The Vale of Evesham and the Cotswolds are quintessentially prosperous and English, and great places to do business. Matt Bailey talks to John Russell of John Russell Groundworks & Digger Hire about his business and his admiration for Takeuchi machines including a new TB2150R.
Even in the depths of winter the Cotswolds and the Vale of Evesham retain a refined rural charm. Having at the time recently dodged the floods that were troubling towns and villages further upstream on the Avon, I met up with John Russell, owner and founder of John Russell Groundworks & Digger Hire, at home in Willersey, Broadway. After a chat at the company HQ we headed out to site to check out his latest acquisition – a 15 tonne Takeuchi TB2150R, the largest excavator in the Takeuchi fleet.
Keeping it in the family
John runs a long-established, family business with his sons, Dominic and Tom, offering professional groundwork and digger hire throughout the Cotswolds and the Vale of Evesham, a catchment area bounded by the M5 to the west and the M42 to the east. He has a wide selection of plant available from micro machines for limited access work through to large excavators but also including dumpers, telehandlers and a range of tools and attachments.
The Cotswolds with its rural charm, its mellow honey-coloured stone cottages and easy access to the capital has long been a playground for the rich and famous. Consequently John’s client list includes TV presenters, sports personalities, captains of industry and even royalty. Typical projects could comprise landscaping, swimming pool construction, equestrian and agricultural work as well as all the typical jobs you would expect a company of this size to take on in a largely rural catchment area.
John has over 25 years’ experience behind the levers. “I am myself an experienced operator but my two sons are my main operators now,” he says. “There is a lot of London money in this area and the clients expect quality and great customer service.” And quality is a top priority for John. Dominic and Tom’s work has to meet their father’s high standards. “They do the work exactly how I want it done,” he confirms.
John is a big fan of the Takeuchi brand and last year he purchased four new Takeuchis from local dealership Bow Plant Sales. “If I could I would buy all my diggers from Takeuchi,” he says. “But the brand is only half the picture. Zac Clulow and the guys at Bow Plant Sales are the other half. The service and back-up support I get from them is second to none.”
True to form, the project John’s team are currently working on is a £1.5 m equestrian centre out in the open countryside overlooked by the Cotswolds. When I visited they were constructing an Olympic standard equestrian arena as part of a larger project that also includes building an equestrian yard, converting a barn into a wedding venue and the construction of a 620 m access road and all the other required infrastructure improvements for the facilities. Clearly farmers have to think outside the box and diversify if they want to thrive in our modern world.
There are two of John’s Takeuchi excavators on site operated by Dominic and Tom: the new TB2150R fifteen tonner and a smaller compact TB240 four tonne machine. In addition there is also a Terex TA3 three tonne dumper and John’s tractor and trailer available for muck shifting duties.
John and his boys are impressed with the way their Takeuchis perform. “You won’t buy any other digger as easy and forgiving to drive – it’s like comparing cream and milk,” says John. “And the residuals are as good as any on the market – it’s very important to know what your assets are worth. Value for money is important but good residual values are crucial.”
The new TB2150R comes in for special praise. “It is very easy to operate with a long reach. It is a true 15 tonner that looks like a 12 tonne and drives like a five tonner, it is a very well balanced machine,” says John. “The cab is very comfy with good visibility and the controls are very forgiving. It is a great earth mover but also has the subtlety necessary for landscaping.”
Tom Russell is at the controls of the TB2150R when I visit. “It’s a great space to spend an 8.5 hour shift in,” he says. “It’s comfy and it has Bluetooth for hands-free phone and music which I like. The climate control is great and the heated seat is a real bonus at this time of year.”
Growing the fleet
John plans to continue to grow the company and invest in the fleet. He bought four new Takeuchis last year and while there’s a range of jobs to tackle in his area he will continue to develop the business and the fleet.
On the subject of new technology in the industry John is very open-minded. “We used one of those small Takeuchi hybrid machines with the external power pack on a recent job in a basement,” he says. “And I can see the time coming where we will have to invest in an electric machine.”
With their extensive client list and the best machines and operators, John Russell Groundworks & Digger Hire are ones to watch.
The TB2150R a closer look
Although it’s their largest excavator, Takeuchi’s 15 tonne TB2150R is one of the most compact excavators available. The machine is available from dealers in three different versions: Standard Long Arm Mono Boom; Middle Dipper Arm (suitable for specialist attachments); two-piece Boom Arm.
John’s machine is the standard version, it features a fixed conventional boom and reduced tail swing providing 15.6 tonnes of performance. The TB2150R offers a very compact alternative to the TB2150 offset machine and with its short tail swing it can get to work in the most confined spaces.
Lifting up the body panels reveals the machine’s Deutz 85 kW engine which meets all the latest emission standards (EU Stage IV / EPA Tier 4 Emission Compliant) with its DOC + SCR exhaust after treatment system.
A strong cast-steel counterweight wrap gives massive added on-site protection and stability when working in a heavy-duty environment. John points out that while small the counter-weight is perfectly balanced and he was especially impressed with the toolkit that was included with the machine, conveniently stashed away in a locked compartment in the counter-weight. John’s machine also includes the optional dozer blade.
The Russells are impressed with the smoothness of the TB2150R which is a result of the machine’s precision hydraulics with excellent joy stick functionality. And with three auxiliary hydraulic circuits as standard, it is equipped for the widest range of attachments. John found the visibility from the cab very good and the fixed boom position to the right of the cab is compact enough to enhance this maximum all round visibility. Tom Russell is also a fan of the cab which is isolation-mounted to give the all-day operating comfort essential for rugged tough terrain and groundwork.
The TB2150R offers a compact track footprint of just 2690 x 3750 mm with a short tail swing allowing it to work in spaces other conventional machines can’t go. With just a 350 mm overhang the short tail gains maximum accessibility while the conventional fixed boom offers increased lifting capacity for the heaviest loads with fast cycle times.