Taking the high road

Sept. 17, 2015

Rural Flagler County is where you’ll likely find County Roads and Bridge Department crews clearing silt and grass from ditches along the 224 miles of roadway that they maintain, 91 paved and 133 unpaved. A Cat M318D Wheel Excavator is the machine of choice for the work.

Flounder, mangrove snapper, and a host of other species can be landed at the Flagler Beach Fishing Pier, at least the ones the pelicans don’t snag. Drive west on Florida State Highway 100 a couple of miles past Three Finger Charlie’s Bar and Grill, and potato and cabbage fields replace beaches typically associated with the state.

The two-year-old machine is the second Cat wheeled excavator the department has owned. It is used primarily to clean and regrade ditches to improve drainage. A pipe laser shoots a line to help the excavator hold the grade. “It shoots a level line or a slope line, either positive or negative. We chase the dot down the ditch,” said Billy Dawson, assistant manager of the Road and Bridge Department.

With the wheeled excavator, the variable adjustable boom extends up to 31.5 ft into the ditch to clear materials with a Cat ditch cleaning bucket while the machine stays on the roadway. This is much safer and faster than going into the ditch to complete the work. “With the four hydraulic outriggers, it’s stable,” Dawson said. “It’s real easy to move around the jobsite. You just pick up the outriggers, and go.”

“It can work in tight quarters. It doesn’t take up much room when swinging that boom. It doesn’t stick out into the road very far."

Quick getaway

Driving at a top speed of 23 mph, there’s no need to put the machine on a trailer to transport it to jobsites. “You can drive it anywhere in the county quicker than if you loaded it onto a lowboy, hauled it, and unloaded it,” said Dawson.

The M318D is versatile. “It will do just about every kind of road-edge work, like replacing culverts,” said Dawson “We use it to open up culverts when it’s raining. That’s when we appreciate the enclosed cab.”

The wheeled excavator is used approximately 500 hours annually, and is expected to be part of the department’s fleet for eight to 10 years.

A five-year maintenance agreement with Cat dealer, Ring Power, helps keep uptime high. The agreement covers all parts, except wear items. “If a pump went out right now, they’d replace it for free,” said Dawson. “If the machine is down for a week, they’ll give me another at no charge.”

S•O•S Fluids Sampling is included in the agreement. Fluids are analyzed to prevent any minor problems from escalating. “It keeps us up to speed on machine performance. If they detect a problem, they call me and I schedule the service when it’s convenient,” Dawson said. “When needed, we call Ring Power and someone is here within hours.”

Flagler County Roads and Bridges Department crews do excavation and base construction for road widening, stabilization and rebuilds. Crews also maintain bridges, fight wild fires and do asphalt patching.

The 18-person department includes 17 machine operators. “They know the roads, and they know the people. That helps,” Dawson said.

Flagler County Roads and Bridge Department’s Cat Fleet:

  • Two D6 Dozers
  • D5K Dozer
  • 12M Motor Grader
  • 12H Motor Grader
  • 420E Backhoe Loader
  • 299C Skid Steer Loader
  • 287C Skid Steer Loader
  • Three 950K Wheel Loaders
  • RM500 Road Reclaimer
  • M318D Wheeled Excavator

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