Bob Ray Company: Pioneering on the Land-Clearing Frontier


In the steep hills around Louisville, the land clearing division of the Bob Ray Companyservices small-scale, land-clearing projects to major right-of-way maintenance and widening projects that can stretch for tens of miles and take years to complete. Getting equipment that can handle the work and the terrain is always a major concern for project manager Jamie Draper, but Columbus Equipment Company’s Environmental Division is able to provide customized packages of forestry equipment that are up to the challenge. “Every machine, and every package, exceeds expectations,” Draper said.

“The terrain in the Louisville area is always a significant challenge,” Draper explained. “There’s a good deal of steep, hilly terrain in this region. When operating on steep hills, losing traction or getting into an area you can’t get out of is always a concern.”

Bob Ray’s fleet includes a Morbark 4600XL Tracked Wood Hog, a Morbark 50/48 Drum Chipper and a Komatsu XT445L-3 feller buncher. Bob Ray Company also rents equipment as needed. A recent project saw the company add a Morbark 40/36 NCL track drum chipper, a Valmet 430 FXL feller buncher, a Komatsu PC290LC-10 excavator equipped with a Rotobecfixed grapple/saw package, and two CMI mulchers—a C400L and a C450C. Before delivery, Columbus Equipment makes any necessary modifications to the equipment for the steep slopes to ensure they maintain oil pressure, won’t run out of fuel and will otherwise perform well, said Ron Duperow, Environmental Division sales representative.

When Draper prices out these larger projects, he sends a list of required equipment to several suppliers. “Columbus Equipment is typically the only one that gives us a customized, turnkey package for all the equipment needed. A lot of other places are only able to provide one piece.”

Draper understands the hills slow production, but has been impressed at how well the equipment works in tough conditions. “The CMI 400 and 450 handle the slopes extremely well. They stay on the kind of production we anticipate and in some areas even exceed it,” he said. “Looking at how well the CMI mulchers have performed on the most difficult areas, I am certain these machines will greatly exceed expectations for production on flatter terrain or rolling hills.”

“The Komatsu PC290 constantly amazes our operators with its stability on the slopes,” Draper said. The Rotobec grapple/saw is perfectly matched with the excavator, is well-balanced “and does a tremendous job in supporting the track chipper.”

The Morbark chipper is “like a mountain goat—it just keeps climbing.” On steep slopes, we slow the Morbark’s feed system to prevent clogging the chute when it has to blow the chips up the hill. “When we don’t have to fight gravity, the production on that machine goes up as well,” Draper said. Even in difficult terrain, the Bob Ray crews clear six to ten acres a week.

The Komatsu XT445L-3 feller buncher has a terrain-leveling undercarriage, and it too exceeds expectations. “It has a Quadco 2900 intermittent saw with 360º rotation, and our operators are amazed at what it can do to safely cut trees, and get them to the ground,” he said.

As part of the rental package, Columbus Equipment also sends field technician Aaron Dunham out to service the equipment regularly. “Aaron really knows the equipment we have out here. When he sees a problem, he knows how to diagnose it and get it up and running as quickly as we can hope for. I have been extremely pleased by his work ethic and his knowledge,” Draper said.

Louisville-based Bob Ray Company began as a tree service company and has expanded to include a company that recycles tree products into mulch and topsoil as well as the land-clearing division. Land clearing projects range from small residential lots to major pipeline and utility work.

Outfitted with specialized, state-of-the-art equipment, the Bob Ray Company is able to safely and efficiently maintain and improve infrastructure sometimes completed over half a century ago.

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