Chronic neck pain finally took its toll on Todd Sharp. Following an MRI, medical experts warned of damage so severe that without surgery, even a minor car accident would leave him paralyzed. Discomfort was a constant companion. By 2015, a pre-op team prepped Todd for surgery to fuse the T3 through T7 vertebrae in his cervical spine.
Todd gave himself an ultimatum – if he wanted to keep himself and Sharp Excavating alive, he had to protect his neck on a daily basis. It became his mission to find the smoothest and most comfortable ride in the compact equipment market.
“Comfort was the whole point – period,” Todd says. “I sat on the other manufacturer’s loader for about a half hour, and that was all I could handle. I loved running the Bobcat T650 loader. It was a soft ride, and it was backed up with plenty of horsepower and torque. It’s a powerhouse and can really move the dirt. I treat my loader like gold, but when it goes to work, I run it as hard and fast as it can go.”
Cutting the Wait Time
Todd started Sharp Excavating in 2004 with a list of residential excavating services. After the 2008 recession, he made a successful transition into commercial work, specializing in utility installation site prep, including trenching, backfilling and finish grading for parking lot construction. Based in Riverton, Utah, Todd covers a territory that stretches from Utah County, south of Salt Lake City, to as far north as Davis County.
Operator comfort was paramount on the construction site of a national shipping company’s new truck transfer station. Todd was responsible for preparing a rough, 65-acre site on the outskirts of Salt Lake City for a 5-mile web of underground power cable.
Todd used a tandem of his T650 and an E42 compact excavator in a rapid assembly-line fashion with a utility crew. The E42 bucket cut 2-feet-wide trenches through a sub-grade mix of soil and crushed concrete down to depths of 18 to 24 inches.
“I don’t want people waiting on me,” Todd says. “When I’m trenching this fast, I want to get as far as I can for a scoop, and the E42 has great reach. It gets way the heck out there, and that means fewer cuts.”
As the electrical cable was installed, he moved the excavator back to the start of the trench to backfill.
To complete the final 6 to 8 inches of the trench, Todd used the T650’s smooth-edge bucket to dump a sub-base mix of gravel and compact the trench.
Cushioning the Long Haul
To increase jobsite safety and decrease the risk of theft, Todd stores supplies the distance of three football fields away from the actual installations. When it’s time to change buckets or haul accessories, Todd often drives his 2-Speed loader at its top transport rate of 10 miles per hour over the desert floor to quickly cover the distance. At those speeds, he benefits from his loader’s automatic ride control feature.
“It’s a soft ride,” Todd says. “I can haul butt as I’m traveling across a jobsite, and when I start hitting bumps, it cushions the boom so the machine is not hopping and beating up on me. There’s less fatigue on the operator.”
He also credits the machine’s optional air ride seat and the seat-mounted Selectable Joystick Controls (SJC) that move with his body for more comfort and less arm movement.
“I’m very comfortable in this machine,” Todd says. “I can get such a fine adjustment with the air suspension seat. It seems to float, and that’s very helpful on this big jobsite. And using SJC is what I’m used to, so it’s absolute comfort.”
Keeping the Sound Down
Additional comfort features on the M2-Series loaders won Todd over, starting with the larger door.
“The door opens all the way, and that’s nice when you’re six-foot-one with long arms,” Todd says. “When I sit down in that cab, I can pull the seat all the way forward, and I’m just as comfortable.”
Once he closes the door, his work quiets down. Larger cab isolators and improved door seals hush outside sounds for a quieter ride. The benefits are especially appealing to a sole proprietor who can’t afford to miss key phone calls that can lock in the next project.
“I’m 50 years old, and I’ve heard enough noise in my lifetime,” Todd says. “The cab is extremely quiet, and I can continue to work and take phone calls.”
A redesign of the top window improves visibility by more than 30 percent, so Todd no longer has to crane his neck forward when loading high-sided trucks.
“When I start my machine up, I get a smile on my face,” Todd says. “Some people are stuck in a place that they don’t want to be. I’m not getting rich doing this, but I love it and I make a comfortable living.”
Check out this blog post to learn how other business owners have overcome injuries with the right equipment and machine features.