November 2016 No. 71 Vol. 11


Amarillo Utility Contractors: Changing Times Bring Opportunities

Amarillo, TX, is known for petroleum, beef and helium. But water could be this Western Panhandle city’s most valuable commodity. It is for Monte Taylor, president of Amarillo Utility Contractors, whose company places more than 2 million feet of water and sewer pipe each year.

Amarillo sits in the crosshairs of Routes 40 and 287, and is a way point between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City. The area is rich in cowboy culture and mementos of its Route 66 heyday, best symbolized by the Cadillac Ranch planted just west of the city.
It is semi-desert country, where the lazy clouds drop less than 20 inches of rain each year and temperatures peak at 111 degrees. Prolonged drought shriveled the primary Ogallala aquifer. Lake Meredith and the Canadian River that supply Amarillo’s 190,000 residents have likewise dipped too low to siphon water.

As a conservation effort, the city recycles effluent and sells back more than 4 billion gallons per year to regional electric utilities as cooling water for generators. Most recently, the Potter County Wellfield was drilled to help sustain residential and commercial growth.

Over 1,000 miles of wastewater lines and 130 miles of stormwater drainage snake below the city. Most of the water and sewer mains date to the 1950s and are made of clay that can crack and leak with age.

Digging deeper

The city’s ongoing investment in infrastructure improvements is a boom for Amarillo Utility Contractors. “When I started the company in 1999, our projects were relatively small and shallow. Over time we’ve taken on more challenging projects. Today the average size of pipe we lay is 12-inch water and 8-inch sewer line at a depth of between 10 and 26 feet,” Taylor said. “On the extreme side, we just completed a project for the city of Amarillo to replace 17,000 feet of 30-inch sewer main that was 36 feet deep, to serve future expansion west of town.”

It was a job that put his crew and his equipment to the test. With an aggressive eight-month timeline and liquidated damages of $1,000 for each day beyond that, timely completion of the project was essential to protecting the company’s profits. Potentially standing in the way of success was a challenge beyond Taylor’s control – weather.

“We typically get about 17 inches of rain annually; last year we got 50,” said Taylor. “We had to do a lot more dewatering than we had planned for, but in the end, we were able to get the job done nine days before the Dec. 31 deadline. And we did it without bringing in any subcontractors and only renting one additional track hoe.”

With a lean fleet of 13 machines, equipment right-sizing and uptime is critical to containing costs and hitting deadlines. “Our excavators clock around 2,000 hours per year,” he said. In the past, Taylor stayed in the midsize range. But it was time for a fleet upgrade with deeper trench depths and a hefty workload on the horizon.

“We reached the point with our older excavators where they were racking up the hours, and it was time to update. We initially looked at three manufacturers,” Taylor explained.

Angling for the competitive edge, Taylor was curious about the Volvo rotating pipe layer. Greg McGibboney, Northern Territory manager for Volvo dealer ASCO Equipment, brought Taylor to the Volvo factory in Shippensburg, PA, for the Volvo Days customer event to demo a pipe layer and get hands-on operation of the entire product lineup. In the end the pipe layer, which converts to a standard excavator, did not give Taylor the digging depth he needed. But another machine squarely fit the bill.

“This EC350E crawler excavator is the right size for 95 percent of all projects,” Taylor said. The 35-ton EC350 has a maximum dig depth of 25 feet and a 303 horsepower Volvo Tier 4 final engine.

The sure thing

“What drove me to Volvo first was the price, and then I called in the local dealer principals from ASCO Equipment and wanted assurance they could service and support the excavators. Not only did I get that assurance, but they’ve provided stellar support, not only for the Volvo machines, but also for equipment we own from other manufacturers,” he emphasized.

What really hurt Taylor in the past wasn’t just the cost of repairs on the older equipment; it was also the resulting downtime on projects. ASCO’s wrap-around maintenance for Taylor’s entire fleet gives him peace of mind that he made the right decision.
ASCO’s guarantees won Taylor’s vote and the deal for three EC350E crawler excavators. These machines represent a fleet upsizing to match the deeper trenching and larger pipe requirements of city projects. On a good day the EC350E can trench, place and backfill 1,800 feet of pipe.

Taylor’s crew modified the bucket’s attachment bracket link to further boost productivity.

“One issue we had was that we weren’t able to trim a vertical wall more than five feet deep due to bucket over-curl,” observed Mike Nail, superintendent for Amarillo Utility Contractors. “To get the additional depth, we used a customized bucket with the Volvo quick attachment coupler. This small change opened the bucket up to gain substantially more vertical dig depth. We can now go 23-24 feet vertically and dig within 15 feet of the machine without compromising trench stability, so we move the excavator less. On our current sewer main job, we reduced excavation time from six to two hours,” he said.

The Volvo excavators have also proved to be more operator-friendly machines with easier and faster daily maintenance, noted Nail.

Living the brand

Taylor is a vocal brand ambassador, both for his equipment and matters a little closer to his heart. Step into his office and you are surrounded with Indian motorcycle memorabilia, a legendary America manufacturer that is experiencing a revival. Taylor is quick to talk of his Springfield and the road trips he takes with his wife. His second passion is also in the open air at 15,000 feet high. A seasoned pilot, Taylor hangars his Piper Malibu at nearby Amarillo International Airport, just a few minutes’ drive from his office and home.

Step onto his job sites, and boldly placed alongside the Amarillo Utility Contractor logos are verses from the Bible, hand-selected by Taylor.

“We run our company on Christian values. Not only do they drive my decisions, but I hope they impact others in a positive way. We treat all of our customers with honesty and integrity and fair pricing. So far that has given us a lot of success; not just monetarily, but in every aspect of our lives,” he said.

Amarillo Utility Contractors, (806) 342-0255
Volvo, (717) 532-9181,

From Archive


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}