29-year-old Duane West from Victoria mustered enough courage to buy a JCB JS130LC tracked excavator eight years ago to start his own construction business and hasn’t looked back since.
West recently upgraded to a newer version of the JCB JS130LC, which is proof of his business’ thriving success. Following his achievement, he is encouraging other young operators to think about buying their own machine and becoming their own boss.
“I got into the industry just after school, working for my dad as an equipment operator on mainly residential projects for a few years before starting my own business,” he says.
“I really enjoyed the work and every day was different. There was also a lot of infrastructure work happening across Victoria, so I decided to branch out on my own.”
West obtained support from his parents in starting his business, who offered to go guarantor on his first machine eight years ago.
“Buying my own machine was a big decision but I wanted to have a career, not just a job,” he says.
“There’s work out there if you want it and can prove yourself to be hardworking and reliable.”
Since then, West has been busy working on rail-related infrastructure with smaller residential jobs in between larger projects.
“Working on rail-related projects is not that different to other general excavating work but there are some strict safety standards to comply with so you need to be certified. Adding a specialisation can be a good business decision since it opens up a new range of projects you can work on,” he says.
West’s new JS130LC excavator is being put to work on an 18 month regional rail project at Footscray near Melbourne, which he was invited to work on based on his industry contacts.
The $4 billion project will separate the regional and metropolitan train lines to accommodate Victoria’s growing population. West is put in charge of earthworks to prepare for the two new tracks and the planned construction of two new platforms to accommodate the separated lines.
“Having reliable equipment has been crucial to my success as a sole trader,” West says.
“Making the right equipment choice when you’re starting out is especially important because you need to prove your reliability and productivity.”
The Footscray project was West’s chance to upgrade his old machine. Although he’d been happy with its performance, West took the opportunity to look at a range of competitor’s tracked excavators before settling again on a JCB in January this year.
He has been impressed with a number of enhancements over his previous model including the Dieselmax 4.4 litre engine providing more power and the repositioned daily checkpoints improving serviceability.
Comfort also rates highly in the new JCB excavator, West adds.
“The competitor’s models just didn’t compare to the JCB machine in terms of creature comforts. Little things like the standard heated operator seat can make a big difference to my working day because I can be in the cab for up to 10 hours,” he says.
Overall, West has no complaints about his new purchase.
“So far, I’ve done 300 hours with the machine and it has proven itself not only to be comfortable and powerful, but a machine that’s been well thought-out in the design phase,” he says.
Owning and operating a business is no easy task, but West says getting the job done and done well certainly helps.
“I’ve been awarded new work, including the current project where I am operating as a sub-contractor for a major construction industry, based on my reputation. You can’t afford downtime when you’re working for such companies who are governed by set project timeframes,” West adds.
“I’ve found that word of mouth counts for a lot in this industry so if you’re good at what you do, you won’t find it hard to win the next project.”