Why Little River Drainage District Chooses Cat® Specialty Excavators


The Little River Drainage District (LRDD) in Missouri maintains a system made up of 1,000 miles of drainage ditches and 300 miles of levees, that require constant maintenance.

On a routine basis, LRDD crews mow and excavate channels, and mow and maintain levees, says W. Dustin Boatwright, PE, Executive Vice President and Chief Engineer for LRDD.

Special application machines from Caterpillar OEM Solutions

“We’ve been running Cat® equipment for over 50 years with LRDD,” Boatwright says. “It’s a name that we’ve learned to trust and that’s been good to us. We provide a service to our landowners, our agricultural operators, commercial development, homeowners, and others who own land in the district. Our goal is to provide the highest level of flood control and drainage to our landowners at the least amount of cost. Caterpillar has enabled us to do that.”

“Working with Caterpillar OEM Solutions, we are able to buy a base excavator without a stick and boom,” Boatwright adds. “Caterpillar OEM Solutions provides us with the engineering designs and specs and then we’re able to provide that information to an outside custom front manufacturer.  The custom manufacturer is also able to work directly with Caterpillar OEM Solutions to ensure that the fronts match up precisely to the machine. What we found is if you can dream it up, Caterpillar OEM Solutions can make it happen.”

LRDD owns Cat 324E and 326F Excavators with 60-ft. fronts equipped with five-foot custom mower attachments that cut through debris and undergrowth up to 6-8 inches in diameter.

“There’s no comparison to the old days when we would use a Kaiser blade to cut one-half mile per week—today we cut 10 miles a week,” says William D. Boatwright, South District Foreman.

“One of the things that Caterpillar OEM Solutions has been able to deliver that others have not is an auxiliary hydraulic circuit on the excavator that is dedicated directly to the mower to help operate their custom hydraulic mowing machine.”

“It actually helps us increase the productivity of that machine because we’re not losing power to the tracks or to the boom or to the stick while we’re operating the machine,” W. Dustin Boatwright says. “That’s something that we have reached out to other companies and talked to them about, but Caterpillar OEM Solutions is the only one that’s been able to provide us what we need.”

LRDD also purchased six 336F Frontless Hydraulic Excavators equipped with 65-ft front boom/stick configurations and 1.25 cu. yd., 72 in. ditch cleaning buckets for cleanout work. Working with Caterpillar OEM Solutions and local dealer Fabick Cat, LRDD also acquired a Cat 352F Variable Gauge Frontless Hydraulic Excavator and fitted it with an 82-ft. front boom/stick and 1.25 cu. yd., 60 in. ditch cleaning bucket.

“These custom excavators enable LRDD to  excavate our large channels from both sides of the channel and complete the work twice as fast as we did before, covering as much as two miles of channels in three weeks,” says South District Foreman William D. Boatwright. “It’s unbelievable. We get twice the work done now.”  




Channel maintenance requires mowing the overgrowth and clearing out the debris, cleaning out and scouring the bottom of the channels flat and swinging up the bucket loads of sediment and placing them alongside the rims of the channels: building the berms up to ensure water flows away from the channels to fight erosion; and cutting the sides of the channels at smooth 1-2:1 slopes for rapid, unimpeded water flow.

The work crews also operate a team of D7 Dozers for land leveling and road building, along with 963 Track Loaders equipped with specially designed multipurpose buckets with thumbs to remove larger trees and heavier debris that has grown up on the banks of the channels. The 963s also do brush piling, dirt moving and truck loading.

Why LRDD chooses Cat machines

“One of the primary reasons that we choose Cat machines—it’s not necessarily up front cost because, at times, they do cost more than the competitors—but it’s the lower cost of ownership over the life of the machine,” W. Dustin Boatwright says.

With crews running 60 to 75 hours per week, operators need to be comfortable in the cabs of the Cat machines, and they are, according to North District Foreman Donnie Pobst.

 “All the operators really enjoy our new Cat equipment,” adds Pobst. “The comfort is a huge thing for all the operators. If you want to have a happy operator and you’re going work him 60-75 hours a week, you want that person to be comfortable.

“The advances that Cat machines have made in sound protection, general comfort, audio, all the other cab conveniences, keep the operators happy and that means you’re going to hit your production targets,” Pobst says. “You’re going get the hours in to complete all your jobs.”

“At the end of the day, Cat machines have proven their value and have basically earned our business because the cost of ownership and productivity that we receive from them is the best value for our district.”

High machine uptime, strong resale value

W. Dustin Boatwright says LRDD achieves 98% availability with their Cat machines.

“We found in utilizing Little River’s fleet that it makes the most sense for us to run these machines out for roughly four to five years around 8,000 hours and then there’s still a good enough secondary market that we can move the machines and buy new again,” W. Dustin Boatwright says.

“What that’s done for our business is drastically reduce the amount of downtime that we have. We are providing a service to our landowners, less downtime means more work done on the ground.   The better we are at our job the more productive our landowners are, certainly in the agriculture sector. Cat equipment enables LRDD to provide optimal production. We trust the machines will run and not need to be worked on during the ownership period.”

LRDD machines achieve high resale values

“The strong resale value is attributed to the name on the machines - Cat,” says W. Dustin Boatwright. “Beyond that, the credit goes to our two foremen who keep immaculate records of everything that goes on with our machines. From the moment it hits the ground on the first day, we have a record every single day that machine operates.  Inspections, what parts we put on it, what oil has been changed, etc. We track everything and when we get ready to sell, we share that information with the buyer and they know that number one, they’re buying a Cat machine, but number two they know for certain that we took care of it.” 

William D. Boatwright reports that with new excavators replacing the draglines, employee safety is hands down much better than it was.

“Safety is paramount here at LRDD,” says William D. Boatwright. “We haven’t had a workers' compensation accident in 20 years. All the new machines are equipped with ROPS to better protect our operators.”

“And comfort is a big deal with these new excavators,” he says. “We actually have a guy with almost 40 years’ experience who’s in his mid-70s and still able to operate for us. He’s a terrific operator and with the new level of comfort and safety on the machine, he is able to keep going. Now if this was a dragline, there’s no way.”

Dealer support

Support staff from Caterpillar and Fabick Cat provides technical assistance with any issues that LRDD may have.

“Caterpillar support is always just a phone call away,” William Boatwright says. “If we have a problem, we call the service manager or one of our salesmen and the problem is taken care of. But we have very few problems.”    

“Fabick Cat has been terrific,” adds W. Dustin Boatwright. “Fabick Cat is actually one of the commercial developments located in our district, which proves they believe in the flood control protection and drainage LRDD provides. In turn, they have proved to LRDD they can provide the equipment and services that we need to maintain our system at an optimal level.”



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