With explosive growth and now three generations of service, Hammett Excavation is a company that is building on tradition – and has been, since 1963. Based out of Dodd City, TX, the Hammett family has lived and worked on the same property for over 100 years. The Hammett Ranch (known as “Caterpillar Hill”) has been home to four generations of this family, which operate Hammett Excavation, a mass excavation contractor specializing in landfill work, new construction sites, mining and subdivisions. After a recent growth spurt, the company bought a few new heavy-haul trucks, including the beauty featured here, which is operated by the third generation of the Hammett family.
Harry Hammett started the company back in 1963 with just one Cat D7 dozer, along with an old retired B-model Mack milk truck he pulled out of a field and a short tandem-axle low boy, which he used to haul it around. Harry and his wife sunk their life savings into this equipment, which would sustain the company for the first 24 years. Back then, Harry built ponds (tanks), cleared timber, graded house pads, dug swimming pools, and did all sorts of general dirt work. A slogan on his ads back then said, “Never a job too small, and not a job too big.” Harry was also a firm believer in giving his customers “an honest hour’s work, for an honest hour’s pay!”
In 1987, Harry’s son Gaylon joined the family business. At that time, they added a second D7 dozer to the operation, which began to grow quickly from there. By the early 2000s, the company had 30 employees and several pieces of equipment, including three track hoes, four dozers, five Case tractors pulling three scrapers each, a few off-road dump trucks, and other miscellaneous pieces of equipment. To move all that iron around, they had one 1985 R-model Mack, described as “a one-stack Mack with a window in the back!” Harry and Gaylon took turns moving all the equipment around, but soon realized that they needed another rig, so they bought a used 1996 Kenworth W900 and converted it into a heavy-haul truck. And that truck is still in their fleet today!
In its early days, Hammett Excavation concentrated on the immediate area around its Dodd City, Texas, home base. Now, it operates in roughly a 100-mile radius that includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and all points in between. After Harry passed away in 2014, Gaylon (50) became the Owner and President of the company, along with help from his wife, Melody, who is the Business Manager. “Dad was a terrific mentor and taught me a lot about how to conduct business fairly,” said Gaylon. Since Gaylon took over, he has expanded the operation into site prep for large subdivisions and earthwork for landfill projects.
“We provide a complete site package on subdivisions, starting with clearing timber, if needed,” explained Gaylon. “That’s followed by mass excavation and grading; fine grading with GPS; cutting in new roads; and constructing house pads. The latter includes undercutting the pad five to eight feet for moisture conditioning. We then put down plastic and cover it with a layer of dirt, leaving it for the utility contractors to do their part. After roads are prepped, we stop for the curb and paving people to do their jobs. When they are done, we finish grade.”
On the landfill side, Hammett Excavation provides a turnkey project for cell construction, including pouring concrete for header banks. “There is a three-stage certification process for landfill projects,” explained Gaylon. “We cut down to subgrade, then put a two-foot layer of clay over that and certify it. Another contractor puts down a geocomposite liner, and we follow by adding two feet of cover on top of it, and that is certified. From there, we install welded poly pipe and put in the leachate system. The third certification is at the end of construction.”
Hammett Excavation does some projects in the governmental, commercial and multifamily markets, as well. They recently completed site work for a 330-home subdivision in Dallas where the company moved nearly 400,000 yards of dirt to build pads and prep subgrade for roads. They also handled site prep for a Big Lots store in Durant, OK, which involved moving more than one million yards of earth. The company also performs the removal of overburden for several quarries on an ongoing basis.
“A few years after I came on board full time, we added scrapers and off-road trucks, which allowed us to take on bigger jobs,” said Gaylon. “Many of our subdivision projects are done as a general contractor where we move the dirt and sub out the utilities and paving. We consult with our customers closely to provide whatever they need.” Hammett Excavation now employs 110 hard-working, dedicated people. It’s a tight-knit group that supports one another and creates a family atmosphere, according to the Hammetts.
Gaylon believes strongly in using GPS systems to move earth more efficiently, and he has equipped nearly every standard machine in his fleet with aftermarket systems, including his Komatsu excavators. “Even the scrapers are equipped with GPS,” noted Gaylon. “They are used for hogging mass quantities of dirt, then we switch to the Komatsu D65 dozers with GPS as we get closer to grade.” The satellite-based GPS systems on their equipment allow them to get as precise as two-hundredths of an inch!
Hammett Excavation began using Komatsu equipment about ten years ago when it rented a few pieces from Kirby-Smith Machinery. A large subdivision project prompted Gaylon to add machines of his own, so that’s when he bought the excavators and several articulated dump trucks. In addition to the Komatsu equipment they buy and rent from Kirby-Smith Machinery, they also use RDO Equipment for all their John Deere needs and Holt for all their Caterpillar equipment. With three mobile mechanics and one full-time mechanic in the shop, the company handles most of the maintenance on their large fleet of machines and trucks themselves.
