Working a night shift is a relatively foreign concept for many. But for construction crews, nighttime is often prime time – or sometimes the only time – for highway work. When it comes to major roadways, night work is critical in order to minimize the interruption to traffic.
Being part of the construction industry for more than 20 years, Joe McLoughlin, owner of J McLoughlin Engineering, Inc. has worked more than his fair share of night shifts on large highway-paving jobs. His company works almost exclusively for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
“We work solely in the state of California,” McLoughlin said. “I’d say upwards of 99 percent of our projects are for Caltrans.”
Since starting his own company in 1991, McLoughlin has experienced growth and success. To what does he attribute his success? The two critical components of his team: hardworking employees and superior equipment. Without either, McLoughlin recognizes his success would be dim.
To ensure his success, McLoughlin sets high standards for employee recruitment, only hiring employees that demonstrate dedication, drive and knowledge of the industry. Though not a living breathing part of his team, equipment is also a critical element for his success. That is why he’s also applied similarly stringent standards to his equipment purchase decisions.
When it comes to equipment, the chance of error or downtime is greatly eliminated once you’ve found a line that consistently meets the desired standards. That’s precisely why observers will see an ever-expanding line of yellow in McLoughlins fleet. He’s found success with the E-Z Drill Line of concrete drills. For more than 10 years, the drills have helped J McLoughlin tackle projects of all sizes and make a name for itself as a trusted, leading company in highway and interstate repair work. And there’s plenty of room in the state for a company specializing in this type of work.
With California being the country’s most populous state, it’s no surprise that its roadways take a beating. Because of this, a great deal of repaving and repair work is necessary in order to keep the roads safe and traffic flowing. Last fall, Interstate 210 from Pasadena to Glendora was designated as a stretch in need of a major overhaul. And it’s no wonder why – with interstate 210 from Pasadena to Glendora averaging an annual daily traffic count of 301,000 vehicles. A large segment of the concrete was old and damaged – and unsafe for motorists. Caltrans wasted no time, and opened the job to bids in October of 2010.
The $45 million contract was awarded to J McLoughlin in December. The project estimate called for the replacement of a 22-mile section on Interstate 210. McLoughlin was confident he and his crew could handle the project. After all, the company averages between 10 to 20 projects per year, with the overall size and cost being right on par with the Interstate 210 job. The 50-person J McLoughlin crew began work in March of 2011 and was tasked with completion in 140 working days.
A tight timeline no doubt, but there was one more kicker: The work could only be done at night. The nighttime working hours for a construction crew vary by project, but in this case, it meant working from roughly 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. This would be a demanding job already, as the size and scope was certainly no small task, but the strict timeline set by Caltrans meant the crew had to be especially diligent in working as efficiently as possible.
“We consider ourselves to be nocturnal because almost all of our work is done at night,” McLoughlin said. “So that really wasn’t a major issue for us. What was really going to make this job a challenge was the strict time limit. You figure there’s 20 working days in a month, which gave us 7 total months. That comes out to around $6 million worth of work a month. That’s extremely fast!”
Like most repaving jobs, the work was to be done mostly in sections or “patches” located at various locations along the stretch. The patching work started by cutting out a designated section using a concrete saw. A breaker was then used to break up the concrete within the patch area and the broken concrete was excavated. Finally, the crew brought in its concrete drills from E-Z Drill to drill holes where the dowel bars would be placed. After the bars were set and epoxied in, each patch was completed with a fresh pour of concrete.
For this project, J McLoughlin looked to its fleet of E-Z Drill slab rider drills. The crew used a total of eight drills in varying gang sizes. The primary drill used was the Model 210B-2 SRA, a two-gang slab rider unit. J McLoughlin ran four of these units at all times, while also utilizing two each of the 210-3 and 210-4 slab riders to accommodate various patch sizes and hole requirements.
“In that 22 mile stretch there were about 10,000 patches, which equates to nearly 200,000 total holes,” McLoughlin said. “That’s quite a bit of work. Then add in the fact that the patches could be different sizes and require a varying number of holes, and it got a bit more complex.”
The large number and variety of E-Z drills in the crew’s fleet was hugely beneficial, allowing them to drill more holes and work multiple units at any given time to maximize their output and keep pace with the strict deadline.
Adding another element to the already-demanding project was the looming threat of penalty fines that J McLoughlin would incur if it didn’t meet the completion date.
“We’re looking at a $41,000 fine if we don’t finish on time,” McLoughlin said. “And that’s not just a one-time fee. That’s $41,000 each day we go past the completion date.”
Even one broken or faulty piece of equipment could be a major setback in terms of completing the project on time. To set itself up for a penalty-free job, McLoughlin actually ordered additional drills from E-Z Drill — more than were required for the project. That way, if a drill broke down there was an extra that could be brought on and ready to go.
“We knew even a temporary shutdown to our operation could be detrimental,” McLoughlin said. Even though experience told him there was no need to worry about the E-Z Drill units lasting for the long haul, he decided it was worth the peace of mind to have the backup.
“It’s like having insurance,” he continued. “You hope you never have to use it, but you still have it just in case.” According to McLoughlin, ”We haven’t yet had to use the extra drills because not one of the E-Z drills has broke down.”
In addition to drilling speed, accuracy was equally as crucial throughout the job. Holes had to be drilled precisely as per the spec from Caltrans. No problem for McLoughlin’s crew.
“That’s another thing I’ve found with E-Z Drill,” he said. “We can always count on the accuracy. It’s pin-point every time.”
Because of their proven record for successfully tackling demanding job environments, and meeting even harsher deadlines, E-Z Drill units have been a part of the McLoughlin’s equipment fleet for more than 10 years.
“I continue to work with E-Z Drill equipment, primarily because of the reliability factor,” McLoughlin said. “The machines are strong, easy to maintain and continue to perform the work efficiently and above expectations. Just can’t ask for anything more on the jobsite.”
But it isn’t just the machines that perform above expectations – the company does as well. McLoughlin says the customer service offered from E-Z Drill is always a cut above, which is another reason he has been a loyal E-Z Drill customer since 2001. A testament to this goes back to the days when J McLoughlin purchased its first drills. To ensure the crew’s success operating the drills, E-Z Drill sent out a company representative to train crewmembers on the specifics of operating each unit for maximum efficiency.
“Because we were already investing the money to purchase the drills, it was just good common sense to have the E-Z Drill representative come do training for the crew,” McLoughlin said. “It was definitely worthwhile. E-Z Drill has a great training program for getting crews familiar with the drills and using them as productively as possible. I was impressed by the whole process.”
Accounting for rain days and holidays, the project contract expired on Jan. 20 of 2012. Armed with proper training, reliable drills and a hardworking crew, J McLoughlin had no trouble finishing the project on time. With this project complete, McLoughlin and company continues on, doing what it does best – working faster than the speed of night to ensure motorists on California’s highway and freeway systems stay safe and get where they need to go.
To avoid any interruption to daytime traffic on the busy California interstate, the J McLoughlin crew had to work exclusively at night.
J McLoughlin was able to complete the 22-mile Interstate 210 job on deadline with help from a team of subcontractors and E-Z Drill equipment.
Like most repaving jobs, the work was done in sections or “patches.”
After the old and damaged concrete was removed, E-Z Drill’s slab rider units were used to drill holes for dowel bar placement followed by a fresh pour of concrete.