of a large-frame CTL. The TV370 provides a 3,700-pound rated operating capacity and a vertical-lift design that makes it ideal for loading trucks and lifting and placing heavier palletized materials—it’s the perfect machine for Burks’ custom residential work.
“They've been a godsend. Super fast machine, cabs are super quiet. The ergonomics are great in those. As far as the ergonomics of that machine and its ability, we just couldn't be happier.”
Using a large-frame CTL to do the finish-grading on smaller projects, as opposed to a smaller dozer, is a trend that Burks has embraced. Achieving final grade on a residential project is a job that is easily handled by the TV370.
“The TV370 has sped up our finish product ability, probably by two times, at least. If you know how to manipulate the machine, we build berms, we grade berms, we grade yards.
CX60C Mini Excavator
Excavating companies often need a smaller excavator to help solve some of the accessibility problems that come along with tight residential work. With best-in-class horsepower, the CX60C is the largest and most powerful mini excavator CASE has ever produced. Weighing 12,940 pounds, it features a short radius tail swing design for operating in close quarters.
“The CX60C is a great machine. The breakout power and how quick that machine is, has been great. The guys just love it, and the ergonomics inside the cab are really nice. It tracks well, it digs really nice. It has a lot of power, it's super quick.”
The CX60C provides a spacious, stress-free operator environment and features excellent all-around visibility, ergonomic controls, adjustable seating and line-of-sight digital displays for improved operator comfort. The standard deluxe cab of the CX60C represents the most advanced, comfortable and productive cab ever found on a CASE mini excavator. Burks decided to opt for an optional rear-view camera.
“I love having the rear-view camera. We work on a lot of tight sites, a lot of other tradespeople on our sites, and it always is a huge safety topic for us when we have our weekly safety meetings. We want to make sure that we have good visibility when we're working in these tight sites and that machine gives us that ability, but especially with the rear view camera.”
In tight quarters, precision is critical, that’s why the CX60C comes standard with an adjustable swing boom that is able to travel 70° left and 50° right in order to achieve optimal digging conditions and minimize movement of the machine on site.
“We do a lot of water services. We expose main lines, dig around utilities. We'll go in once in a while and do retaining wall footings in tight areas. It's really nice having the ability to manipulate the boom to the right or left without swinging the cab, without going all the way around, that's a really nice feature.”
Burks also recently purchased a CASE SV208 for sub-grade compaction applications for roads, sidewalks and residential projects.
The SV208 features best-in-class centrifugal force, which allows for higher lifts and deeper compaction depths completed in fewer passes for increased productivity. With a self-adjusting torque control system and the most climbing power in the industry, the SV208D is built to perform in the tough terrain of Southern Idaho.
Available in both open and cab configurations, the SV208D features a spacious, comfortable and intuitive operator environment with an adjustable seat that swivels up to 50 degrees, providing excellent visibility of the drum surface. Rear visibility is maximized with a sloped rear deck design.
“The better the ergonomics, the more safe it's going to be. If the operator [doesn’t have to] worry about being hot or cold or uncomfortable, he can concentrate more on his job, and that machine is comfortable. The visibility is great. It hits super hard and you have the ability to dial that up or down. We also have a pad foot with that roller that we can put on, which is great for certain applications.”
A Growing Resort City and a Bright Future
As development in Sun Valley continues unabated in road construction, commercial and residential building, there is no shortage of quality contractors in the area to complete the work, but Burks is confident that they will continue to play an important role in the future growth of the area.
“I really enjoy it. We're more like a family and the quality of employees that I've been able to attain is really second to none. These guys do everything from on the ground to running the equipment. They can read and understand plans, full layout, everything. It's a great size to be and I don't have any indication that we're going to change that anytime soon.”