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Hilton Services Rides High in an Emerging Market – Chooses Risley Equipment

Hilton Services, a land-clearing and fencing company, has discovered that Risley Equipment’s EX300 Eclips is one of the best on the market.

By Maya L. Brewer
Date Posted: 4/1/2010

Rusk, TX—Hilton Services LP was started in March 2006 by owners Doug and Carri Hassell and Hilton Hassell. When Hilton Services split off from Hilton Enterprise in 2006, it had only four employees and one machine, which only cleared fence right of ways. Doug received a call from an oil and gas company asking Hilton Services to demonstrate some of its equipment on a right of way (ROW). Since that time, Hilton Services has been adding equipment and clearing rights of way in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Today the company is bidding work all across the United States.

            In 2008, the company was adding about a machine a month and grew nearly 500%. Their constant growth involves putting together a team of people from superintendents, foremen, safety men, mechanics, truck drivers, to machine operators. The biggest challenge that Hilton Services faced was finding a good machine to purchase because it was a new industry in the United States. In the past, oil companies had piled, burned, and buried trees on the ROWs. Hilton Services changed the way that oil companies cleared their ROWs. Timber chipping saved the oil companies money because they did not have to purchase additional work space on a ROW to burn and bury trees. Chipping the vegetation does not disturb the roots and causes no erosion problems. Hilton Services leaves wood chips on the ground.

            Over the past three years, Hilton Services has purchased rubber tire machines, track machines, whole tree chippers, trackhoe chippers, and in-ground units that crush concrete and rock. Hilton Services owns many different brands of machines, including Barko, Bron, Tigercat, CMI, Risley, Supertrack, Ironwolf, Woodsman, Prentice and Fecon. The equipment included some prototypes. For example, Hilton Services worked with Texas Timberjack to design a whole tree chipper, which can chip a tree that is thirty-two inches diameter in about two minutes.

            Hilton Services’ operators believe that their Risley machines are some of the best machines the company owns. The Risley track system seems to hold up well and stays on top of the ground.

            In 2009, Hilton Services experienced a 50% growth even with the down economy and adverse weather conditions. The company attributes its growth to good equipment manufacturers, a good team of people, and strong financial institutions.

            In its relatively short life, Hilton Services has added erosion control, reseeding, painting, and sandblasting to its services. Hilton Services basically does everything but lay the pipe. Tree mulching has become more widely accepted as a land clearing means because it has less environmental impact. Now Hilton Services employs 102 workers and owns nearly 40 machines, four haul trucks, and 65 company trucks. The company is growing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with the pace; it is hiring on a regular and consistent basis.

            Hilton Services’ main headquarters, formally a three- to five-acre Ford automobile dealership, has been converted to offices. Doug and six other employees work from this Rusk, Tex. location. Hilton’s two other locations are in Louisiana and Arkansas.

            With all their machines and manpower Hilton Services has done miles and miles of pipeline. Each pipeline right of way is 75 to 80 feet wide.

             “We don’t go in and destroy the land,” Hilton stated. “We work with environmental people to preserve the land to their standards. Occasionally we get shut down for a wood pecker in a tree, but even that’s rare because what we do is so carefully planned.”

            Part of Hilton’s philosophy is maintaining an environmental friendly process for land clearing by chipping, creating top soil, and mulching to aid in erosion control. Their company does no burning, stacking or hauling. Hilton works alongside environmental specialists to respect wetlands and to create a method where everyone is working cohesively for mutual benefit.

            We know that we’re neither the least nor the most expensive company around. But we do have the staff, the machinery, and the mechanics to get the job done.”

            Their most recent purchase has been Risley Equipment’s multi-purpose track vehicle, the EX300 Eclips® high drive Flextrac® machine. In fact, they’ve purchased three of them.

            Risely EX300 tracks are different from others. Hilton test ran the machine for about a week and tried to disprove Risley’s product but to no avail.

            Risley Equipment is a 30-year-old family owned and operated business headquartered in Alberta, Canada. Reg Isley, president and owner of the company, has a passion for invention that’s been the “cusp of his company.”

            According to Dean Isley, son and vice president of Risley Equipment, their track system is what sets them apart from all the others. The technology of the Flextrac® has been developed from the concept of track systems found in military tanks. The entire track system, including the under carriage, flexes so that pressure is evenly spread throughout the entire base of the machine.

            Dean compared it simply as the difference between wearing high-heeled shoes in a wet field after the rain or wearing snow shoes in thick snow. The front of the high-heeled shoe doesn’t sink but the ball of the heel sinks, causing the entire shoe to get stuck. But because the snow shoe has even compression upon the snow, it doesn’t sink and retains its mobility. This is how their track system works.

            Dean remarked that this technology has been around for 30 years, but people hadn’t really tried to incorporate it into the private sector. His dad has been studying the system for quite a while.

            “Time plays such a crucial role in inventing new solutions for things,” said Dean. “It’s all about timing and the right place and the right conditions. We have had to be patient as we work at things.”

            “We build things simple...,” stated Dean. “My dad was never told what he couldn’t do. It didn’t mean he didn’t fail at the things that he tried. There’s been lots of failure, but that’s how you learn and grow.”

            According to Dean, Risley Equipment was the first to invent the self-loading logging trucks in the industry. In the 1980’s they invented and patented the Rotosaw®, an attachment for cutting trees up to 30" with a centerless disk saw. It took 13 people, five years, and three quarters of a million dollars to complete the project. Their experience in the forestry equipment industry led to the creation of the purpose built “TimberKing”® feller buncher, which in 2001 was sold to Caterpillar and today is rebranded under the Caterpillar and Blount Trademarks. Risley Equipment has supplied big name companies such as Caterpillar, John Deere and Komatsu. Their industrial products and attachments are used worldwide.

            “We take our tool belt of tools and try to work with every OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to develop the solutions needed.” stated Dean referring to their past inventions. “We sold a tool, not the tool belt.”

            “It’s like a David and Goliath moment when we show our machines,” replied Dean. “We just need an opportunity to show what we have. We don’t have the highest horse power. There’s a whole macho thing in this industry, a big emphasis on horse power. But the telling tale is taking it to the tracks and letting it do its thing. We have that sweet combination of power, efficiency and our track system.”

            Risley bases its philosophy on Christian principals. Dean acknowledged that the company designs each piece of equipment with a specific purpose from the very beginning, just like all of creation was made by God with a specific purpose in mind.

            Risley offers three models of its multi-purpose track machines, the EZ200, the EX400 Eclips, and the EX300 Eclips. The 200 model, with 200hp, is built for timber and vegetation management. The EX400 Eclips, with an 11 liter 400hp Tier III Cummins engine, insures power, traction and floatation in steep and deep terrain. The EX300 Eclips, with a 325hp Cummins QSL Tier III engine, boasts of built-in applications in forestry, oilfield, construction, and agriculture.

            “Our Eclips series was developed for the purpose of being a low-impact multi-purpose carrier,” stated Dean. “We are now looking at the next generation of machinery in the forestry, construction and pipelining industries. We want to offer a product that maintains flexibility in the changing economy and markets. We don’t want our customers’ investments to be lost. We want to provide machines that can be easily modified to move to another industry.”

            The Hilton management team is convinced that Risley Equipment is a way forward for its flourishing business.

            “Believe me,” said Johnny with Hilton Services. “I’ve got one of every kind of machine and I firmly believe that Risley is one of the best on the market. They are great to work with and Reg even flew in to see me. He’s the only owner who has ever done that just to get my feedback on a product. That means a lot.”

            As the Hilton team and Dean look to the future, they are anticipating a mutually profitable relationship.


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