SENNEBOGEN 840 R-HD Material Handler Proves Essential To Alabama Dock Operation

Stock piles of 40+ feet high are possible with the long reach.

Stock piles of 40+ feet high are possible with the long reach.

Decatur, AL – Moving 8 to 10 million bushels of material is a respectable year’s work for any river dock. When the material you’re moving is a seasonal field crop, the challenge moves up to another level.

That’s the challenge that Gavilon barge facility in Decatur, AL was facing when Vaughn Gambrell was named Superintendent of the site. Gavilon, a leading global commodity management firm, acquired this dock on the Tennessee River to transload and store 1 million bushels of corn and grain here annually.

To meet this target, Gavilon needed a material handler that could keep pace through seasonal peaks, with as little downtime as possible while vessels were waiting. The chosen solution was a SENNEBOGEN 840 R-HD and, with the facility’s first few seasons behind him, Gambrell is sure it was the right choice.

The dependability of the green machine came through recently when a grain shipment was re-routed to the Decatur facility, with an urgent need to offload quickly. Barges ran loads from the vessel non-stop for 30 consecutive days, and the 840 never missed a step.

Purpose-built for grain-handling

The 840 R-HD is the first purpose-built material handler Gambrell has operated. “At my previous location, we worked with a converted excavator,” he explains. “This SENNEBOGEN was something new for me.” Purchased in 2011, the D-Series 840 model is mounted on a crawler undercarriage and equipped with a long reach banana boom, which carries a 5.5 yard (4.2 m3) clamshell bucket.

The machine spends most of its time perched on a concrete platform overlooking the river. The 360 degree same lift capacity gives it an extra measure of stability, which operators appreciate when they pull up a full bucket load with the boom fully extended. “You work more efficiently when you have that feeling of confidence in the machine,” says Gambrell. He often takes a turn at operating the 840 himself. “I love it!” he reports. “It’s very easy to handle, and it’s easy to train new operators. The joystick controls have a very intuitive feel.”

With the speed and precision of the SENNEBOGEN machine, transloading directly from barges to trucks becomes a smooth, highly efficient process. “We can plan our logistics to load straight into the outbound trucks,” says Gambrell, “and that lets us save a step in storing the grain in our elevators.”

The 840 is ideal for tarping piles by supporting most of the tarp’s weight while crews secure it.

The 840 is ideal for tarping piles by supporting most of the tarp’s weight while crews secure it.

Elevated cab improves view, safety

As an experienced operator, Gambrell also appreciates the commanding view provided by the 840’s hydraulically elevating maXCab. With the cab fully raised, his eye level is about 19 ft. (5.8 m) above the ground, not including the platform the machine sits on. “It’s helpful when the cab raises up, to see right into the barge, all the corners and where everybody is in it,” he says. “In most machines, even with a fixed hi-rise cab, you can’t really see what’s around you. But when I’m up on the platform operating the SENNEBOGEN, I can see the guy who’s running the skid-steer in the hold. That’s important to both of us!”

Crawler tracks increase utilization

In addition to its day job, the SENNEBOGEN earns its keep moving material within the facility’s 40-acre (16 hectares) site. Gavilon can store nearly 2 million bushels of grain here, and about half of it stocked in ground piles. The 840’s long reach helps to maintain stockpiles up to 40 feet high (12.2 m). Gambrell also uses it to assist in tarping the piles by supporting most of the tarp’s weight and positioning it while crews on the ground secure it.

Until the company added a large concrete pad this year, the ground piles were literally on the ground. Travel on the site could be treacherous after heavy rains. Gambrell notes that his skid-steers and 4×4 trucks often get stuck in the deep mud, but the SENNEBOGEN has no trouble traveling around the work site on its wide crawler tracks. “We haven’t got the SENNEBOGEN stuck yet, but we’re trying,” jokes Gambrell.

Barges are unloaded quickly with a 5.5 cu. yd. clamshell.

Barges are unloaded quickly with a 5.5 cu. yd. clamshell.

High throughput with low operating cost

The dependability of the 840 pays off in cost savings as well as productivity. Gambrell says his maintenance crew finds troubleshooting to be very simple with plain and simple error codes appearing on the machine’s diagnostics screen. For an emergency repair, Gambrell can call on his nearby Tractor & Equipment Co. (TEC) branch, SENNEBOGEN’s regional distributor. According to Donnie Burgreen, TEC’s Branch Vice-President, service response time for the Decatur site is “immediate.”

Fuel efficiency adds to those savings. “The 840 gets good fuel economy,” Gambrell says. “We can unload almost two barges on one tank of fuel.”


SENNEBOGEN has been a leading name in the global material handling industry for over 60 years. Based in Stanley, North Carolina, within the greater Charlotte region, SENNEBOGEN LLC offers a complete range of purpose-built machines to suit virtually any material handling application. Established in America in the year 2000, SENNEBOGEN LLC has quickly become a leading provider of specialized equipment solutions for recycling and scrap metal yards, barge and port operations, log-handling, demolition, transfer stations and waste facilities from coast to coast. A growing network of distributors supports SENNEBOGEN LLC sales and service across the Americas, ensuring the highest standard of professional machine support and parts availability.

For more information on the full line of SENNEBOGEN green line material handlers, contact:

Constantino Lannes, President
1957 SENNEBOGEN Trail (formerly 7669 Old Plank Road)
Stanley, NC 28164
Tel: (704) 347-4910 or fax (704) 347-8894
Visit the web site at