Episode 1 of Six Figures, No Suits takes us literally into the heart of Alabama where Russo Corp is busy working on a drilled shaft project to make the foundations for a new condo.
These drilled shafts are the same type that hold up the Brooklyn Bridge. But, back in 1869, they had to dig these shafts by hand. That’s one of the reasons why it took them 14 years to open the Brooklyn Bridge. Now, Russo Corp can drill multiple shafts in one shift, and some can be completed in 5 to 10 minutes!
Watch as Dennis explains the way drilled shafts hold up buildings, and find out why 54 elephants and 20 buses are so important to the project. Check out the 4-foot wide auger using over 100,000 ft-lbs of torque (your pickup truck has maybe 300 to 400 ft-lbs!) drilling shafts up to 200 feet deep.
There is no question that this fraternity of brothers on this worksite love their jobs as they encourage others to consider a career in shaft drilling. Good pay. Great employer. Terrific team. See why after 13 (or 41!) years they say this job is new and interesting, every single day!
We’re in Auburn, Alabama, on a drilled shafts project. The project is deep foundations for a condominium that’s going up here in Auburn, and we’ve got temporary shoring going in, and then two phases of drilled shaft work. We’ve got 22 shafts on the first phase and 150 on the latter phase. My name is Dennis Smith. I’m a superintendent for Russo Corporation.
The three basic foundation technologies that we use are anchored earth, drilled shafts, and micro piles. In this case, we’re using drilled shafts as a deep foundation for the condominiums going up. The way a drilled shaft works is it transfers the load from a structure above to a bearing strata below, kind of like a column in the dirt. The Brady capacity for the piers is about 700,000 pounds, or about 54 elephants, or 20 Greyhound buses.
So a drill shaft, or a caisson, is a cylinder ranging from 18 inch to 13 foot diameter, where we use the auger bit to drill to a certain depth, anywhere from five, ten, to 120, to 200 feet deep. All the dirt and [inaudible 00:02:06] material will come out of the hole and produce a round cylinder to fill with the circular rebar cage and fill with concrete all the way from the bottom of the top. This is a Soilmec SR-45 drill rig. They’re made in Italy. Rotary driven drill rig powered by kelly bar and the rotary, upwards of a hundred thousand foot pounds of torque. To correlate torque, your normal everyday pickup truck, your engine produces around 300 to 400 foot pounds of torque, and this machine produces upwards of a hundred to 120,000 foot pounds of torque in the rotary to turn the kelly bar and drill the shaft as deep as you need it. This is a 48 inch rock auger with carbide teeth.
Well, we start pulling the shaft. Once we drill it down, we’ve got to get the right depth, the right elevation, and we got to get with [inaudible 00:02:59] to give me the right concrete elevation, the right steel elevation. So what I started doing, I started pulling without putting the steel in, it was a floating case. So when I get so much in there then I stop, then I reached back, grab my steel, put it in the hole, and let him shoot it. Give me the right elevation. I let the crane hold the steel, I start back pouring concrete. I get enough concrete to have to stabilize the steel. I cut the steel loose, then I come on up to the right elevation, and that’s the hole.
First recorded drilled shafts in North America were put in under the Brooklyn Bridge. And back then, they had to dig them by hand and it could take up to several months to put one shaft in. Now with the technology we’ve got, we’re able to do multiple shafts per shift, or even as fast as one every five or 10 minutes.
I got into this business as a part-time job out of college. And 13 years later, I’m still here. I’m from Monroeville, Alabama. I went to Monroe Academy in high school. Ended up here in Auburn. Went to college here at Auburn, graduated in 2005, and came from a family of John Deere salesman. Ended up with Russo as part-time looking for a full-time job. And 13 years later, I’m still here at Russo. Typically, you’ll find all kinds of different objects when you’re drilling. Old metal pilings or all kinds of different things. Just never know what you’re going to find out in a hole.
Yeah. My passion for this industry started when I was working with my uncle on a summer job, fell in love with it, and been here ever since. 41 years. I started back in ’77, and I’m still here in 2018. When I started with the company I did not have any formal education in doing this. I had on-job training, learned by hands-on. If I wanted to do something more, to be hired on, or to make this a career for them in this industry, I would tell them this would be a good thing to do. Good pay, good hours, good people to work for. It’ll be a good thing all the way around.
I’m headed out right now to go to the tractor supply to pick up a few things to keep the job going. But I don’t have to worry about everybody standing around wondering what to do. We’ve got a good enough team on site to keep work going, even if I’m on site or gone.
Well, I got two cousins, my uncle [inaudible 00:05:40], then I got a good friend of mine, then I got a bunch of friends that we came up with, a bunch of guys that I brought in. And we learned, I learned them, and trained them. And they’re good guys, good fellows, good [inaudible 00:05:52].
The team on site is really like a fraternity of brothers. We’re all together with each other really more than we are with our families. We depend on each other for our livelihoods, as well as our safety. We work in a typically dangerous industry, and without the brotherhood of having each other’s backs, you’re more likely to be injured or have an accident.
This here is my cousin, Chris [Mote 00:06:18]. He’s a man of all trades. He do it all. And he’ll do what you asked him to do, he just got a mouth sometimes, but he okay with me. I love him.
This is Lewis [Wright 00:06:25]. I met him a long time ago and he a good friend of mine. He a real hard worker. Lewis Wright.
This is [LaShone Mote 00:06:34]. This is Chris’ brother. This is my cousin. He’s a good guy. He knows pretty much what to do with [inaudible 00:06:39], he knew how to handle his business.
Now this my boss right here. Clark Gary. Good man. The best supervisor we ever had.
So in this line of work, you never know what you’re going to get into.
Every day’s different. No two days are the same. You never do the same thing twice.
If you’re out on the job site, it never requires a suit unless you really like to show out, and look good, and get dirty.
I think if a suit was required, I would have to change professions. I couldn’t stand to wear a suit every day and be confined with a tie.
Last time I wore a suit was Wednesday night, we’re running revival [inaudible 00:07:22] rip out. And I did the revival Wednesday night.
Foundation drilling isn’t for everyone. But for those who have the self motivation and determination to succeed, it’s the chance of a lifetime.