The old saying "If you want something done right, do it yourself" applies in spades to J.L. Storedahl and Sons. The Kelso, Washington-based company hauls aggregates and stone used for road building in southwest Washington.
Storedahl doesn't just deliver rock and stone, though. It operates five quarries, two sand pits and one sand and gravel pit, as well as the rock crushing equipment needed to produce the right grades of aggregate. It is also very hands-on with its fleet, performing its own maintenance and repairs, and even fabricating its own belly dump trailers and truck bodies.
It relies on Mack® trucks to get the product to where it needs to go, in whatever road or weather conditions and always carrying the maximum legal load.
Company vice president Kimball Storedahl expects high performance from his equipment, and his Macks meet those needs. “They’re tough,” Storedahl says. “They have to be tough and durable. I have every expectation that when I buy a new tractor and spec it out, it’s going to pack 105-5 (105.5 thousand pounds) down the road the rest of its life, and the life expectancy here is a minimum of a million miles.
“We cover it all, and we do it all internally. 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 possible.”
J.L. Storedahl and Sons was founded in 1969, beginning as a two-truck fleet hauling building supplies. By 1978, they had shifted to hauling rock products, and today, the third-generation family-owned business is an industry leader in their region. It processes 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 straight truck and pups with lift gates.
They currently run Mack Granite® models spec’d with 13-liter MP8 505 hp engines and Mack Camelback suspensions.
Storedahl took delivery in 2017 of a 605-hp Titan by Mack with a 12-speed Mack mDRIVE™ HD automated manual transmission. The fleet has extensive experience with Allison automatic transmissions and he's eager to see how the mDRIVE HD automated manual transmission works for his fleet. He went to automatic transmissions to ease shock loading on the drivetrain, as well as for driver comfort.
“People have been driving automatics for 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.”
- Kimball Storedahl, vice president
“That’s the first mDRIVE transmission that I’ve bought,” Storedahl says. “I’m curious to see how functional and durable it is. I’ve talked with a lot of people — 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.”
Though Storedahl’s trucks don’t rack up 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 Powerleash engine brake.
“The engine brakes work extremely 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 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 satisfied with the engineering. I have no doubt in my mind that my cabs and hoods are going to operate more than 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.”
Though 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 virtually all maintenance in-house, to the point the company keeps replacement engines in stock, so the trucks can stay on the road while the engines are overhauled.
Even though the fleet is proudly self-sufficient, it does depend on its Mack dealer for support and training. "TEC Equipment has provided Storedahl with outstanding support for over 20 years," says Jim Clarke, new truck sales, Tec Equipment, Portland, Oregon.
"Recognizing Storedahl's in-house capabilities and their need for maximum vehicle uptime, TEC has provided their technicians with the latest Mack training, and provides mobile roadside service. Their knowledge of their operations and equipment makes it a pleasure to work with them."
- Jim Clarke, new truck sales, Tec Equipment
Storedahl wants to have the exactly right truck with the right body and spec for each particular application. “We need a lot of different configurations. We have truck and pups that run aluminum bodies, lightweight, high net payload for smaller processed aggregates. We’ve got truck and pups that run heavy-duty steel bodies with lift gates on them, so on and so forth, for hauling boulders, up to four-foot boulders, they haul everything else at the same time also. Then we’ve got belly dumps, double belly dumps that we build and manufacture ourselves.
"We also own a fabrication and paint business that we use as part of our maintenance facility, fabrication of truck bodies, belly dumps, those types of things. We build our own stuff. And at the same time, in our heavy equipment side of it, we maintain all of our own heavy equipment, we build all of our own crushing units, mount all of our own crushing equipment. We’re very independent, let me put it that way.
“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.”
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 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.”