PONTIAC — Albert Trost is a third-generation tree expert. His grandfather, Albert Trost Sr., started A.L. Trost Tree Service before young Albert’s father, Dan Trost, took over. Like his father before him, Trost worked alongside his father for many years before becoming a full-time employee in 1994. He has been working for the company ever since.
“Being around this business has been fun,” Trost said. “It’s just something fun to do; every job is different. Some people have their 9 to 5 job, but it’s always the same routine over and over. With this business, we’re taking down different trees in different locations and it’s always different. It’s fun to be outside.”
Trost and his brother, Frank, are a two-man crew. When it comes to the tree removal business, Trost said it’s beneficial to have fewer people.
“We’ll have some people help out once in a while, like if we’re dealing with a big tree, but usually it’s just me and him,” Trost said. “We’ve worked together for a long time and if you have too many people working on one job, it creates too many people under the tree, it’s hard to watch everybody and a small crew helps to keep costs down. Why pay a bunch of employees when two people can get the work done just as easily? My brother has been working with me full time for the past year now, but he’s been helping out for years.”
When asked what it’s like to work with family members all day, Trost said it’s never been an issue.
“See, my dad and I worked together my whole life,” Trost said. “I’ve been full time since I was 18 and we worked, just me and him, for probably 20 or 40 years. It was me and him full time together, but he’s sick now, so he can’t really do it like he used to.”
For Trost, every day starts at 7:30 a.m. with taking his kids to St. Mary’s Catholic School. From there, he goes to the shop at 1460 E. Howard St., Pontiac, to get the trucks fired up. An important part of Trost’s morning is figuring out which way the wind is blowing.
“Once the weather conditions are figured out, I’ll go through my list of jobs and figure out what tree might be the best to do that day,” Trost said. “If the wind is blowing the right direction, then we’ll jump on the trucks and get to where we need to be.”
Trost’s business, A.L. Trost Tree Service, takes him to many locations within a 40- or 50-mile radius of Pontiac. Although his work can take him anywhere, a lot of his service requests come from Flanagan, Odell and sometimes Fairbury.
“How many trees we can take care of in a day varies from one day to the next,” Trost said. “We have some great big trees, where it might take us two days to bring it down. Then, we have some that are easier. For instance, the city trees are typically along the roads, so you can get five or six done in a day.”
Typically, people contact Trost by cellphone, but in today’s world of social media and Internet technology, he receives service requests through his business’ page on Facebook, too.
“We have the Facebook messages, but we also get a lot of cellphone messages and word-of-mouth jobs, too,” Trost said. “We stay pretty busy and we’ve been in business long enough that you have a lot of referrals.”
The way to get better in the tree removal industry is to get faster at bringing trees down. However, Trost is quick to point out that every tree is different and some species of tree take more time to clean up than others. There are also other factors that affect speed.
“Some trees stay together when they hit the ground and others won’t,” Trost said. “There are just so many variables that go into how fast you can get a tree down. The biggest day-to-day challenge for us is where the tree is located. Sometimes you get great big trees in a little area and you have to figure out how to get the tree out without hitting a house or neighbor’s property.”
Despite the many industries that are improving with computer technology, Trost said tree removal has stayed relatively the same over the years. One of the biggest technological improvements to Trost’s business is radio communication through the work helmets.
“I didn’t think they would work as well as they did, but when we got them we realized pretty quick that they were going to be great,” Trost said. “Before this, we had to yell or tell the other person important stuff ahead of time. But a lot of times this job is all feeling, and these helmets make it so that when I’m cutting on a tree we can sit there and talk.”
When Trost and his brother first get to a tree, they look at where it’s located and where they want it to fall. Once a plan has been established, the next step is to set the truck up and the chipper.
“The goal is to make it so that the other person doesn’t have to go far to pick up limbs and logs,” Trost said. “From there, it’s all about cutting down branches so that when the tree falls it doesn’t take anything else out. If you’re the one cutting, you have to make sure the end of the limb is falling the right direction. The goal is to throw the butt end of the limb towards the chipper so that your partner can grab it and throw it in. If it comes down backward he’s got to spin it around, and it’s just more work and time.”
Heights don’t really bother Trost. He said sometimes when cutting down a tree with big limbs while up 70 feet in the air it gets a little bit scary at first, but usually, the heights aren’t an issue. If a project is big enough that it requires multiple days of work, Trost said sometimes he and his brother will cut it down in sections.
“If we have a two-day tree project, we do it sections,” he said. “So, you go out there, you get the brush out and the logs out and then you take the chipper home and bring the dump truck back and start hauling logs out, stuff like that. The last day you might do the stump, grind it out and put dirt in the hole.”
Once a project is finished, Trost will send the customer a picture of the finished job and ask them to take a look at the work when they get home.
“I advise them that if they have any issues they can give me a call,” Trost said. “If there are good hardwoods leftover, we will split it up and sell it for firewood. The softwood is taken to the city dump.”
Trost said the equipment is the reason it can cost so much to bring a tree down.
“If you have the right equipment, you can get a tree down faster, and in this business, time is money,” he said. “We usually want to have a tree done in an hour. You can get it done regardless, but if you have the right equipment, you can get it done faster. Equipment and expertise are usually what make the price higher.”