McCoy Grading Inc.

When working on far-flung highway grading and site preparation projects, not having to start and end each day at the office or yard is a real benefit for employees and the company. Internet connections through cell phone towers, laptop computers for employees and special software platforms enable McCoy Grading Inc. to monitor its jobs as if its managers were onsite.

“Everything is done electronically – the timecard, daily production, notes and everything,” Vice President Jean McCoy points out. “It allows employees to upload their timesheets and information to an FTP site, download and review and approval is completed in the office.” This allows President Darrell McCoy, Jean McCoy and other managers to know the next day whether a job is doing well or poorly instead of waiting for the financial reports to be completed. The software also allows accurate bid preparation because costs are tracked.

McCoy Grading Inc. uses GPS technology in its bulldozers and grading equipment to reduce onsite staking. “The GPS will tell them where they’re located and if they need to cut or fill,” McCoy notes. It allows equipment to increase production by 25 percent and exceed tolerances of 1/8 inch within 10 feet of straight edge.

“It tells them when to raise and lower the blade,” Darrell McCoy explains. “It’s fully automated. When you set the grader down, you swap the machine over to the automatic operation. The operator then just steers the machine, and as long as you stay within 2 inches above or below of grade, it will run itself.” If tolerances exceed 2 inches, the operator must return the equipment to that spot manually and redo that section. “The purpose is to handle material only once,” he says.

“It’s an expensive investment, but it will pay off for us eventually,” Jean McCoy maintains. “There are some specifications that require that you use GPS to final grade on some roadways.” Using these GPS systems requires a highly skilled employee in the office to map out each job using manual calculations. “Not just anybody can do that,” she points out. “It takes a lot of checking, double-checking and fact-checking before you send that file out.”

Making the Grade

McCoy Grading Inc. owns approximately 65 pieces of heavy equipment and a fleet of 16 pickup trucks, three dump trucks, two field trucks, three low-boy trucks and three field service mechanics trucks. These keep overhead costs higher than those of some of the newer companies who may just be renting their equipment and bidding too low on jobs. 

“A lot of companies are bidding site work,” McCoy reports. “That is keeping margins low because a lot don’t really know what’s involved in doing commercial sites. They’ve done residential, and then they move over to commercial, and they don’t know the whole scope, so sometimes they’re way underbidding. We’re seeing a lot of cities and counties go to bidder prequalification, and that weeds out some people who don’t have the capacity to do jobs who are just bidding for cash flow. But most of the time, the low bidder gets the job.”

ARRA Influential

Three recent McCoy Grading highway projects had some portion of their cost paid for by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They were:

  • Three miles of two-lane highway in Terrell County, Ga., near Dawson, completed for $3.3 million in March 2011. A portion of the existing asphalt was retained and widened to remove some steep curves. McCoy Grading used three subcontractors for painting, striping and signs.
  • A $16 million project converting 8.1 miles of two-lane road from Eatonton to Milledgeville in Putnam County, Ga., to a divided four-lane highway. Started in April 2010, the project is due for completion at the end of March 2012.
  • A $6.9 million project expanding three miles of two-lane highway to three lanes in Butts County near Jackson. The project also is moving the highway 12 feet further away from a railroad track it parallels. Started in April 2010, this project is due for completion in February 2012.
Private to Public

McCoy Grading Inc. was founded in 1986 by Darrell McCoy and his brother Jeff, whose half of the company was bought by Darrell and Jean McCoy in 2007 when Jeff left the partnership. Darrell and Jean’s son Daniel now is vice president of operations and their daughter, Crystal Jones, is working with Jean on the financial and compliance side of the company. Jeff now is running his own smaller construction company and does mostly private work.

McCoy Grading Inc. moved from ponds and the residential work such as septic tank installation it had performed since it was founded to commercial work in 1992 when the residential market slowed. Then around 2000, when the commercial market started slowing, the company moved about 60 percent of its business to state and municipal work and the rest commercial. Since 2008, state and municipal work is nearly 90 percent of the business and commercial the rest, most of it within the southern half of Georgia south of I-20.

“We were like 25 when we got into the business,” McCoy says. “Darrell built a pond for a guy and liked it, and it grew from there. We didn’t have a lot of experience – we were both just publicly employed and didn’t really want to depend on someone else for our livelihood. We were trying to control our own destiny.”

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