Rock to Road

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The owner of this Quebec sand and gravel operation is not afraid of a good challenge


December 13, 2011
By Bill Tice


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Brent Craig knew from a very young age that he wanted to have a career in the sand and gravel business.

Brent Craig knew from a very young age that he wanted to have a career in the sand and gravel business. It was a natural fit for the entrepreneurial business operator, who today operates Les Entreprises B.L.C. in the Quebec City suburb of Stoneham.

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Brent Craig with his Stoneham, Que., sand and gravel pit in the background.


 

“I grew up on this property,” he says, referring to the 60-hectare (150-acre) site his fleet of equipment is currently working on. “My father owned the property and my uncle sold sand from it, so there was always some equipment around when I was a kid. It was generally fairly small volumes, but then we sold some sand to a large operation and they came in with their own fleet of loaders and trucks, and that was the point when I decided this is what I wanted to do.”

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Except for working at the local ski hill when he was in his late teens and early 20s, Craig says he has never done any other type of work. I got my start working here in the summers and doing some snow removal in the winter with a loader, “ he explains. He started to run his own operation on the property in 2003 when he picked up a Darch trommel screener. The following year, he bought his first dump truck, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Today, with his fleet of 10 mainly Peterbilt (he also runs two Kenworth and one Sterling) trucks, he sells and delivers sand and gravel for the local construction and roadbuilding businesses, and topsoil for the landscaping business. He also sells large decorative rock for landscaping and two of his trucks are “roll-off” trucks used for a rubbish removal service for contractors. In addition, he rents his dump trucks to contractors as needed and does snow removal work.

Sand and Gravel
Although Craig has diversified, the bulk of the business is still sand and gravel and that is reflected in his equipment. B.L.C. Entreprises is a big McCloskey user and the company has five pieces of the green and yellow McCloskey iron on site, which Craig sourced through McCloskey’s Laval, Que.-based dealer, Les Équipements Ault. That includes two 80-foot hydraulic radial stackers, two 512 trommel screeners and an R155 screener. “We bought the R155 because we knew that we needed to buy a jaw crusher, which we picked up this past spring,” notes Craig. “The R155 is positioned after the crusher and scalps the unwanted Class B material.”

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A McCloskey R155 at Les Entreprises B.L.C. in the Quebec City suburb of Stoneham.


 

The jaw crusher that sits before the McCloskey R155 is the latest piece of equipment acquired by Les Entreprises B.L.C. and is a Terex Cedarapids 3242 model. It is also used for recycling granite that the company picks up following blasting at local road construction sites. “We have a lot of granite in this area and anytime there is blasting, we will go out and pick up the rock and bring it back here for processing,” Craig explains. “We recently picked up 50,000 tonnes of granite from the construction on the highway going to Chicoutimi. We have always recycled rock as part of the business, but we used to rent a machine when we needed it. Now, we have enough volume that we were able to justify buying the jaw crusher.”

Craig adds that the jaw crusher is his primary crusher but he plans to acquire a secondary crusher next year, which will be a cone crusher. “Right now we subcontract that out and it is done with a Rubble Master RM100,” he says.

Moving Product
For moving product around the site, Les Entreprises B.L.C. uses primarily Volvo equipment. They do have some older equipment from other manufacturers, but they made the switch to Volvo in 2006 when they bought a Volvo L110 loader. They now have four of the L110s, including a 2012 model they recently purchased. “The Volvos have been working well for us so we didn’t see any need to try anything else,” Craig explains. “They are well equipped in terms of electronics, including back-up cameras for safety, and they are very fuel efficient machines.”

The company also has a Volvo 160 track excavator, which Craig says is their jack of all trades as it has numerous duties around the site. The 160 can also handle any rocks that are too large for the crusher. “We set these aside and sell them as decorative stone and for retaining walls,” Craig adds.

At their current site, Craig estimates the company has enough resources to last “at least 20 years.” He also says they have purchased 150 acres of suitable land in the area for future development.

Booming Business
For now, Quebec’s booming roadbuilding business is keeping Les Entreprises B.L.C. busy, and one of the company’s main products is MG-112, which is a 112-millimetre crushed rock specified by the Quebec Department of Transportation in its roadbuilding activities. Craig says another main product for them is CG-14, which is a 14-millimetre product used around pipes. He says the local roadbuilding boom is also helping him keep his trucks busy as they can do work for paving companies. “That will slow down a bit in the winter, but we pick up snow removal work and sanding and salting contracts in the area,” he adds. “We just received our first contract for this winter from the city of Quebec, which includes taking care of 60 kilometres of road.”

On the residential construction side, Craig says the local Stoneham area has seen a lot of growth over the past few years, with an average of 100 new homes being built every year since 2004. “That has given us quite a bit of work in terms of subdivision roads, local infrastructure projects, crushed stone for driveways and drainage systems, and top soil and decorative rocks for landscaping,” he explains. “However, things have slowed down on the residential side and we are noticing it.”

This year, Les Entreprises B.L.C. peaked at 18 employees. Craig says in the past they have reduced the workforce during the slower winter months, but he says they should be able to keep everyone working through this winter because of the snow removal contracts. “Of course, that is dependent on the amount of snow we get, but it’s better for us if we can keep everyone on over the winter as it means we don’t have to recruit and rehire in the spring,” he says.

For Craig, the diversity of the business is one of the things he likes about it. “Every day is a challenge,” he concedes. “But for me, I like that. I learned early on to never say no. We take the work on and we make it happen.”


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