Old US 131 State Highway Project Case Study with use of the JohnnyBall system (Study date 2014)


Old US 131 State Highway Project (Team Elmer’s) in Traverse City, Michigan utilized the Johnny Ball Leveling Platform


Job: The Old US 131 State Highway Project – ditches slopes and back slopes
Machine: John Deere 650 Dozer
Slope requirements: Staked at top of Slope levels

Typically excavating firms use either a common slope meter or GPS or engineering grade stakes. The costs associated with these methods are as follows: $350/unit. GPS has a cost associated with $60,000+. Team Elmer’s utilizes survey staking and has GPS for their larger roadwork jobs. Team Elmer’s calculated the cost to operate the machines at an average of $82/ hour. This includes both operators time and equipment costs.


Base cups were used to allow the Johnny Ball to be moved between pieces of equipment. By predominately using top of slope staking operators were able to meet engineering specifications for slopes, ditches and back slopes. “Johnny Ball gave our operators a good tool to fall back on and was easy to use while being well accepted by the operators.”


The job ran for two days. The soil consisted of Loamy soil and topsoil work. Utilizing Johnny Ball, operators achieved and maintained required slopes with the top grade stakes and were not required to exit their equipment to check grade. This saved an average of 2-3 hours per day or (6) operator hours at $82/hour equates to a total of $492/ cost reduction. As a result, the operator was able to continue operating with Johnny Ball using compound slopes and angles rather than checking grade. The Johnny Ball gave the operator a guide and reference. It reduced engineering visits and associated engineering costs. The engineer did not need to confirm slope requirement and re-stake grade. The Johnny Ball met the requirements.

Use of the Johnny Ball over the two-day period resulted in a reduction of engineering visits and 6 hours of operator time. This equated to an average cost reduction of $492 in this case study.


Team Elmer’s uses Johnny Ball to maintain level and slope requirements and has established a protocol for reducing costs and increasing profitability through increased efficiency and productivity of the operators and the equipment.