On The Cover

John Deere makes the Grade


Even before Sam Pemberton’s new full-featured John Deere 670 Grade Pro (GP) motor grader arrived at his company’s Hamilton yard, it had already created a bit of friendly competition amongst his team.

“THEY WERE LOOKING FORWARD to the machine’s arrival and all of them thought they were going to drive it. But with one operator assigned to each machine here, it will be a lucky person who finishes up with this new grader,” he says.

Sam decided to invest in the high-spec machine after his firm Sam Pemberton Civil started to branch into some larger contracts in Waikato.

“With more and more roading and subdivision work on the go we needed to upsize from our previous machine. We looked into a few different makes but couldn’t go past the John Deere grader from CablePrice for performance and value for money.”

Sam already had four John Deere tractors in his fleet so knew he could count on the brand’s reliability.

“Our familiarity with the brand was one of the things that sold it to us, along with our relationship with CablePrice and the extra features of the Grade Pro model. Part of the factory set up includes electro-hydraulic (EH) controls, which make it a lot easier to convert to a full machine-controlled grader.”

“At the moment we have nine Hitachi excavators in the fleet, ranging from 3.3 to 33 tonnes. They are great machines to operate and their reliability is excellent – definitely ahead of other brands on the market.”
“At the moment we have nine Hitachi excavators in the fleet, ranging from 3.3 to 33 tonnes. They are great machines to operate and their reliability is excellent – definitely ahead of other brands on the market.”

Sam also liked the way John Deere had stuck with lever controls in the machine, arranged in the familiar, industry-standard pattern.

“Other grader brands have gone to joystick controls but it’s not something our operators are keen on.”

John Deere’s “open architecture” design also allow operators to “plug and play” their favourite brand of grade-control system on the machine, such as Topcon, Trimble or Leica to provide even more efficiency and accuracy on the job site.

Sam is happy with his decision to add the latest Leica PowerGrade 3D control system to the new grader.

“We’ve used the Leica products with our survey equipment but never with machine control before. We’re taking a bit of a plunge into the deep end but are excited about its possibilities.”

Once an engineer’s 3D CAD model of a new road (including its heights, depths and grades) is programmed into the Leica system, it then integrates seamlessly with the motor grader’s hydraulic system, with fully automatic blade control working directly from the CAD model to produce the desired surface and outcome.

“It will really take the guesswork out of the job and give us the precise finish we’re looking for in faster time. There is also the flexibility to run the system by both robotic total station and GPS depending on the type of work we’re doing.”

CablePrice Hamilton sales rep David Neilson says the “brand spanking new” tandem grader has many other special features, including automated cross-slope control and pushbutton activation return-to-straight that make the most of a seasoned operator’s skills and helps to bring inexperienced operators up to speed.

“The electronic controls can turn any half-decent grader driver into an excellent one straight away.”

The operator sits down rather than stands up in the grader’s spacious walk-through cab, which has excellent visibility of the job site.

David says the versatile GP model comes with a joystick steer lever as well as a steering wheel.

“The steering lever is mounted alongside the eight fingertip controls on the armrests on either side of the steering wheel. It really is a brilliant machine to operate.”

With a taller mainframe, the John Deere 670 GP grader has the ability to efficiently shoulder larger loads and navigate over obstacles with ease, he adds.

C_Pemberton-71-2“It provides plenty of clearance for a mid-mount scarifier, and simplifies blade set up and operation too. The grader’s exclusive Event-Based Shifting transmission is another great feature that delivers smooth gear and direction changes, resulting in exceptional control and grading precision with no extra effort.”

Sam started Sam Pemberton Civil in 2006, but has a family history dating back 60 years in the civil contracting industry in the Waikato region.

Most of his company’s work is large civil projects for commercial clients with some recent jobs including supermarket projects for NZ Foodstuffs, various Fonterra projects, work at the Base Shopping Centre for Tainui Group Holdings, and a year-long drainage project as part of the Waikato Expressway in conjunction with Higgins Contractors for NZTA.

General services provided by the company include roading, subdivision development, kerbing and concrete, pavement construction, retaining walls, commercial site works, concrete pads, drainage, underpasses, erosion and sediment control, stormwater, sewer, pump stations and water-main installation.

“We have strong relationships with contacts in the region. They rely on us to do a good job every time, and to provide top quality staff and gear. We can’t afford downtime which is why the reliability of our machinery is so important.”

Sam is a “long time Hitachi fan”, and has bought several excavators from the CablePrice Hamilton team since he started the business.

“At the moment we have nine Hitachi excavators in the fleet, ranging from 3.3 to 33 tonnes. They are great machines to operate and their reliability is excellent – definitely ahead of other brands on the market.”

Sam likes to keep his fleet well maintained and up to date with the latest gear.

“We turn machines over every four to five years on average to get the best out of them, and have purchased three new excavators from CablePrice each year for the last three years.”

The relationship between CablePrice and the Pembertons goes back nearly 20 years through Sam’s father’s former company.

“The backup and service we get from CablePrice is great. It’s rare there is a problem with the machines. But if we do need their help they’re good at getting out there and getting stuff sorted.”

CablePrice rep David Neilson says the relationship is a two-way street, with Sam a “great guy to deal with”.

“Sam knows quality when he sees it and drives it, which is why he’s stuck with us. He knows what he wants and we always do our best to make things happen for him.”

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