Construction fleet benefits from Mack MD's productivity and uptime
When you see a yellow gold Mack® MD service truck with a shamrock green tank rolling down a North Carolina highway—with the name Sullivan framed on a shamrock background—you might assume "the luck of the Irish" is involved. You wouldn’t be wrong.
“Shamrock blood runs green, but in our family, it’s also mixed with diesel,” says Scott Sullivan, vice president of Morrisville, North Carolina-based Sullivan Eastern, Inc. He handles the logistics and maintenance operations for the construction firm specializing in turnkey site development, roadways and utilities in the booming Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
The company was founded in 1933 when Scott’s grandfather, JJ Sullivan, started a small construction business in central Minnesota before eventually moving it to North Carolina. Sullivan Eastern’s key family leaders, in addition to Scott, include Tom Sullivan, company president and Jeff Sullivan, secretary treasurer. The business is now in its third generation of family ownership and remains a close-knit family-run operation.
The family members who work at Sullivan Eastern include Scott’s brother and parents. His father, Tom Sullivan, is company president. The family embodies a strong, hands-on work ethic with an emphasis on safety and customer service.
Scott started out in the company as an equipment operator and then later became a driver. Because of his experience, he knows the equipment inside and out and makes purchasing decisions based on both profit and productivity. He says the fleet does most of its maintenance in-house and can’t afford costly downtime.
“We were able to increase productivity because the new truck can maneuver around rugged terrain more efficiently. That’s a dramatic savings.”— Scott Sullivan, vice president of Sullivan Eastern, Inc.
“Uptime is our most crucial factor to profitability,” he says about their primarily Mack fleet. Some trucks have put in long years of reliable service, while others are recent additions. There are nearly a dozen with gold Bulldogs on the hoods, representing an all-Mack powertrain with the Mack MPÒ engine, Mack transmission and Mack rear axles. He credits his local dealership, Transource, for help spec'ing the trucks and Mack Financial Services for financing.
Their latest purchase, a 2022 Mack MD7, has exceeded expectations. The MD was equipped with a fleet service body, including an 800-gallon diesel tank and tanks for another 600 gallons of different lubes and hydraulic fluid along with pumps and hoses to refuel and service nearly 300 pieces of equipment on various construction sites.
The MD's tight turning radius and enhanced driver visibility makes a big difference on the smaller construction sites common today. “We were able to increase productivity because the new truck can maneuver around rugged terrain more efficiently. That’s a dramatic savings,” he says.
The 2022 MD replaced a 1999 Mack RD model, and Scott says it’s been a remarkable addition to their operation. “One of the things we love about the MD is that we have not had any downtime since we bought it. The truck has been 100% reliable so far. No downtime and increased efficiencies made a huge impact,” he says. In fact, the increase in productivity and profitability was so significant, he ordered another MD flatbed and plans to keep adding new Mack trucks to the fleet.
Driver reaction to the Mack MD sealed the deal for Scott. Frank Boykin, one of Sullivan Eastern’s top drivers, gave the new truck an enthusiastic thumbs up after the first trip.
“[Frank] excels in work ethic, productivity, and professionalism. It would be great to find a dozen Franks. That’s why I put a lot of stock in his reaction,” Scott says.
Frank, who has been with Sullivan Eastern since September 2021, was impressed with the comfortable ride and quiet, ergonomic interior with its power steering, tilt steering column and automatic transmission. He said he likes the air suspension driver’s seat and large, easy-to-reach controls. He also commented on the truck’s power and maneuverability and said the learning curve for operating the truck was easy.
As the jobsites have gotten smaller and tighter, Frank is able to get around the jobs faster thanks to the automatic transmission, tighter turning radius and great visibility with the truck’s sloped hood and windshield.
He says he appreciates the safety features such as the sharp wheel cut for optimal maneuverability in tough-to-navigate worksite settings, oversized mirrors, and backup cameras for safe backing up and turning tight corners.
“When Frank told me the comfort, durability and safety features make him look forward to coming to work every day, it meant a lot. Our company’s 24/7 focus on safety is a top priority, and we want everyone to get home safely,” Scott says.
As they phase out their older trucks, Scott says he expects to see significant growth and increased productivity from the new equipment.
The new Mack equipment is also a rolling billboard for driver recruiting and retention. “We are known as a family-friendly company and offer competitive pay and benefit packages. But when you have drivers raving about the new, comfortable, safe equipment, it helps attract a higher quality driver. That’s not that easy to come by these days,” he says.
For younger drivers, equipment with automatic transmission gets them up to speed faster and more safely. Even veteran drivers like Frank prefer the quiet, smooth ride over the old equipment.
Taking care of business
Scott says the health of the company depends on having enough skilled forces to be able to handle the complex predevelopment projects. The company handles everything to do with site preparation and touches almost all parts of the construction site. “We're usually the first ones in and just about the last ones to leave once the buildings are completed. The last thing we do is return and remove the erosion control measures we initially installed,” he says.
Scott says that as an influx of people continues to move to the North Carolina Piedmont Triangle area, the outlook is strong for new business opportunities. Growth is driven by the diverse location with its international airport, universities and teaching hospitals, all contributing to an increased need for Sullivan Eastern’s services in preparing sites for new business construction. As the second and third generation of Sullivans continue their commitment to operating well-maintained, innovative and up-to-date equipment, they expect to carry on through the next generation.
Their company philosophy: “Don’t try to be the biggest, try to be the best,” reflects their mission to build quality projects safely, within budget and on schedule for their clients.
“Operating new, state-of-the art Mack trucks helps our clients achieve their profit, safety, and efficiency goals,” Scott says.