Operation reaches production goals with screening plant, dealer support

By |  May 6, 2016

Deep in the heart of the Texas Panhandle, in the small rural city of Vega, LS Sand & Gravel is racing to put as much material on the ground as possible. If the company can process it fast enough, it will sell, says Plant Manager Carlos Vega.

As one of the largest aggregate producers in the panhandle, LS Sand & Gravel produces more than a million tons of road base asphalt and concrete aggregate each year. It’s a product that’s high in demand right now, thanks to a recent infusion of state funding allocated to maintain Texas’ massive highway infrastructure. That demand is forecast to be even greater in the coming years, with the recently passed federal highway bill, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or the FAST Act.

The company has come a long way since its inception in 2002, when workers there were just using “de-sanders” – an industry term common in the panhandle to describe the use of screens and front end loaders to scalp sand rather than mining rock. Today, the company makes road base and landscaping material using a variety of crushing, screening and washing equipment, including two log washers, five screens and six de-sanders, all from Kolberg Pioneer and Astec Mobile Screens.

The material LS Sand & Gravel encounters is abrasive, hard river rock and sand that the company mines off of hundreds of thousands of acres in the panhandle.

“We make anything from 0.25-in. up to 1.5-in. rock, all to Texas Department of Transportation specifications,” Vega says. “We use this material for building roads, pads for buildings, base roads for windmill farms and producing landscaping materials. Anything you can think of, we make it here.”

Operation details

The process starts in the pit with an Astec Mobile Screens model GT205S track-mounted screening plant. There, the sand is scalped away from the rock. The remaining aggregate is then loaded onto belly dumps, where it is crushed, washed, sized and put back on the ground to sell.

The material from the pit is comprised of about 60 percent sand and 40 percent aggregate. Depending on the grade of the sand, it may be used as concrete sand, scalpings or fill-in sand. If the sand is too dry or too contaminated to use, it is not processed.

Focusing on achieving high production has been key to the company’s success, Vega says, which is why the company switched to the GT205S after becoming dissatisfied with the production and service from other units.

“If we’re not producing, we’re losing money,” Vega says. “We’re a big operation, so we’ve got to be putting material down on the ground every day, 10 hours a day. We try to be the strongest and the best producer, but we need to have good equipment to do that.”

Vega likes that the equipment is American-made. “We don’t have to wait for anything to come overseas and we can get parts quickly,” he says.

The GT205S is a track-mounted screening plant that is designed for producers processing sand and gravel, topsoil, slag, crushed stone and recycled materials. The screening plant is part of the Global Track family of products, which are specifically designed to be user-friendly, mobile and self-contained. The product line is also designed to be slimmer and lighter, making it easy to transport and more affordable.

The screening plant pairs a 5-ft. x 20-ft. double- or triple-deck screen with conveyor heights that allow for maximum stockpile capacity. Minimal electronics ensure easy maintenance and troubleshooting, while its low profile and compact design allow for easy access to all controls for setup.
Vega says he values the capacity of the unit, allowing him to screen more material in a shorter amount of time.

“The more I can put on the ground in fewer hours, the better,” he says.


Even more important to Vega than the built-in production and capacity is the ability to work directly with the engineers at Astec Mobile Screens to alter the machine to fit his needs.

“I love being able to work with the factory,” he says. “If they send me a GT205S and say it can do 500 tph, and I say I need 800 tph, they work with me to tweak the machine to get the production I need.”

Vega also worked with the manufacturer and his local dealer, Texas Bearing Co., to install a 20-ft. breather, which helped the equipment battle the region’s oppressive heat and dry conditions. This design change helped the machine take in clean, fresh air all day and kept engine temperatures down.

“There are all sorts of design changes we might need, which is why I appreciate working with a factory that will take my needs into consideration,” he says. “We might change hydraulic motors, hydraulic pumps, hoses, or we might need our hoppers to be bigger or smaller. It all just depends on what kind of material we get into.”

Vega says the downtime he has experienced with the screen plant is minimal, which is critical to hitting his production goals and selling as much product as possible. He estimates downtime to be under 10 percent, which he attributes to normal maintenance and wear and tear of the machine. The low downtime is also attributed to the parts availability he receives through Texas Bearing Co.

Parts and service

“Parts availability for me is the biggest factor for downtime,” Vega says. “If I don’t have parts to fix my plants, and I have to sit and wait two or three days, I’m not going to meet my production numbers. You’ve got to have great dealer and factory support. You can have the best piece of equipment, but if you don’t have someone to work on it or you don’t have the parts, then that piece of equipment isn’t going to do you any good.

“In this industry,” Vega adds, “equipment is going to break down. You need to have a good response. This is where Texas Bearing comes in very strong. They have almost everything on their counter, and it’s just a phone call away.”


Michelle Cwach is the media-relations manager for Kolberg Pioneer, Johnson Crushers International and Astec Mobile Screens, equipment manufacturers for the aggregate, construction, recycle and mining industries.

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