Komatsu trucks are "top-of-the-line”
Latona Trucking & Excavating secondgeneration Co-Owners Joey and Charles Latona are each in their 60s and have worked at the Pittston, Pa., company for more than 45 years. While most people would consider this the twilight of their careers, the brothers are just getting started. It’s a Latona family tradition.
“Our parents are both 91 and remain involved in the company,” shared Charles. “Dad is the company President and worked every day well into his 80s, and our mother is still the Secretary- Treasurer. They love this place, and that passion was passed down to us. I enjoy this business, and I hope to work on a machine until I die. I get up in the morning and can’t wait to get to work.”
That enthusiasm has always been prevalent in the company. Leo Latona got his start by spending summers following construction companies from Pennsylvania to New York state. Leo and his wife, Gertrude, founded Latona Trucking & Excavating after Charles graduated from high school in 1970, and Joey joined two years later when he returned from Vietnam. The Latona family built the company by performing residential jobs, mainly digging cellars and sewer lines for construction companies.
“Mom took care of the books, and we went out and worked on-site,” recalled Charles. “We did it on our own. Eventually, we grew and added employees in the mid 70s and more services followed.”
After experiencing moderate growth throughout the 80s, the company really began to flourish in the 1990s. Today, the business employs 128 people and has expanded its services significantly. Latona performs heavy excavation with a focus on Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) projects, in addition to large site-utility contracts and concrete work within a two-hour radius of Pittston. The firm also has mining and trucking divisions.
The company’s ability to move a lot of dirt in an efficient manner also helped it create relationships in the gas industry, which grew significantly thanks to the opening of the Marcellus Shale in 2008. Latona regularly builds drill rig pads for energy companies.
“Right now, we are doing a lot of work for PennDOT – mass excavation, building bridges and pouring concrete,” said Charles. “That accounts for approximately 85 percent of our business. We may have as many as 15 jobs going at a time, and they can last from three months to more than two years. We also help companies with specialized hauling using lowboys and tri-axles; we are strip-mining coal with another business in Hazelton; and we work quite a bit in the oil and gas industry.”
Getting the job done
With a wealth of experience and a sizable staff, Latona Trucking & Excavating is accustomed to completing large, complicated projects – and 2016 featured a pair of those jobs. One of its largest to date was a $10 million, heavyhighway contract for PennDOT in Dallas, Pa., that saw the company flex its muscle.
“In two months, we moved more than 600,000 yards of dirt,” said Charles. “No one associated with that job had ever seen anything like it. We logged 12-hour days, seven days a week with as many as 25 people in a crew to get it done.”
“If equipment was on-site, it was rolling,” added Leo.
The excavation process was only one portion of the two-and-a-half-year project. Latona Trucking & Excavating will remain on the job for other work, such as building highway roundabouts.
It also completed a $4 million compressor station for Williams Pipeline in late 2016. It moved 700,000 cubic yards of material, more than 300,000 of which was solid rock that Latona crushed on-site, and installed storm sewer and inlets. The 16-acre site features 11 compressors that will push gas through the station’s three pipelines.
“The compression station was a fast-tracked project,” noted Charles. “We had to finish in four months, and we did. It was a great job for us.”
The project was an excellent feather in the cap for Latona Trucking & Excavating, but it almost didn’t happen.
“We were a little reluctant to take the job,” admitted Joey. “Originally, it was scheduled to begin in April of last year, but the start date kept getting pushed back. In August it was finally ready to go, but we had reservations about the four-month time frame, which extended into winter. I credit Charles, because he said he wanted the challenge. We ramped up and completed it. Not many companies our size could have handled a project like that.”
When it comes to equipment, Komatsu machines are synonymous with Latona Trucking & Excavating – specifically from Midlantic Machinery Sales Rep Tim Reilly, who has served the Latonas for nearly 20 years.
“Tim is the first person we go to for equipment,” explained Leo. “He’s more than a sales rep, he’s a friend.”
Today, the company’s fleet includes more than 20 Komatsu excavators, wheel loaders, dozers and articulated trucks, in addition to a dozen other pieces from Midlantic, a direct result of Reilly’s relationship with the Latona family.
“We worked with Tim before he was at Midlantic,” said Charles. “When he came to us with Komatsu equipment we trusted him, and the machines proved themselves. We’ve run Komatsu ever since.”
In 2015, the company overhauled its fleet of articulated trucks with Komatsu HM400s in preparation for the large PennDOT and Williams Pipeline projects.
“We traded in our entire fleet of articulated trucks for new ones,” explained Charles. “We never had Komatsu trucks before, but we knew we wanted to try one. Once we did, we fell in love with them. Top-of-the-line. They are excellent.”
The company also recently purchased a D65PX dozer and a PC490LC excavator. In order to maximize efficiency, it installed Trimble GPS systems on the machines.
“The Komatsu dozer and excavator are terrific,” said Joey. “They have excellent balance and power. They are reliable and handle anything we need them to – and when you add GPS to them, it’s a whole new level. We don’t even use stakes; our operators don’t have to worry about anything. It’s totally amazing.”
With years of trust and excellent equipment on the ground, the Latonas expect Midlantic to continue as their dealer of choice.
“Midlantic has been great to us,” said Charles. “We appreciate all that they’ve done, especially Tim. Anytime we need something, they are right there to take care of it.”
Dedicated employees, bright future
The desire to work is certainly a Latona family trait that has been key to the business’ success. Even the company’s employees who don’t share a lineage have inherited the work ethic.
“We couldn’t do this by ourselves,” acknowledged Joey. “We’ve been blessed to have dedicated people here who stand by us. We have employees with more than 20 years of experience. They love this place, and we are very grateful for them.”
While most 60-year-olds are planning for their retirement, the Latona brothers have no intentions of slowing down. With a solid foundation and a promising future ahead, they are ready for more work.
“I love what I do, and I plan to do it as long as I can,” laughed Charles. “I hope this company goes on forever, and I think it can. The next generation is already lined up.”