When working below ground-level, safety is a top concern. Dirt doesn’t really have a conscious, and it won’t care if people are in a trench when it decides to cave in. That’s why trench safety equipment is more important than the job itself, and companies like National Trench Safety (NTS) have dedicated time, equipment and money to the cause. NUCA recognized NTS’s dedication to keeping the construction industry safe by naming the company as the 2012 Associate of the Year.
“It’s a true honor to be recognized as the Associate of the Year when one considers there are so many great companies that participate within NUCA,” says NTS President Ron Chilton. “We were very excited about the award, as it reinforces the effect of our mission of helping to promote safety and efficiency within this industry.”
NTS formed in 2004 after a series of events led former Plank Co. employees to start up a new business. The large majority of NTS co-founders — Ron Chilton, Shelly Bangerter (Chief Accounting and Corporate Operations Officer), Wes Jones (Senior Vice President of Branch Operations), Tom Hartman (Vice President and Western District Manager), Gary Martin (Gulf Coast District Manager), Robert Stevenson (National Manager of Engineered Products) and six others — have been together for nearly 25 years, starting at The Plank Co., a trench-shoring specialist, and following it as it was sold to National Equipment Services (NES) and then sold once more to United Rentals in late 2002. Once non-compete agreements with United Rentals expired, the group came together again, and NTS was born.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary next year, NTS thrives on one simple goal: To be the best trench safety and traffic safety rental company in the industry. Today, with 21 locations across the United States — from Sacramento, Calif., over to Houston, up to Chicago and down to Miami — NTS is a dealer or distributor of major brands, including GME, SBH, TT Technologies, Trimble and more. In addition to providing equipment, NTS offers in-house engineering services, OSHA-compliant training classes and trench-rescue training, with seminars available in both English and Spanish. NUCA seminars are also presented at all NTS branch offices.
Chilton says being involved with NUCA has helped NTS grow through networking opportunities and understanding legislation related to the construction industry.
“NUCA does a great job of supporting the needs of the utility construction industry,” he says. “Being part of NUCA is a great way to stay connected with pending legislation that impacts the industry and support an organization that is actively lobbying for the benefit of the industry. It’s also a smart way to stay connected with industry peers, competitors and changes in technologies and techniques.”
Since its founding, NTS has had an active involvement in local NUCA chapters. As the company has expanded across the country, it has continued to support local chapters with NTS employees serving as chapter leaders. In 2012, NTS became a NUCA Silver National Partner, contributing $25,000 to the organization. In exchange for the significant financial support, NUCA provides opportunities for national partners to promote products and services, most notably by being an exclusive exhibitor at the annual NUCA Convention, the Washington Summit and the Safety Directors Forum.
“Our decision to become a Silver partner was based on our belief that NUCA was the only organization in the country that properly represented the underground industry in Washington and at the state level,” Chilton says. “We also recognize that NUCA does a great job supporting the needs of utility contractors across America. Therefore, we felt NTS had a responsibility to support NUCA and provide it with additional financial resources so that the organization — and more importantly the contractors that NUCA supports — had a strong voice in Washington and at the state level.”
Sponsoring events at the NUCA Convention — like the corn toss games this year — is also important to NTS.
“Events like these are a great way to engage with people in the trench safety industry,” Chilton says. “We believe having fun with your customers and competitors is always a good way to improve communication and increase value for everyone in the group. We enjoy these events and also think they are a fun opportunity to meet new people and network.”
A Comfortable Outlook
It’s difficult to predict the future, but NTS isn’t too worried about where the utility construction industry is heading.
“While we don’t have a crystal ball, we do feel the utility construction market is poised for a strong rebound in 2013 and beyond,” Chilton says. “Clearly, federal funding issues and state funding issues are a gating factor to our industry. With that said, with the continued aging of the national water and sewer infrastructure coupled with the low level of investment over the last few years in these systems, the U.S. has no choice but to increase its investment in this area to be able to keep up with minimal growth and normal repairs. At some point in the near future, these investments will have to be made no matter what the political environment in Washington is.”
Chilton says keeping informed of what’s happening in the industry is important, and NUCA makes that easier on its members.
“We greatly benefit from the information produced by NUCA that allows us to learn and participate in the regulatory changes/discussions related to our industry and to keep abreast of the ever-changing business environment,” he says. “NUCA is also a great place to learn about new technologies, new products and new techniques that are being introduced to the industry. The ability to talk to industry leaders, contractors and vendors is always a plus for a company like NTS.”
NTS is also a member of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Houston Contractors Association, American Rental Association and several other organizations on a national and local scale.
“Many of these organizations do a good job of providing relevant information, including economic forecasts and legislation reviews, which is beneficial for our local managers,” Chilton says. “Our branch management teams also enjoy the opportunity to participate in and interact with clients in the events the various associations host during the year.”
Through talking with industry leaders and clients, NTS feels comfortable with the next few years.
“We are cautiously optimistic that smart decisions will begin to be made by the politicians at the federal and state level, which will continue to drive the growth of our industry,” Chilton says.
Kelly Pickerel is a Contributing Editor of Utility Contractor.