P&Q Profile: Arizona Drilling & Blasting’s Pete Tramontanas

By |  May 29, 2019

From housing developments and road cuts to dams and quarries, Arizona Drilling & Blasting, a division of Fisher Sand & Gravel Co., takes on just about every blasting job imaginable. P&Q caught up this spring with Arizona Drilling & Blasting general manager Pete Tramontanas, a Cedar City, Utah, resident who joined the company back in 2009.

Headshot: Pete Tramontanas, Arizona Drilling & Blasting


Do you see a trend at the moment of aggregate producers doing their own drilling and blasting, or are more currently contracting out this part of the business?

It goes back and forth. Some get the idea to do it themselves and then realize it’s not such a good idea. They do it because of control, but it can be hard for them because they’ve got a $750,000 machine sitting on the hill, and they’re not getting the utilization out of it. To man it and run it, that’s extra cost on them with the extra staff and time it takes to operate and manage.

I feel we provide a good service. We are able to be there when they call and meet their timeline – no matter how much time they give us. We look at it as being part of their team. If they are unsuccessful, then we are as well.

That’s [something] that gets lost and why some companies look into doing it themselves. It’s due to the providers unable to meet their deadline and being ready at the drop of a hat.

How is technology changing the way you do your job?

We utilize GPS and took it upon ourselves to do quantity reports. There is no more guesstimating on shot patterns or backbreak. [This] is fair for all, [as] only the box is billable.

With drills, those are becoming more technical. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. They give you more headaches in the field with the electronics on them. You’re not working on an air track anymore where you have a bucket of tools and can go fix something. You’ve got to have a technician look at it.

That said, the fuel consumption on drills is cut in half these days. It’s amazing how much more fuel efficient these drills are.

Arizona Drilling & Blasting is a division of Fisher Sand and Gravel. Photo courtesy of Pete Tramontanas.

Arizona Drilling & Blasting is a division of Fisher Sand and Gravel. Photo courtesy of Pete Tramontanas.

Does your use of technology make the difference between landing a job and not landing one?

There are a lot of jobs nowadays where customers want a percent down to a certain size. They’ll ask if you can run a fragmentation analysis – or something like that – to offer a prediction. I think that really does help you when they’re holding you to certain limitations – say 80 percent of 24-in. minus. You can say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ if that’s going to happen in that rock.

But it is getting harder to add all of these values of added service and technology when some customers are only looking at the bottom dollar most of the time when bidding for work. This is a tough industry. [It] seems to be the one that [considers] it better to be cheaper. Good work isn’t cheap, and cheap work isn’t good.

Fines or oversize: What’s the bigger blasting problem you’ve experienced?

Well, generally it’s either too big or too small. But you get those jobs once in while that make you look good – you call it ‘hero rock.’

For the most part it’s pretty tough because the geology changes here and there. There are some variations you’re changing, but you could do two shots beautifully and the third is too big or too small. That will always be an issue everyone will deal with in the blasting world. Some quarries do get it dialed in to make most happy. But being the blaster, you would never hear that even if it was good; just when it’s bad.

How many drills do you have in the field right now?

We’re up to 23 drills right now everywhere. We’re kind of broken up between the southern, western and northern guys. We go where we’re needed and communicate where guys can break off. Guys are jumping around all the time going from state to state.

I have the utmost appreciation to those guys for the dedication and time they give to our company. We wouldn’t be able to [get jobs] done without them. I tip my hat to all the men and women in this line of work for battling the elements.

What does it mean to you to operate safely?

Safety is a big factor. No one wants anything bad to happen, period. Communication is the biggest thing, making sure everyone knows what’s going on during the shot but also before the shot.

You can have all the rules and regulations you want on a site, but unless you are talking about what, when, where and how, none of that matters. That’s why communication is a big factor in the picture of safety, from the bottom up. Everyone gets to go home.

What affect is regulation having on blasters?

Rules and regulations are becoming a huge factor in our industry. It’s getting tougher for us to pull permits. I don’t know if the local authorities want to deal with blasting. It is just easier for them to say ‘no,’ but they are not realizing the effects this will have later on.

Rules have been put in place because of incidents. Certain places throughout the west won’t even allow blasting, period. We’re starting to see that on the scope. We haven’t seen this so much in quarries, but for housing developments. I know it’s getting tougher for quarries in some areas, but I wouldn’t say local authorities have said ‘no’ to blasting yet.

Even though the quarry or mine has been there 100 years, it seems to be a surprise to homebuyers. As the years go by and homes approach these sites, they want something done about it. This is why people in the industry need to be active in the area they work at.

Five Things

BEST LIFE ADVICE RECEIVED – When you get knocked down, get up and keep moving forward. Also, take things day by day.

BEST BLASTING ADVICE RECEIVED – Being a blaster is like being a pilot: It doesn’t matter how many times you make a perfect landing, everyone will remember you for that one bad one.

FIRST JOB – Farming and ranching

HOBBIES – Hanging with my four boys, going outdoors and riding quads and dirt bikes

TRAVEL SPOT – Home is my favorite place to travel because we’re always on the road.

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