Modernize and Educate
Keys for Thelen Sand and Gravel

by Diana Barnum
ANTIOCH, IL – In 1947, Vern Thelen purchased his first gravel truck replacing the horse and wagon he had used to haul sand and gravel years before. With that simple purchase, he founded Thelen Sand and Gravel.

In 1955, Thelen purchased their first gravel pit in nearby Spring Grove in northeastern Illinois. The land has since been reclaimed and boasts a residential subdivision where the trucking and mining operations once stood. But the main office is still located about six miles from this site.
Today, in addition to the full-scale mining operations, there are three ready-mix plants and over 200 employees at Thelen Sand and Gravel’s plants and offices in Antioch and Waukegan, Il, and Wilmot, WI.
Thelen Excavation Division handles large road construction projects, site development, residential foundation and driveway installations, and large-scale sewer and water system installations.
Thelen also recycles concrete and asphalt from old road projects using the material in top quality products like sand, gravel and ready-mix concrete products and services.
New Facilities
“One of the plants we’re using for concrete product is a 1987 Rex plant,” said Steve Thelen, president of Thelen Sand and Gravel. “We added an Erie Central Mix to the plant in 2000. So now it has two lanes.”
“The Rex plant had two dry lanes,” said Bill Francis, District Sales Manager for the Erie Strayer Company in Erie, PA. “We converted one lane to a central mix or wet batch operation.”
The Rex plant was originally configured to have two dry batch loading lanes, each set up with a dry batch holding hopper. In 1998, Steve Thelen asked Erie Strayer to quote on converting one of the existing dry lanes to a wet lane with an Erie 12 Cu. Yd. Central Mixer. Initail site evaluation, determined the conversion was feasible.
Erie used existing drawings and field measurements to design the modifications to the existing plant. The Erie mixer was shipped in November 1998 and installed the next month. The installation went smoothly in accordance with Erie’s design and parameters. A smooth start-up and reliable day-to-day operation left Thelen pleased both with Erie and the mixer.

Plant Operations
Plant operations are run from an automated computer system. Part of that system includes a truck tracking component. Dispatchers know when trucks reach a job site, when material is poured and when the truck returns. This system is also linked with the National Weather Service, receiving minute-by-minute forecasts to help with job planning.
Thelen uses Telebelt truck-mounted telescopic conveyors from Putzmeister America. They have two 105-footers, one 180, and two 75’s.
“The newer Telebelt TB series has updated hydraulics and electronics,” said Randy Ziarek, Midwest regional sales manager for Putzmeister. “They have radio remote and smoother operations.”
Three modes of control assure that smooth operation:
• Battery-operated radio hand remote
• Truck controls
• Plug-in or hardwire control remote
The plug-in is ideal for work in areas that have radio frequency conflict like in hospital zones.
Thelen’s onsite equipment also includes a 75 foot conveyor, rows of ready mix trucks, semi dump trucks, six-wheel dumps, loaders, and four Kenworth trucks with McNeilus mixers.
“The oldest piece of equipment we have is our 150 Komatsu with a hammer,” Bruce Coon, division superintendent at Thelen’s excavation site. “And we use a loader impactor that’s four years old.”
Industry and Community Education
Thelen Sand and Gravel takes every opportunity to educate its customers and the neighboring community
The company routinely hosts educational concrete seminars at their Antioch plant. Seminars range from equipment demonstrations to concrete finishing.
A recent concrete seminar focused on the effects of weather on quality concrete finishing and the effective use of admixtures in concrete finishing. The belief is that once educated, customers will make best use of Thelen’s products and services. Topics included insulated concrete forming systems and a comparison of steel versus synthetic fibermesh. Volunteers attempting to break two concrete samples, one with fiber and one without, learned firsthand that fiber improves tensile strength.
Attendees also learn the advantages of flowable fill. Flowable fill is ideal for: filling voids under existing pavements, foundations and other supporting structures; backfilling narrow trenches; and filling abandoned underground structures such as culverts, pipes, tunnels, storage tanks, wells and sewers. Flowable fill eliminates the need for clay stockpiles; requires less equipment; requires no compaction; and is self-leveling
Thelen takes a proactive stand concerning community relations. The company works hard to present a positive image. Among their efforts is a program opening the quarry to school tours and other groups allowing them to study glacial deposits under active mining conditions.
For more information on: Thelen Sand and Gravel Company; 28955 W. Rt. 173, Antioch, IL 60002, 847-395-3313 (ph), 847-395-3452 (fax). Erie Strayer Company, PO Box 1031, Erie, PA 16512; 814-456-7001 (ph), 814-452-3422 (fax). Putzmeister America, 1733 90th Street, Sturtevant, WI 53177; 800-884-7210(ph), (262) 884-6338 (fax).