For nearly half a century, Ferma Corp. — a general engineering contractor in the San Francisco Bay area — has been doing excavation and site preparation work for both the private and public sectors. What the company is best known for, however, is its expertise in demolition work.

Incorporated by four brothers in 1963, Ferma Corp. remains a family-owned business, with headquarters in Mountain View, CA. According to Rob Verga, equipment manager, no job's too large for Ferma Corp., which does business within a 100-mi. radius of the Silicon Valley.

“We recently did a large project for Rudolph and Sletten, general contractors for Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. Our job was to tear down the former IBM office complexes in San Jose when Hitachi bought IBM and its technology and moved everything overseas in 2003. The 150-acre redevelopment included 1.5-million sq. ft. of building, 2.3-million sq.-ft. of roads, and miles of underground utilities that we demolished and removed from the site.”

About two years ago, Ferma was involved in another large project that called for tearing down Stanford University's 85,500-seat football stadium and press box, which was originally built in 1921. Currently, the company is doing a job for UC Berkeley, tearing down Warren Hall, a six-story concrete building.

“When we tear down a place,” Verga explains, “we separate out the recyclable materials from the site, including concrete, metals and wood debris. Concrete is either crushed on site or hauled off in our end dump trailers. Metals are sorted and hauled away to metal recyclers or scrap yards. If there is any wood debris, we chip it for use as ground cover or haul it off to be used in biomass regeneration plants.”

Ferma hires 24 full-time drivers to do the hauling with 16 Kenworth T800 heavy trucks. The trucks are spec'd with Caterpillar C15 engines, rated 435 hp., and Kenworth airglide suspensions. Verga says the company uses a number of different trailer configurations to match the varying applications. For example, 30 specially built high-sided trailers are designed to carry lighter debris, while ten Reliance end dumps haul the heavier concrete. There are also two Fruehauf wood chip trailers.

The end dumps, Verga explains, can carry up to 18 yards of concrete per load. The Ferma-designed high-sided trailers hold between 65 and 70 yards of material, including aluminum, steel and other metals, as well as wood debris. To move construction equipment to and from various sites, Ferma has five COZAD lowboy trailers.

Fleet equipment is domiciled at Ferma's yard and maintenance shop across the bay in Newark, CA. “We have maintenance facilities,” Verga states, “but we choose to use a Kenworth dealer for most of our work because it's more economical. Our Bay Area Kenworth dealer comes and picks up our trucks and delivers them when the service is done. The arrangement has worked out quite well. They keep us up to date and keep our Kenworth trucks going.”

“Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for us is keeping up with all the federal government and state regulations. Different rules apply to our heavy construction equipment versus the Kenworth trucks, and it's a full-time job keeping the various rules and deadlines straight and budgeting for it all,” reports Verga.

Like all truck fleets in California, Ferma is now dealing with new, stricter anti-idling laws that went into effect in January. Verga says a lot of additional recordkeeping is required, such as amounts of fuel burned, hours equipment is run, etc. The fleet also has stricter emissions regulations to contend with.

“We stay ahead of the game by getting the latest engines, and we're currently in the process of converting over to some biofuels to stay on top of current regulations and upcoming ones for low-emissions vehicles,” Verga says. He points out that the California CARB rules going into effect in 2010, for example, are another issue his company will have to deal with. Ferma is now exploring options that will best keep its heavy on- and off-road equipment running efficiently.