Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

THE EQUIPMENT INTERVIEWS John O’Callaghan

Number of employees: 111 full time plus 5–10 seasonal 

Size of service area in acres: 233,000 

Amount of water diverted per year for irrigation in acre-feet: 980,000 

Main crops irrigated: Alfalfa, apples and other tree fruit, corn, grass seed, potatoes, onions, timothy hay, wheat 

Predominant irrigation methods: Sprinkler 

John O’Callaghan
Secretary/Manager
South Columbia Basin Irrigation District
Pasco, WA 

Irrigation Leader: How many vehicles and pieces of equipment does your district own? 

John O’Callaghan: We own 150 pickup trucks; 100 pieces of equipment, including excavators, wheel loaders, road graders, dozers, dump trucks, straight trucks, and trailers; and 75 pieces of engine-powered support equipment, including pumps, compressors, compactors, saws, and so on. 

Irrigation Leader: What kind of maintenance is required for your vehicles and equipment? 

John O’Callaghan: We do four kinds of maintenance, with the goal of having no major failures during the life of our vehicles and equipment. First, we do scheduled maintenance, such as oil and filter changes done according to manufacturers’ recommendations and our own field experience. Second, we do preventative maintenance, such as replacing components of our frontline equipment at planned intervals. Frontline equipment is equipment that is vital to our day-to-day operations—typically things such as batteries, starters, and water pumps. Third, we do maintenance that is scheduled as needed, such as repairing hydraulic cylinders, tires, and undercarriages; replacing pins and bushings; and reconditioning pin bores on excavators or buckets. Last, we carry out emergency repairs when a machine is down and out of service. These are typically in response to things such as the failure of a hydraulic hose, air line, or brake. 

Irrigation Leader: What kinds of records do you keep of that maintenance? 

John O’Callaghan: We keep detailed records. Each type of repair has a repair order in which we record all the parts and labor that go into it. After the repair or maintenance, that information is entered into our fleet-management software, which is used to calculate the cost of a piece of equipment per hour or mile and the total cost of ownership. 

Irrigation Leader: How do you bid for or buy equipment? 

John O’Callaghan: Depending on market conditions, we may buy new from Sourcewell or another government contract. When buying used, we develop a bid specification and advertise the bid. We also search for auctions offering specific pieces of equipment for which buying at auction may represent significant value over buying new or used from the retail market. 

Irrigation Leader: How long do you use your vehicles and pieces of equipment before replacing them? 

John O’Callaghan: Pieces of equipment and vehicles are classed according to their role. Frontline vehicles and equipment are vital to our day-to-day operations and have priority when considering replacements. The fleet is evaluated continuously, and we can take advantage of equipment that performs above expectations. We may choose to invest more in such equipment and run it longer if it looks like it will last. Our general guidelines, which are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, are that we replace excavators and wheel loaders after 10,000 hours; road graders after 15,000 hours; dump trucks after a minimum of 250,000 miles; frontline vehicles after 100,000 miles; and highway and secondary vehicles after 150,000 miles. 

John O’Callaghan is the secretary/ manager of the South Columbia Basin Irrigation District. He can be contacted at jocallaghan@scbid.org.