Quadrozzi Opts For Fleet Rehab Vs. New Trucks

Scheduling changes on one of New York City’s most important projects, the WTC Freedom Tower and Transportation Hub, resulted in the job’s primary ready

Scheduling changes on one of New York City’s most important projects, the WTC Freedom Tower and Transportation Hub, resulted in the job’s primary ready mixed supplier, Quadrozzi Concrete, having some unexpected downtime in the latter half of 2008.

With a drastically increased workload on the horizon and a fleet of 40 mixer trucks custom built between 1980 and 1985, Quadrozzi decided it was time to upgrade. We had to choose between getting new units and refurbishing our old reliable Crane Carrier Corp. [CCC] vehicles, says company President John Quadrozzi Jr. These units÷have been hands-down the most reliable trucks in our 54-year history. Their single I-beam chassis went without so much as a single crack in the 23-28 years of heavy use on the bumpy streets of New York City.

As with many business decisions these days, the choice came down to a comparison between price and value over time. What would be the cost and advantages of purchasing new units versus the cost and advantage of fixing the old CCCs and giving them a few years more service life.

With a top-of-the-line specification unit costing about $170,000 versus a full refurb job Û sandblast to chassis with an Imron paint job, rebuilt engine, rebuilt suspension, new mixer barrel, and assorted other upgrades Û pricing out at $35,000, the choice was made a little easier. Still, many other factors played into the decision.

While it seemed as though the answer was clear, it wasn’t. We were faced with the challenge of reducing the vehicle weight to comply with local weight restrictions, Quadrozzi explains. Our CCC’s were built to last, sturdy and heavy. All the extras were built to last and built heavy. Fenders and their mounting brackets weighed in at more than 400 lb., ladders and platforms weighed in at 225 lb., the mounting brackets for the fuel tank and battery boxes alone weighed more than 100 lb. Consumables like a 400-gal. water tank and a 60-gal. fuel tank were far over the top for a city truck making short hops.

Height was also a concern, since the vehicles frequently would make the journey from Quadrozzi’s Brooklyn plant to lower Manhattan and back via the height-restricted Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

The fleet overhaul process got under way when John Quadrozzi Jr. met with representatives from Kimble Mixer Co. at the 2008 World of Concrete. Shortly after the initial meeting, Kimble staff came to the Quadrozzi plant and offered the company a list of what needed to be replaced and refurbished to get the vehicles where they needed to be. This list included new drums, water tanks, front bumpers, wheels and hubs, among other things.

With the Kimble-supplied parts, Quadrozzi chose to do the rehab work on the first four mixers through a local Bronx OEM vendor. We looked at every nonstructural item on the truck, setting out to change them to aluminum or plastic, says Quadrozzi. The fenders were replaced with plastic Minimizer ones weighing 20 lb. each. All ladders were fabricated in-house out of standard aluminum angle, flat bar and fiberglass step tread weighing 50 lb. Heavy brackets were replaced with redesigned ones at a fraction of the old weight. Our steel water and fuel tanks were replaced with aluminum ones of far less capacity, but still more than ample for the job they needed to perform in the city.

We were on a roll. We replaced starters with newer high-output types, weighing less than half what the older units and requiring only three batteries rather than four. We even removed bumpers and mirror poles and replaced them with aluminum. We ultimately exceeded our target weight reduction of 3,500 lb. and hit 4,000-lbs.

After tackling vehicles’ weight and height challenges, Quadrozzi moved inside the cab. The CCC cabs tended to be hot in the summer, drafty in the winter, and noisy and uncomfortable and bouncy all year round. So, we next focused our attention on driver safety, fatigue and comfort, explains Quadrozzi. We did a full renovation of the interior cab. We found a colored/textured spray on rubberized coating (approximately 3/32-in. thick) and sprayed the entire metal interior. This not only made it look great inside, it reduced noise by 20 percent. We reupholstered as well, but not without adding sound proofing material. This further reduced noise by 10 percent. You can still hear a horn beep, but not much more.

