Equipment operators are entrepreneurs by nature. One Arizona contractor, Tom Hulme, has exemplified this attribute all his life. Growing up in Nebraska on a farm, Tom’s father bought a John Deere 541 Loader and blade to start his construction business. This was when Tom’s passion for shaping his community began.
“I was in business with my brother and my dad, and we were building houses and had an opportunity to buy a backhoe and a dump truck because we were always hiring out our earth-moving and grading work,” he said.
Hulme saw an opportunity to grow a new business in a growing region by leveraging his experience as an operator and willingness to learn new machines. So, in 1984, Hulme launched Carume Contracting, Inc. and relocated to the warmer Southwest region. While working on a site development job near Fountain Hills, Arizona, Hulme reminisces about a time when the area was primarily rural. Over the years, it has grown from 6,000 to more than 40,000 residents. These residents now enjoy the many roads and structures Hulme and his son, Travis, built.
Early in his career, Hulme says he built residential pads for housing, steadily expanding his expertise and team to complete more complex, larger commercial site development projects. Hulme said he and his team maintain consistency and accuracy to ensure projects stay on schedule using the proper equipment and technology.
“Today, we complete the entire subdivision,” Hulme said. “We start with an untouched piece of ground. We strip it, level it and put in the streets, curbs, gutters, sewers and water — even the sidewalks.” Hulme explains that site development projects, whether small residential or large commercial, all go through similar phases.
Before bringing any operators to a job site, Hulme says his team conducts inspections and surveys the topography. This process helps them determine soil composition and stability. Hulme says they use Topcon GPS technology to create accurate and detailed maps before they bring their team and equipment.
After capturing this information, Carume team members can use 3D modeling technology to develop a site grading plan and calculate the cut and fill volumes. During this phase, contractors also examine possible drainage and erosion control measures and obtain the necessary permits and approvals.
Site Clearing, Prep and Earthwork
Once contractors clear the site, Carume operators use John Deere excavators equipped with SmartGrade™ technology and Topcon GPS to ensure the land is level and ready for development.
Excavators aren’t the only machines being used. Carume team members use dozers, motor graders, and scrapers to increase soil compaction and shape terrain according to the site’s grade design.
Stabilizing Soil and Drainage, Erosion Control
Contractors carefully plan slopes to ensure proper drainage, prevent water build-up, and mitigate soil erosion. Operators use machine control and automation to protect from overdigging. With SmartGrade™, an operator sees real-time info distance to grade on the cab’s display.
Hulme highlights the advantages of SmartGrade excavators, emphasizing how they reduce guesswork on the job site.
When the excavator’s boom and bucket control are set to dig the right amount for the project’s current phase, the information is recorded by a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver, tracking the excavator’s progress. Hulme emphasizes that data tracking ensures they comply with each project’s building codes or regulations as they vary based on the type of commercial building.
Watch the Carume team work on a site development job site and see how SmartGrade™ technology is helping their team finish jobs quicker and easier.
Tom Short, an RDO account manager with nearly 30 years of experience in the Southwest construction industry, first connected with Tom Hulme and Carume Contracting, Inc. more than five years ago.
“They (Carume) are a family-owned business that has learned how to use GPS technology to increase productivity and reduce operating costs,” Short said. “They have earned a reputation for delivering high-quality work.”
People who hire the Carume team value their commitment to staying ahead of technology and their precision in grading, which is both accurate and consistent, Short says.
“Most days, I feel like a kid in the sand pile, and it’s just so much fun,” Hulme said about operating machines. “When you made a pass, and you're in the cab, and then everything balances: you're at the right grade, and you can just see it all come together.”