Pumping concrete is a tough, challenging job that requires training, experience and some muscle. And the rugged reputation of Mack® trucks is a good match for the rugged reputation of concrete workers, says Terry Craiglow, owner of Buckeye Concrete Pumping in Middletown, Ohio. “Every industry says they have characters, but the concrete industry truly does. Concrete workers are tough, dependable and require little attention, which can also be said of Mack trucks. Contractors want a truck they can work hard all day, park at night, and work hard again the next day with minimal fuss or bother, and do it for years. This is why Mack is the preferred brand in our business.”
Historically the concrete pumping business has shunned frills. “Concrete workers have no need for a pretty truck or chrome wheels,” Craiglow says. But contractors “realize their trucks are their calling cards and they need to present a good image with a modern truck.” Even with this shift in attitude, the demand for trucks that are tough and dependable is unchanging, especially given the high and rising cost of downtime.
Craiglow says there’s a primary difference between his business and nearly every other business that uses trucks. “We’re not truck people. We’re concrete people.”
Craiglow says their Mack dealer — Worldwide Equipment in nearby Cincinnati, Ohio — is attuned to his operational needs. They realize that time is money and wet concrete waits for no man. “They understand our business,” says Craiglow. “They get us in and get us out.”
Rugged Mack integrated powertrain
Buckeye operates a fleet of Mack® TerraPro™ cabovers outfitted with Schwing pumps of varying lengths. All of Buckeye’s Macks are equipped with proven MP®7 or MP®8 engines ranging from 375 to 425 horsepower. As with all Mack engines, output is enhanced by broad power and torque curves, making more power available at a wider range of engine speeds. Buckeye opts for the Maxidyne® offering, which provides extended RPM ranges and high torque rise for off-road and jobsite use.
Historically Buckeye has used the Mack T300 manual transmissions, but the company is starting to spec the Mack mDRIVE™ HD automated manual transmission. In addition to equipping their largest units (those with booms more than 40 meters long), Buckeye is also ordering mDRIVE for trucks with shorter booms.
“The world is moving to automated transmissions,” says Craiglow. “It helps when recruiting employees if you don’t have to eliminate candidates who can’t drive a manual. Resale value is already higher on units with automated transmissions. With the rising trend in automated transmissions, residual value will be further enhanced because these trucks will be entering the used market at a time when automated transmissions are considered the norm.”
Another valuable powertrain feature for Buckeye is Mack’s automatic power divider, which delivers up to 75 percent of drive power to the wheels with traction, a huge help on muddy jobsites.
Designed for the job
The TerraPro chassis can be configured with multiple steer and drive axle combinations. This make the TerraPro an ideal platform for Buckeye’s pumps of any length. Some of the company’s TerraPro models have a total of 6 or 8 axles.
One of the best features of the TerraPro for concrete pumping is its 58-inch bumper-to-back-of-cab measurement. “Our rates are based on boom length,” says Craiglow, “not pumping capacity or any other spec. This is true whether we’re placing the concrete or renting the truck to another contractor. Offering the shortest boom that will get the job done is a big competitive advantage. Since much of our work is done with the boom over the front of the truck, having that short cab gives us up to five feet of additional reach compared to conventional cabs, allowing us to use a shorter boom and offer a lower price.” Craiglow says concrete pumping contractors in some markets don’t have the same considerations and many of them prefer the conventional cab Mack Granite® for their trucks. But where bumper-to-back-of-cab measurement is a consideration, “Mack has no competition.”
“Mack has been closely involved with our industry from the start,” Craiglow says. “They’ve developed features to suit our unique needs all along.”
Humble beginnings followed by steady growth
Buckeye Concrete Pumping had very modest origins: “One pump and me,” Craiglow says. He had a facility where he kept the truck at night “and I slept on a cot next to it.” Since Buckeye started in 1985 the company has had steady growth and now has annual revenue of $4 million with 16 employees and 17 concrete pumping units.
Growth was helped by the broader acceptance of concrete pumping. It used to be employed only in specialized jobs, but now it has wider application as a mainstream construction practice for commercial and residential jobs, plus infrastructure like roads and bridges.
The general economy is strong and the construction economy is booming. Among the hot spots in construction are healthcare facilities. “It seems like they’re building an urgent care center everywhere there’s an exit,” says Craiglow. He expects continued growth for Buckeye: “I see new names on our work orders nearly every day.” That growth will continue despite increased competition because Craiglow has refined his business strategies accordingly.
“Contractors want a truck they can work hard all day, park at night, and work hard again the next day with minimal fuss or bother, and do it for years. This is why Mack is the preferred brand in our business.” - Terry Craiglow, owner of Buckeye Concrete Pumping
“We offer all the difficult services. We have line pump, which is incredibly hard work. We have conveyors. We have the equipment and expertise to deliver concrete pretty much anywhere. We have a bigger toolbox. We have the best equipment and the best people. Offering superior service ensures our success because you can’t put service out of business.”
Having the right employees is part of Buckeye’s success, but Craiglow says attracting and retaining quality employees is a huge challenge these days, as it is for nearly every business.
“People don’t want to work this hard anymore,” says Craiglow. “They want to know what time their day starts and what time it ends and in our business, you don’t always know that. And if you’ve been sitting in a crane or a backhoe and come to work for us, you’re surprised by how hard this work is. At some point in the day you’re going to have to get down and wallow in the concrete.” Compounding the intensity is the fact that “we’re working with a perishable product. Concrete starts setting up the minute it gets to the site. You have to hustle and hustle hard.” Craiglow says Buckeye does a lot of bridge decks “and it’s the day you pour that makes or breaks you. All the form-setting, all the rebar and everything else is secondary to the day of the pour.”
Having a fleet of Mack pumpers is a help with new drivers. “Macks are easy and intuitive to operate,” he says. “You don’t have to be a mechanic to drive a Mack. We train our employees in every aspect of the job. It’s nice that we don’t have to spend a lot of time training them on the operation of the truck and can spend that time instead on training that is specific to our business of pumping concrete.”
Craiglow says there’s also been steady development in driver comfort and amenities. “Mack has always been known for rugged durability. They’ve retained that while adding things to keep drivers safe and comfortable throughout the long days our jobs require.” The cab is optimized for single-driver applications. Gauges are clear and easily readable and placed for easy access. Built-in locations for joysticks and other body control devices make operation of the boom and pump simpler and safer. “All of our employees appreciate what’s been done to improve the operator environment,” Craiglow says. “Even our toughest characters.”