The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorized the construction of 41,000 miles of U.S. interstate highways. With that in mind, along with local road expansions, Joe Morehead Sr., realized that there was a significant business opportunity literally sitting in his own backyard.
Known as “Butte Rock,” the gravel found on Morehead’s property and – around the buttes surrounding Sutter, California – became increasingly popular for contractors in the region. In 1960, Morehead established Butte Sand and Gravel, operating a 120-acre mine and selling gravel, aggregate material, sand, fill material and other resources that could be used for building roads and other construction projects.
Today, the company operates a 430-acre mine, using more than 70 Kenworth trucks, including Kenworth T880s, to deliver product throughout Northern California and Northern Nevada. Butte Sand and Gravel remains in the Morehead family, owned by Darren and Joe, the sons of Joe Morehead Sr.
According to Darren, after he and Joe purchased the company in 1990, the brothers saw an opportunity to expand the delivery side of the business to enhance distribution of its products.
“Prior to taking ownership, the company’s primary business was selling our product from our mine to contractors,” said Darren. “We realized that expanding our truck fleet would provide even better service to our end-user customers. We pride ourselves on offering consistent, reliable customer service. When we began growing our fleet, we turned to Kenworth trucks because of their reputation for reliability – and that certainly has proven to be true over the years. That’s why we continue to operate an all-Kenworth fleet and add five to 10 Kenworth trucks a year.”
Butte Sand and Gravel purchases its trucks through NorCal Kenworth – Sacramento. In the past two years, the company took delivery of 12 Kenworth T880s with PACCAR MX-11 engines rated at 430 hp and 1,650 lb-ft of torque, and 10-speed transmissions.
According to Joe, the company decided to specify PACCAR MX-11 engines to reduce weight, maximize payload and become more fuel-efficient. The engine provides a 400-pound savings compared to a 13-liter engine.
“We’ve worked with Chris LaComb (NorCal Kenworth – Sacramento salesman) for a number of years, and he pitched the idea of transitioning to a lighter engine two years ago,” said Joe. “We deliver into Nevada, which requires our drivers to pass over Donner Pass (elevation 7,057 feet). So we first didn’t think running a smaller engine was an option. But, we respected Chris’ advice and it has worked out well for us. With the PACCAR MX-11, we’re not only running a reliable engine, but we are cutting fuel costs without sacrificing the power our drivers need for high elevation climbs. As we continue to add T880s, the PACCAR MX-11 will be our engine of choice.”
Butte Sand and Gravel’s Kenworth T880s haul with double-bottom dumps, end dumps, and transfer trailers. The company also runs dump trucks. Butte Sand and Gravel will deliver material from its company-owned mining site, or from a mine that is closest to a customer’s location.
The Kenworth T880s average 60,000 miles per year and are sold after about 12 years of operation. The majority of trucks added to the fleet are to accommodate increasing customer orders.
As Butte Sand and Gravel continues to add more T880s to its fleet, more drivers are beginning to transition into the new model vocational truck. “The first thing our drivers noticed is the increased space the T880 cab offers and the enhanced visibility,” said Darren. “Our drivers appreciate the increased comfort the cab provides.”
While operating reliable equipment helps in the company’s efforts to make timely deliveries, Butte Sand and Gravel uses technology to enhance transparency between the company and its customers. A variety of vocational-based information, truck location and driver behavior is tracked. In real-time, Butte Sand and Gravel customers can see the exact location of the truck making their delivery, allowing them to better plan for the truck’s arrival.
“Our customers love being able to see where our trucks are – it helps streamline the logistics of when our trucks will arrive. And, internally we have access to a number of driver-related measurable, like speeding and hard braking. It’s a tool for us to use to make sure our drivers operate our equipment safely. We want our customers to feel reassured we have top quality drivers.”
By ensuring reliable, safe and customer-driven practices, Butte Sand and Gravel has blossomed into one of the top aggregate haulers in Northern California. And, the company isn’t done growing yet.
“We have four more T880s on order to be delivered this year,” said Joe. “Customers have come to rely on us for the quality of our materials and the service we provide, and the trucks we operate play a role in that. We look forward for what’s to come.”
SIDEBAR: Making a difference in the community and for the environment
For four generations, members of the Morehead family have called Sutter home. It’s why they prioritize environmentally friendly practices to reduce their carbon footprint and to create a sustainable future for generations to come.
When Butte Sand and Gravel completes mining a site, they fill it in and reshape it, ensuring native vegetation will grow back, and in time, return to its natural state. And, the water the company uses to wash aggregate and other mined resources is captured, cleansed and reused to reduce water usage. Looking ahead, in 2021, the company plans to install enough solar panels on its facilities to become fully energy independent.
The Morehead family is also heavily involved in the community and has donated aggregate materials and monetary gifts to a long list of community projects and organizations.
“This is our home; we were all born and raised here,” said Darren. “We want to do our part in helping the community grow and become an even better place for future generations.”