As a farm kid in the 1950’s Mervyn (Merv) Pidherney used to wait by the road with a bag lunch, looking for Al Tink’s gravel truck to rumble by and pick him up, an event he eagerly looked forward to. It was an early indication of things to come. Merv dropped out of school in the tenth grade and was told by a teacher that he would never amount to anything. This comment would put Merv on a path to building one of Alberta's top trucking and heavy earthworks construction companies, all starting with one man and one truck. In 1964, with a co-signed loan from his parents and a trade-in of his beloved 1957 Chevrolet Bel Aire, 19 year old Merv started his business by hauling gravel in his new single-axle truck. “The government rate of pay for a gravel truck at that time was $5.40 per hour. You had to cover your gas and maintenance and pay yourself out of that. I worked hard, finding work and hauling gravel wherever I could. It wasn’t easy,” says Merv. Fast-forward 50 years and you will find that Merv runs his business today with the same philosophies he started with: there is no job too big or too small, and customer service never sleeps.
In 1967 Merv married Earlyne, who became a partner in the business; throughout the years she has worked by Merv’ side. They would later have three sons – Shane, Clint & Troy – who are all involved in the company today. The whole family is instrumental in the success of the Pidherney’s enterprise. Merv recounts, “You work lots and lots of hours and you can’t think about yourself…you have to keep investing back into the business…it takes a team effort.”
In the early days of the business, Merv saw that you didn’t need men and equipment to bid on a job. You could bid on the job and then hire the men and equipment to complete the job. In 1969, while working for another company in Rocky Mountain House hauling mud for drilling rigs and gravel whenever he could, Merv bought a second truck and expanded his business. In 1971 M. Pidherney’s Trucking Ltd. was launched. The first big job took until 1974 hauling gravel and sand to build the Husky Ram River gas plant. “I only had two trucks and some other equipment when I said I could get the job done,” he says. “But I was determined to deliver on my promise, so I bought equipment and hired people as I needed to and was able to build my business as I went. This was a four-year job, we worked days at the plant; at night we serviced our equipment, or picked up any work we could find in town for private citizens, construction or oilfield companies. It was hard and took a lot of juggling, but we made it work,” Merv explains.
The seventies and eighties were good to Pidherney’s as Merv continued to expand his oilfield operations. By 1974, M. Pidherney’s Trucking Ltd. had four trucks, three track loaders, two-rubber tire loaders, and a grader. In 1979, Merv diversified his operations by opening a Ready-Mix plant to provide concrete to Rocky Mountain House and the surrounding areas. The concrete division is still going strong at this address today. In 2014 the plant was replaced with a modern batch-plant system.
A lot of personal and corporate financial risk was involved in the early days of the company in order to keep purchasing trucks, equipment and gravel pits. As his company grew, Merv took many calculated risks, but was careful not to over-extend his company. “I just had to keep working hard and slow, so that I didn’t get into debt.” This philosophy served him well in the 1980’s when the economy was in a downturn. Pidherney’s was less than 10% financed so Merv was able to purchase equipment when everyone else had to sell. A downturn in one sector was looked at by Merv as an opportunity to diversify and when asked how he got his company through the downturns he says, “you work a little harder, sweat a little more, your stomach goes round a bit and then you get ‘er done”.
In 1991, in order to allow Pidherney’s to bid competitively on civil and oilfield jobs in Alberta, the company purchased and leased numerous aggregate pits and bought a crusher. Today Pidherney’s operates three crushers. In 1994, Merv recognized Pidherney’s need to diversify further in order to be viable and continue to grow. Thus a civil construction division was formed. In the beginning Pidherney’s did small jobs and repairs of existing infrastructure but as the Pidherney name became recognized as a reputable civil contractor, the company submitted tenders on work for the Province of Alberta and various towns and municipalities throughout Alberta. In 2000 Merv realized he needed a larger location than the 43rd street location he established in Rocky Mountain House in 1977. With no large commercial sites available within the town limits, Merv purchased a quarter section 10km southeast of Rocky Mountain House. The new office had its grand opening in October 2002. In the spring of 2009 a 12-office expansion was completed, as the company was quickly running out of space. Only a few years later in 2012, land was purchased along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway north of Red Deer and in the summer of 2013 the civil division would move into a brand new 12,000 square foot building situated on this site. This site is a two-story building with 43 offices, a large boardroom, training facilities and a gym. This facility is called the Blackfalds Construction Office.
Merv’s vision is to keep growing and diversifying Pidherney’s. Today, the company employs 600 people at its peak season and runs more than 450 pieces of the most up-to-date equipment, complete with the latest in GPS technology. Pidherney’s has projects across Western Canada and runs multiple divisions including Highway Construction, Water and Sewer, Oilfield Site Construction, Lease Construction and Reclamation Services, Material Transport, Land Development, Contaminated Waste Hauling, Concrete Hauling and Aggregate Sales.
The company is approaching bigger bids than it ever has, with the confidence that it can do the job better and more efficiently than any other company. There is no other privately owned company in Alberta that encompasses and successfully completes so many disciplines of civil and oilfield construction. "We've never had a down year,” says Merv. “There has always been continuous growth because we are forever adapting and trying new things. We always try to give our best service. And just for the record, I still love trucks."