By Carmen K. Sisson | Randall-Reilly Publishing/Mack Trucks
KELSO, Washington — It takes a tough truck to handle the punishing requirements of aggregate transport, but one Washington-based company has found a reliable partner in the Mack Titan.
J.L. Storedahl and Sons was founded in 1969 in Kelso, Wash., beginning as a two-truck fleet hauling building supplies. By 1978, they had shifted to hauling rock products, and today, they are an industry leader in southwest Washington.
Storedahl, a third-generation, family-owned business, specializes in sand and gravel aggregate, working out of five operating rock quarries, two sand pits and one sand and gravel pit. Today, their 35-truck sand and gravel fleet is running strong, powered by heavy spec’d Titans. They process everything from sand to riprap, routinely handling boulders as large as four feet in diameter.
The variety of aggregate requires numerous configurations, from lightweight pup and truck combos for small aggregates to heavy-duty pup and trucks with lift gates. They also manufacture and use belly dumps and double belly dumps, and they build their own crushing units.
“We cover it all, and we do it all internally,” says company vice president Kimball Storedahl. “A lot of the specifications — suspension, rear ends, transmissions, those types of things — are spec’d out closely, trying to keep as much commonality as humanly possible because we maintain our own parts inventories. Basically, bumper to bumper, we try to be as self-supportive as humanly possible.”
They are currently using Mack Titans spec’d with 13-liter MP8 405-hp engines with Allison automatic transmissions and Mack camelback suspensions.
Storedahl expects high performance from his equipment, and the Titans meet those needs.
“They’re tough,” Storedahl says. “They have to be tough. They have to be durable. I have every expectation that when I buy a new tractor and spec it out, it’s going to pack 105-5 down the rod the rest of its life, and the life expectancy here is a minimum of a million miles.”
Storedahl likes the automatic transmission for its ability to ease the shock load of the drivetrain as well as easing the demands placed on drivers.
“People have been driving automatics doe so many years now that if you stick them in a truck with an 18-speed manual transmission and expect them to go out and do the type of work that we do every day, you will have premature drivetrain failures. I went to the Allison automatics to try to eliminate that, and it has helped tremendously.”
Storedahl recently purchased a 605-hp Titan with a 12-speed Mack mDRIVE automated manual transmission, and he is eager to see how it performs.
“That’s the first mDRIVE transmission that I’ve bought,” Storedahl says. “I’m curious to see how functional it is and how durable it is. I’ve talked with a lot of people that run Allison transmissions — a lot of them in the garbage business and some of the most abusive applications out there — and when I got good reports back out of them, I was more than willing to try it.”
Although Storedahl’s trucks do not see high mileage — their pits are all within a 50-mile radius — they do face extreme conditions. Most of the pits are based on hilltops, and the heavy loads require strong, reliable brakes as they make their way down the steep grades on and off highway. He has high praise for Mack’s new engine brakes available on the MP7, MP8 and MP10.
“The engine brakes work very, very well,” Storedahl says. “I’m impressed with the holding power that they’ve got. They’ve come a long way in the last 15 years. I’ve never been around an engine brake that works better than the new MP-series engines.”
He also likes the durability of the Mack cab and frames.
“I’ve had very little incident with any type of frame failure,” he says. “Zero frame problems or issues. None whatsoever. I’m pretty satisfied with the engineering. I have no doubt in my mind that my cabs and hoods are going to live in excess of a million miles and I’m not going to have any structural failures, as long as we don’t run into something. The Mack cab is probably the toughest cab I’ve ever been around. Damn good cabs. There’s a lot of reasons why you do as little maintenance on a Mack cab as you do — it’s because they’re built double tough from the ground up.”
Although emissions regulations have presented some challenges, Storedahl appreciates their effectiveness.
“The emissions are getting cleaner,” he notes. “I can’t believe how clean the exhaust stacks are now. It’s like there’s no soot anymore. They stay clean.”
He saves money by performing maintenance in-house.
“If we’ve got an engine problem, we take care of it,” he says. “We have maintained our equipment bumper-to-bumper for years. The money that we save doing that maintenance in-house is a profit center at the end of the year. We’re not afraid of the maintenance side of it, but the maintenance side is becoming more and more challenging.”
Another area he saves money is in driver recruitment and training. Finding qualified employees, from drivers to mechanics, is a constant challenge. But even his “old-school” drivers like the automatic Macks.
“Once they drive them, they absolutely love them,” Storedahl says. “They come home at the end of the day with a smile on their face. They’re not all wrung out. They’re not stressed. They aren’t tired. They’re in a totally different frame of mind. I think it’s going to be the same way with the mDRIVE transmissions. I think the drivers are going to like them.”