By Ron VandenBoom
Efforts by Big Equipment of Havre to find new markets for its high-horsepower Big Bud Tractors appears to be paying off due to the purchase of three of the huge machines by C. R. Fedrick Inc. and the ordering of one additional tractor currently under construction.
C. R. Fedrick Inc. is using the Big Buds to dig trenches and lay fiber optic cable in a 125-mile long trench for AT&T in southern California.
Ron Harmon, owner and manager of Big Equipment, admits the use of Big Bud Tractors for this type of work is a departure from their original intent as agricultural tractors, but believes Big Buds are uniquely suited to do work that requires the kind of horsepower the majors dont have.
Harmon said this project is also unique in that they are using a 665-horsepower tractor that is not only plowing a five-foot trench, but is capable of carrying all of the reels. A special rack has been designed to mount on the front of the tractor that holds two four-foot wide reels of cable. The cable is fed into the trench behind the tractor.
Two Big Bud tractors and two operators are generally used to do the trenching and laying of the cable.
Keith Richardson, a designer of the Big Bud Tractor and engineer with Big Equipment, said that, traditionally, companies had to use four track-type vehicles to do the work of two Big Buds two were used for ripping and two for planting the cable. He estimated the average speed of the tracked vehicles to be about 1/2 mile-per-hour with the speed of the Big Bud being two to three miles-per-hour a pace that is four to six times that of the dozer-type machines.
Another unique feature Richardson points to is the rubber tires on the Big Bud.
Richardson said he spoke to several other contractors while in California and learned that the Big Buds ability to cross a road without ripping up the pavement gave it a distinct advantage over its tracked counterparts that had to be loaded on trailers before they could move on or over a road.
C. R. Fedrick first used the Big Bud tractor in 1998 on a job in Utah, where it extracted old Defense Department communications cable from the ground. There, too, the Big Bud proved itself to be faster and more efficient than traditional tracked vehicles.
This is the first time, however, that it has used the Big Bud to lay fiber optics.
Using our large earthwork tractors to lay fiber optic cable is something that we feel we have a good future in, Harmon said, indicating that 99.9 percent of all vehicles currently in use are tracked and that Big Bud does not even represent one percent of the potential market.
Also unique to the Big Bud, Harmon said, was that they were originally designed to be remanufacturable.
The tractors can weigh as much as 100,000 pounds when fitted with the reals and ripping device, Harmon said. The tractors had to be strengthened in order to accommodate that much weight.
The same was true for some of the outside frame that was modified to be stronger.
Harmon said Big Equipment is investigating the possibility of designing its own ripping device, as well as other functional devices, to better accommodate specific job requirements and the configuration of the Big Bud Tractor.
We think well be doing more of this, Harmon said about the future of Big Equipment.