BIG TINES Pipe Caddy can turn an excavator into giant forklift for pipe.

A Westlake, La., general contractor has patented a new pipe-handling attachment and has worldwide plans to market the implement. Company representatives say the new attachment improves safety and cuts installation time.

After digging trenches, contractors typically lay pipe segments by rigging them to a hydraulic excavator bucket. But David Abshire, vice president of River West Enterprises Inc., a sister company of Cypress General Contractors, says there is a better way. Abshire's solution is the "Pipe Caddy," which premiered at the World of Concrete show Feb. 4-7.

Abshire says the Pipe Caddy was conceived from his company's experience in pipe handling, including some lost-time accidents. Operators attach the Pipe Caddy while sitting in the excavator cab. The backside of the device hooks around the top of the bucket. Steel tines in front slide inside the pipe like a forklift holds a pallet. Tilting the bucket also tilts the pipe, allowing the attachment to lift and place pipe without rigging. According to Abshire, this configuration provides the excavator operator with the ability to work unassisted without ever touching the pipe.

Eliminating rigging is safer and makes the operator more productive, Abshire says. The new device enables contractors to join at least 30 segments per day, he says. Previously, his company "struggled to get 20."

Gavin Abshire, David's father and company president, says they sold at least 40 units to North American buyers during the show. And they took home sales leads from international contractors from Canada to New Zealand.

C&P Attachments, a work-tool manufacturer in Ooltewah, Tenn., will build and distribute the Pipe Caddy for River West. Brian Brown, C&P sales manager, says his company was interested because there is nothing else like it on the market. "The Pipe Caddy will save at least 30% on labor and equipment," David Abshire says. Models list between $3,000 and $10,000, depending on the size of the excavator.