In western Pennyslvania, multiple construction companies have been hard at work for more than three years building a 13-mile, four-lane concrete highway linking Pittsburgh International Airport to Interstate 79 south of the city, allowing motorists to bypass city traffic.
Divided into seven major construction sections, the $800 million Southern Beltway project will require more than 28 million cubic yards of excavation. By the time that excavation is completed in the fall of 2021, the majority of that material will have been moved by one model of excavator: the Cat® 6015B Hydraulic Shovel.
Three of the construction firms selected to participate in the Southern Beltway project chose the Cat 6015B to handle excavation duties. A total of four 6015Bs have worked on the project, and all have been supported by Cleveland Brothers Equipment Company, a 70-year Cat dealer with locations throughout Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and western Maryland.
Cleveland Brothers is proud to support its customers working on this significant project: the Pittsburgh branch of Ohio-based Independence Excavating, Trumbull Corporation of Pittsburgh, and the Pennsylvania division of Chicago-based Walsh Construction.
“Purchasing a piece of construction equipment is not always an easy decision,” said Tom Schachner, Cleveland Brothers Vice President of Sales.
“There are a lot of factors that play into the investment: productivity, price, mobility, efficiency and safety, just to name a few. But I believe choosing the 6015B for bulk excavation projects is an easy decision. It checks all the boxes and is simply the lowest cost per ton shovel available in its size class.
Independence Excavating was responsible for two sections of the project — one at each end of the 13-mile highway. The first section is 100% complete while the second is nearing 75% completion.
“Between the two sections, we will have moved about 7 million cubic yards and will have worked on about 4 miles of the new turnpike,” said Justin Fox, Vice President. Independence Excavating’s role also included 3 miles of on/off ramps, 2½ miles of state and township roads, plus two cul-de-sacs.
Trumbull Corporation also won two sections of the project. One section is completed and the other is nearing the halfway point. The first section was basically main line earthwork and construction of a small bridge, while the other is a full interchange with three large bridges. Between both sections, Trumbull will have excavated about 6 million cubic yards, close to 5 miles in length.
“Both sections have gone very well,” said Rich Doyle, Trumbull General Manager. “The owner of the turnpike is very happy with what we did out there.”
Finally, Walsh Construction has begun the project’s finishing piece — a complicated project that will include the new toll road’s $174 million interchange with Interstate 79. The project involves digging pathways under the interstate for the new highway, installing bridges over the new valley, and installing seven interchange ramps.
“By the time we’ve completed our section at the end of 2021, we’ll have moved 6.6 million cubic yards of earth,” said Tom Beckowitz, Regional Operation Manager of Walsh’s Pennsylvania Transportation Group.
All three companies rely heavily on Cat equipment and Cleveland Brothers’ support for their projects — whether that’s building a road, demolishing a structure or constructing a building.
“Pretty much our entire fleet is Cat yellow,” said Trumbull’s Doyle. “We have 777 trucks and almost every size dozer. When it comes to excavators, we have everything from the 308 mini excavator to the 6015, and multiples of each.”
Independence Excavating’s fleet is similar. “The majority of our equipment is Caterpillar,” said Fox. “We have excavators from the 6015 down to 320s and everything in between. We have bulldozers from the D11 down to the D3, loaders from the 988 down to 930s, and Cat 16 motor graders.”
The same goes for Walsh. From graders and excavators to dozers and skid steer loaders, the company’s equipment fleet is primarily Caterpillar.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT EXCAVATOR
For all three companies, the 6015B is the largest piece of Cat machinery they own — making it the ideal choice for the magnitude of the Southern Beltway project. “It matches up well with our 100-ton Cat 777 trucks, and because they are both larger, we found it was the most efficient way to move the material,” said Doyle.
“We had to bid the job,” he said. “The bigger the equipment we can use, the faster we can move the dirt and be more competitive.”
Given its size, the 6015B crosses the line between a construction machine and a mining machine. It has an operating weight of 140 tons and a bucket payload of 16 tons — a full one-pass advantage over other shovels in its class. Its Cat C27 engine is the most powerful in its class, delivering engine output of 813 horsepower for fast cycle times and large payload capacity. It also delivers at least a 20% fuel efficiency advantage over similar shovels to reduce overall operating costs.
“We believe, and many of our customers agree, that the 6015B can provide a competitive advantage when bidding large excavation projects such as the Southern Beltway,” said Andy Gaslevich, a Cleveland Brothers account manager.
While Trumbull has had a 6015B in its lineup since 2015, Independence Excavating and Walsh Construction purchased the 6015B specifically for this project.
“We did not have it when we bid the job,” said Fox of Independence Excavating. “When we got the job, we knew we needed to add a mass excavator to our fleet and that’s when we went down the road of hard research. We wanted to make the best-informed decision we could make.”
