From the Ground Up: Dontel Ball Builds Fleet of Kenworth Dump Trucks
PUYALLUP, Wash., Sept. 8, 2022 – When you ask a kid what they want to do when they grow up, you might expect to hear professional athlete, astronaut, doctor, or even super hero. If you asked Dontel Ball, owner of Ball & Son Excavation when he was a kid in the 1980s, his response would have been dump truck driver.
Fast-forward 40 years later, not only is Ball living out his dream job as a truck driver, he owns a fleet of 25 Kenworth dump trucks and works on some of the largest construction projects in the Puget Sound region of Washington state.
“The first house I grew up in was actually located where the Tacoma Dome (one of the largest concert and event facilities in the Seattle/Tacoma area) is today,” Ball recalled. “I remember seeing a lot of new construction going on in the area and taking an interest in the trucks and heavy equipment. Some of my earliest memories in school was drawing pictures of trucks in class. My grand uncle, who I’m close with, also owned an electrical installation company and operated heavy trucks so my fascination with trucks continued to grow as I got older.”
When Ball turned 21, he acquired his CDL and went to work driving dump trucks for Puget Sound area construction and trucking companies that specialized in hauling a variety of products. As a company driver, he gained valuable industry experience and the urge to one day start his own business.
“I worked hard, took good care of the trucks I drove, and strove to be the best driver I could be,” said Ball. “I took pride in my work and earned a reputation as a reliable employee. I hauled everything from aggregate to demo debris and made a point to learn everything I could about the trucking industry so that when the time was right, I’d be ready to become my own boss.”
In 2011 Ball founded Ball & Son Excavation. The company’s first truck was a 1992Kenworth W900L dump truck, which Ball still owns today.
Ball didn’t come from money. To make the investment in purchasing his first truck, he scraped together what he could by selling his micro bus, taking out a loan from his aunt, and going to his grandma for assistance with paying truck insurance. He also moved into his grandma’s house for a period of time to reduce his living expenses.
“I put everything I had into acquiring my first truck. Once the truck was in my possession, I had to hustle to find work,” said Ball. “I made a lot of phone calls and bid on projects at a lower price than what other companies were offering. In the end, it paid off. I relied heavily on the connections I made during my time as a company driver, and many of the companies we did business with when the company first started, we still work with today.”
Since starting out as an owner-operator, Ball has grown his operation to a 25-truck fleet that consists of primarily Kenworth T800, W900, and T880 dump and side-dump trucks. Over the years, the company has established itself as a reliable transportation provider and has worked on major projects including the Sound Transit Light Rail project, runway expansion at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Amazon, Google and Microsoft building expansions, and more. The company’s trucks are equipped with 30-ton dump bodies and trucks that haul side-dumps, which are used to move to aggregate, fill dirt and other material from construction sites. Ball & Son Excavation is also heavily involved in road building projects in the area and will provide service as far south as the Washington/Oregon border and as far north as Bellingham, Washington.
In recent years, the company began adding new Kenworth T880s to the mix to assist in driver recruitment and to equip trucks with automated transmissions, which allows the company to recruit from a larger pool of drivers.
“The company was built up from buying quality used trucks and we worked our way up to the point we could afford to add new models to our operation,” said Ball. “Rick Barry at Papé Kenworth Northwest (Lakewood) is great to work with and was a tremendous help in getting us into new equipment. The T880s have been a good addition to the fleet, and it helps us get our name out there to drivers. They can tell we’re a quality company.”
According to Ball, the company continues to build its fleet with Kenworth’s vocational models because of its reputation for building durable trucks as well as his experience driving Kenworth’s as a company driver.
“I drove a lot of different truck makes earlier in my career and thought that trucks produced by Kenworth were the most versatile and best overall vocational trucks in the business,” said Ball. “When I started my company, I knew I only wanted the best, and that’s Kenworth. I’ve always loved long hood models, which is why I wanted my first truck to be a W900L. It’s a great looking truck. To have Kenworth trucks built just a few miles up the road in Renton, and headquarters in Kirkland, is also pretty cool. I like supporting the hometown truck brand.”
SIDEBAR: Giving Back to the Local Community
For as busy as Dontel Ball is in managing a trucking company, Ball enjoys giving back to his local community. Through the non-profit organization his sister Aviance Tate started, “Celebrate You Foundation,” Ball is passionate about sharing his experiences and teaching youth about the opportunities that are available in the trucking/construction industries. Celebrate You Foundation is dedicated to building youth leadership skills and social emotional intelligence by providing practical hands-on entrepreneurial and educational opportunities. Ball will host events at his company’s yard in Puyallup, where kids in 5th-12 grade can take a tour, watch his trucks in action, and learn about his journey of turning his passion into a business, and what the trucking industry is all about.
“Not everybody needs to go to college to get a well-paying job or to be successful,” said Ball. “There are a lot of opportunities in trade industries, especially in trucking, that many kids don’t learn about in school. I love teaching kids what it is that I do, and of the opportunities there are in this field.”