The rear windows were lightly tinted to reduce glare and heat from the sun. New air ride seats with ergonomic lumbar, added to ease back strain.

With the removal of 4,000 lb. primarily from the vehicle’s front end, Quadrozzi eliminated one leaf from the front springs and changed to a higher-quality shock absorber. Finally, the company removed the old front spoke hubs and put new bug lug wheels with aluminum rims and wide flotation tires.

One immediately noticeable change in the Quadrozzi vehicles is the position of the cooling water container, which is now behind the cab.

By changing the extension chutes to lighter-weight aluminum with poly liners, drivers had no more back-breaking chutes to lift. We included smaller innovative changes that one would expect to see on newer mixers such as an inhouse-designed Split Water System, which tee’s off before the water meter for the washdown hose, says Quadrozzi. At the funnel, we mounted a second, 4-ft.-long water hose, which came off the metered barrel water. This ensures that the water used to wash the inner funnel and rear blades, as well as micro adding of water to the mix, is measured and accounted for on the meter. This is especially helpful when making high strength concrete with low water-cement ratios for stringently controlled projects such as the Freedom Tower job.

Also, the driver no longer needs to climb to the funnel holding the ladder in one hand and the hose in the other. Now, he can climb confidently and safely with two hands. We even changed the hoses to bright yellow for improved safety around the truck during washups. Other than the sheer strength of the truck, their safety factor was the primary reason we chose to give them a new life. The improved visibility and maneuverability makes them ideal city trucks.

Two rear work lamps were added, and all lights were changed to LED, thereby reducing power demands on the alternator and cutting down on nuisance maintenance. Quadrozzi expanded right side mirrors to eight inches and put heated units on them to prevent fogging. Front and rear cameras with recorder and rear-camera cab display were installed as well. We even put two-and-a-half-foot numbers on top of the water tanks, so job supers can see what truck is pulling up from the 100th floor, adds Quadrozzi.

One of the biggest changes in all of the vehicles set for refurbishment is the conversion of the engines to bio-diesel fuel. The Cummins water-cooled turbo mechanical engines now operate using fuel derived from local food establishment waste, making Quadrozzi the market’s first to undertake the bio-diesel switch.

With work on the Freedom Tower ramping up considerably since December Û one core has been above grade since October Û and another core pour scheduled for January, the inital four rehabbed trucks, known as the Quad Four, have been our star trucks delivering to the project, says Quadrozzi. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback on them. At one point, the Port Authority requested the [prerefurbished] vehicles not be sent to the proejct. Today, they ask us if we bought new trucks.

Quadrozzi Concrete has now stepped up the pace of the refurbishing effort, scheduling 15-20 more vehicles to go through the process at Kimble’s Ohio plant. The first mixer arrived in early December, and a 30-day turnaround time per unit has been promised by Kimble, meaning the 15 chassis should be completed in the spring. With the economy the way it is, it makes much more sense to spend a third of the money to get 10 more years our of these trucks, asserts Kimble service and sales manager and Gene Deets. We’ve brought in fleets to Ohio from around the country to go through this retrofit program.

Trucks coming back from Kimble will include hand-held chute/barrel/throttle control. Kimble also is making the replacement barrels with their loading/mixing/discharge blade design that forces balls of material through a series of forks ensuring a homogeneous mix.

Quadrozzi will continue to upgrade units in-house as well, with an additional 9-14 more on deck for modernization, upping the total number of refurbished trucks to 35-40. The company’s available fleet will increase from 50 units (including 23 non-CCC vehicles) to 65.

John Quadrozzi is especially proud of the spruced up vehicle’s upgraded paint scheme, which includes logos of New York sporting teams. On the more practical side, a clear coat is placed over the colored paint to seal and protect and keep concrete from sticking to the vehicle. We set out to prove that we could bring new life to these old trucks, he says. I guess anyone could buy a quality truck, but it’s a special thing when you can make it yourself.