Fox said Independence spent a lot of time researching machines and found that the 6015B checked all the company’s boxes. “We did a test drive on one. Our operator liked the machine, the cost analysis was favorable, Caterpillar has an outstanding support network, outstanding parts and service representation, and we love our dealer Cleveland Brothers. Add all that up, and it was an easy choice.”
The 6015B for the project was the obvious choice for Walsh. “It’s the best equipment on the market, especially when you add the parts availability, the service and our relationship with Cleveland Brothers,” said Beckowitz.
Walsh found the 6015 to be the economical choice, as well. “Cost-wise, the 6015B made the most sense,” Beckowitz said. “Then you add in the fuel efficiency, which was very surprising. Running a double shift like we do, and producing the way it does, it’s a very cost-effective shovel.”
Trumbull did its homework before buying its first 6015B four years ago. The company purchased the shovel as a prototype and Caterpillar did a field follow study on the machine while Trumbull moved 8 million cubic yards of dirt for a Shell Chemicals project.
“We were so happy with it that when we picked up another large project, we bought another 6015B,” said Doyle. The 6015s replaced two Cat 5110s that the company had previously used as its production machines.
PROVING ITS PERFORMANCE
Given the large scale of the Southern Beltway project, it didn’t take long for the contractors to determine that they had chosen the right machine for the job.
“When we made the purchase decision, we were confident that we made the right choice,” said Fox. “And then when we put it in the field, it really supported our decision. It’s well built, it’s heavy and it’s smooth. It’s strong and fuel efficient. The ground engaging tools are well built, and the undercarriage performs as expected.”
Trumbull saw similar performance. “It’s fast,” Doyle said. “There’s not much downtime. They have performed very well. It’s very balanced and easy to get to for service.”
Walsh has been impressed with its speed, as well. “It loads our 777 trucks in about 2 minutes per cycle,” said Beckowitz. “The power is sufficient and it sizes up with our trucks very well.”
Cleveland Brothers touts the size and mobility of the 6015B as a key benefit for construction companies. “Caterpillar has taken a proven platform and successfully re-engineered it from the ground up to increase productivity and lower costs, all while keeping machine mobility in mind for contractors who need to regularly move the machine from site to site,” said Gaslevich.
Doyle said Trumbull finds the size ideal. “We like the size because it’s big enough to load large trucks, but it’s easy enough to move around versus some of the other bigger machines on the market,” Doyle said. “We’re a highway and site contractor, not a mining company, so we tend to do jobs a million to 2 million yards at a time. We move the machine once or twice a year. It doesn’t stay put.”
I personally love moving dirt and if I could I’d want to operate a (327-ton) Cat 6030, but that’s not realistic. The 6015B was a sensible choice for our overall business and work program.”
Equipment operators at all three companies have expressed their satisfaction with the machine. They found it easy to learn and quickly became productive. “Operators like it,” said Fox. “It’s balanced, strong and has good visibility. And the creature comforts in the cab are nice.”
Serviceability is also a plus. “Whoever designed it spent some time figuring out how to make it easy to service,” said Fox. “You can easily get to all access panels. And it’s safe. There are plenty of catwalks, plenty of railings and it’s easy to get around. There was a lot of thought put into maintenance and it goes a long way.”
FINDING THE RIGHT PARTNER
While the 6015B has proven to be a solid performer and excellent choice for their work on the Southern Beltway project, Trumbull, Walsh and Independence are quick to call out their relationship with Cleveland Brothers as an important contributor to their success.
“You couldn’t ask for a better partner in the construction business,” Doyle said. “Our equipment is our bread and butter and the support we get and the service we get are top notch. If we have a question or an issue, they jump right on it. They’re very good.”
Walsh knows that Cleveland Brothers is always just a phone call away. “We can pick up the phone anytime and call 24 hours a day and someone is going to answer and someone is going to respond,” Beckowitz said. “Whatever they need to do, they do it.”
Fox describes a similar relationship. “We love the support service we get from Cleveland Brothers. Our own mechanics and heavy equipment shop love interfacing with their employees. They’re always there to help if we need a mechanic on site, or helping us research a difficult-to-find part. When we make an investment decision like buying a 6015B, it’s a long-term purchase. We’re very comfortable knowing Cleveland Brothers is behind us.”
“I just think the success of the 6015B speaks to Caterpillar, their dealer network, and then our dealer Cleveland Brothers,” Fox continued. “They’re just excellent from top to bottom.”
In turn, Cleveland Brothers gives credit to Caterpillar for the success its customers are seeing with the 6015B. “We are very proud of what Caterpillar has accomplished with the 6015B and how it helps our customers in a very competitive marketplace,” said Schachner.