The grain that goes into your breakfast cereal. The petroleum that heats your home. The steel used to manufacture your car or truck. There’s a good chance these everyday materials — and dozens of others — wouldn’t have made their way to market without American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL).
The Indiana-based marine transportation company, which got its start moving coal on the Kentucky River in 1915, today uses more than 3,500 barges to transport goods along 7,200 miles of U.S. inland waterways. And those barges rely on a fleet of towboats to get them into position — quickly — for loading and unloading.
“If we’re not shoving barges, we’re not making money and we’re not keeping our customers happy,” says Ron Schneider, senior main line vessel engineer for ACBL. “The quicker a barge gets loaded, the quicker it gets unloaded. That can turn into an extra load for that barge, and an extra load is more money.”
“The US economy depends heavily on the transportation along our Inland Waterways, and it is imperative that operators have a reliable partner to keep commerce moving. Caterpillar does that through development of reliable products backed by world class service though our extensive dealer network. Being able to provide a high level of support to a critical operator like ACBL is of the utmost importance to us, and something that Caterpillar takes very seriously,” says Gary Sarrat, Inland Waterways Segment Manager.
Speed is one reason Schneider is a big fan of the Cat® marine engines, primarily C280s and C32s, that power many of ACBL’s towboats.
“We get all the horsepower we need and we get it at peak performance, just like a racecar engine,” he says. “Our guys love the output of the C280s particularly.”
This engine performance also allows ACBL to operate safely. "Having engine power when you need it the most is critically important to the safe operation of our tows," says Mike Ellis, CEO.
But it’s not just vessel speed that’s important. It’s also speed of service. And Schneider has come to rely on Boyd Cat for fast, reliable, high-quality maintenance and repair support. ACBL turns to the Cat dealer for everything from next-day parts delivery and urgent repairs to complete engine overhauls.
“I can get ahold of Boyd at any hour — we’ve had conversations at 2am trying to get a boat going or get people on the road to a boat that needs service,” Schneider says. “There’s a sense of urgency. They help out any way they can to get the job done properly, but they don’t take shortcuts just to get it done.”
With Boyd Cat as a partner, ACBL is diligent about staying on top of preventive maintenance to keep its Cat engines running reliably, using genuine Cat parts, Cat filters and Cat Reman components for service.
It’s a strategy that’s paying off. Schneider reports that most of the company’s 12-cylinder C280 engines, for example, are exceeding 30,000 hours of operation before top ends. And when it is time for an overhaul or another repair, ACBL can count on Boyd Cat to make the job a priority.
“We work hard to make sure we have the parts they need available through the overhaul cycle,” says Jason Crouch, marine sales representative for Boyd Cat. “We have a close relationship with ACBL. It helps that our offices are close by and we see each other on a regular basis.”
In fact, ACBL recently began using Boyd Cat for yet another service — cylinder rebuilds.
“So far, we’ve used it on three different vessels,” Schneider says. “The price point has been competitive with other vendors and the turnaround time has been great. We’ll definitely use Boyd for more cylinder rebuilds on overhauls.”
It’s all part of a commitment to keep ACBL’s towboats on the water, “shoving” barges and getting the goods we all rely on where they need to go.
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