Growing up in Dodd City, on the 200-acre family farm, Gaylon’s son Kaleb grew up around trucks and equipment, going out with his dad and grandpa in the dozers when he was still in a car seat. He has always loved pushing dirt, but his first love is trucks – he’d much rather haul the equipment with a truck then run it. Playing a lot of baseball in high school, Kaleb was rated as the 3rd best catcher in the state of Texas. Just two weeks before his college tryouts, he sustained a bad injury to his arm when a runner violently collided with him at Home Plate, thus ending his fledgling baseball career. At that point, his dad needed a lot of help, so at the age of 18, he decided to forego college altogether and began working full-time in the family business.
Starting out running the equipment, Kaleb would also get to move the iron around with their trusty KW on occasion. A little over a year ago, needing a new heavy-haul truck, Gaylon and Kaleb decided to build a sweet ride in honor of Grandpa Harry. He always said, “You need to have a dressed-up truck to move your equipment around, and you need to look professional.” With this quote in mind, they went to their friend (and ours) Jake Lindamood in Irving, TX, known for building cool trucks for their own demolition and heavy-haul operation (one of their trucks was on our cover back in October of 2007), and asked if he and his crew would be willing to build something special for them. Jake quickly agreed, and then the project began.
Needing some new trucks immediately and knowing that this fancy glider kit would take some time to spec, order, power and then customize, Hammett went ahead and bought a used 2008 Peterbilt 389 painted tan and blue, and a new burgundy-colored 2017 Peterbilt 389 locally off the lot. Ordering the 2017 Peterbilt 389 glider kit with a double frame and a pusher axle in the Fall of 2016, the Charcoal Metallic Grey rig with a Viper Red frame was spec’d-out for more weight than they will probably ever haul. The truck was delivered to Lindamood’s shop in March of 2017, and then the build began.
Dropping in a freshly-built and painted 550 Cat 6NZ they purchased from Lindamood, along with an 18-speed transmission and two-speed rear-ends, the truck, with a 295-inch wheelbase and 60-inch flat top sleeper, was now ready to be customized. Up front, the truck got chrome projection headlights with LED turn signals from United Pacific, a punched grill with no bars, a flip-up Valley Chrome tapered bumper, a painted visor and seven cab lights. Down the sides, red vinyl stripes were added, which also cover the chopped air cleaners and light strips in front of them. Custom six-inch aluminum body drop panels were fabricated, painted and installed, which are lined with small LEDs along the bottom edge, an eight-inch Dynaflex exhaust system was bolted-on, and the tanks were painted (the end caps were left unpainted and polished).
Moving to the back of the rig, fiberglass WTI single-hump fenders were mounted on custom brackets, made by the Lindamood crew, and four custom steps (two on each side), which Kaleb uses every day, were made out of the oval Peterbilt hood emblems. A custom deck plate was made, which includes a recessed connection box, and then painted Charcoal Metallic Grey, to nicely offset the red frame rails. The rear of the truck features six Trux Dual Revolution taillights, along with two rows of them down each side of the back of the sleeper, a custom steel cover on the back of the sleeper to hide the air-ride system, and a steel tail plate, with the Hammett logo cut out of it, that is back-lit with red LEDs (the truck has a total of 110 lights).
And if you think the exterior looks good, the interior will impress you, as well. With a painted aluminum floor (complete with the Hammett logo on each side), painted upper and lower dash panels, a painted steering column, a full gauge package, a painted steering wheel from SCI, polished billet aluminum pedals, and a polished shifter with a chrome knob, this cab is sharp. All the upholstery was re-done by a local shop in Dallas, an aftermarket sound system was installed, and red “underglow” LED lights were hidden inside the lower vents. Not much has been done back in the sleeper besides a few painted trim pieces, but that is still a work in progress. The finishing touch to it all is a sticker on the back window that says – “In Loving Memory of Harry Hammett” – along with the date he died and the silhouette of a D7 dozer.
The truck made its debut at the 2017 Great American Trucking Show (GATS) in Dallas last August, where it made quite an impression on the judges, winning Best Interior, Best Paint, and 1st Place in its class (New Working Bobtail). Kaleb and Gaylon wanted to thank Jake and the entire Lindamood crew for working so hard to get the project completed in time for that GATS show. They literally finished the truck just a few moments before driving it to the convention center for the show! And, since the show, Kaleb has been working the truck hard every day, moving their equipment from site to site.
Now 21 years old, Kaleb enjoys working with his dad, but it was tough in the beginning. Working with family is not always easy, but once they figured out how to separate the “work” time from the “family” time, things got a lot better. Poised to take over the company when the time comes, Kaleb would like to see it grow to 200 employees. “God has blessed our family and our business, and I have faith that He will continue to do so,” said Kaleb. In the meantime, he will continue learning all he can from his greatest resource here on earth – his dad.
Hammett Excavation was formed on a Godly foundation back in 1963 by Grandpa Harry, and taken to the next level by his son, Gaylon. In the future, young Kaleb hopes to continue building on that tradition, and to take the outfit to heights Harry never would have dreamed. But, like anything else, if you start with a solid foundation, you will surely end up with a strong and sturdy structure – be it a building or a business – and this company is proving that every day by simply giving an honest hour’s work, for an honest hour’s pay.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Some portions of this article were used with permission of Construction Publications, Inc. and Kirby-Smith Machinery, Inc., which originally appeared in the Kirby-Smith Connection magazine. Our thanks to them.