If you want to get your digging, leveling and earth-moving done accurately and efficiently, Hope’s Tri-West Contracting and Excavating has shown they are strong contenders in a competitive environment.
Owner, Jim Laser and employees Peter Brodie and Kirk Dougall took part in Finning Canada’s Global Operator’s Challenge, a dealer event leading to Caterpillar’s international championship in Las Vegas next year.
The trio headed to Finning’s Surrey headquarters on June 20, to take on 73 other operators. Finning provided all the Caterpillar machinery: a 301.7D mini-excavator; 289D skid-steer; 308 CR full-size excavator and a full-size 950M front-end loader.
“It was all brand new,” said Lasser. “Slightly different than some of our equipment, so it took me a while to find the two speed controls on the skid steer.” The 289D has regular and ‘creep’ speed options.
Lasser said the four challenges came out of Caterpillar’s head office and would be set up the same way, wherever the competitions were held.
In “Raise the Bar,” the skid-steer was raced around a hilly track, with operators having to adjust the bucket as they passed by poles with height markers on them.
Lasser lagged behind his employees here, with a time of one minute, 48 seconds, for 43rd place. Dougall placed 35th, in 1:42 — and second-place Brodie was only nine seconds behind the winner, with a 1:13.
Brodie bested his buds with the front-end loader in the “Load Me Up” challenge, with a time of 1:51, tying for fourth-place. Lasser inched past Dougall’s 2:08, with his 2:02, showing that all three are competent at shifting a load.
Lasser said it was his first competition in 20 years and the first for his employees. “I fully expected Peter would be beat my time.”
The “Pick n’ Mix” challenge had an excavator with a hook and chain to pick up and move various items. Dougall raised his game here, with a time of 2:05, to Lasser’s 2:10 and Brodie’s 2:24.
In the “Bucket of Balls” event, operators used a 17.7 horsepower mini-excavator to pick golf balls, one-at-a-time, off pylons and deposit three of them in a bucket. Not quite as picky as uncapping a beer bottle but along that spectrum.
The Hope team was in the final group of the day, in the 8 to 9:30 time slot — and for the golf ball event, Lasser said, “The lighting was really bad,” but they had to soldier on, to get a time and qualify for overall placement.
Lasser led his trio in deftness, with a 1:48 and Dougall was close, at 2:07, though the best of the day was a 1:16 — and it wasn’t Brodie. He dropped three of the six balls and couldn’t catch up, posting a 4:30.
After a combined score from all four challenges, Lasser finished in seventh spot and Dougall was eleventh, about 13 seconds behind his boss. Brodie’s costly last event dropped him to fortieth out of 76.
With even an average time in the golf ball challenge, Lasser figured Brodie “Would have been top-5 overall, out of the Fraser Valley.” Still, he was proud of his team’s efforts — and he has a new recruit-in-the-making: his son Matthew, aged 10.
“At the very end, I asked if Matthew could try the Bucket of Balls,” said Lasser. When given the go-ahead, Lasser said, “He was nervous, with all those operators around, but I said ‘give it a shot.’ He drew quite a crowd.”
It wasn’t Matthew’s first time on the controls, as the crowd soon learned.
“I think he was 20 months old when Jim let him use a mini-excavator,” said mom, Amanda. “He used it for about an hour” — and many hours since then. Matthew and younger brothers Chase and Charlie have plenty of machines to practice on, under Dad’s guidance.
At the Finning Challenge, working in tough lighting, Matthew was able to shift three of the six golf balls in 2:08, which would have placed him in the mid thirties, ahead of operators who have been at the controls for many years.
On the internet, search for “Finning Operator Challenge” to learn more about the event.