Big Ship, Big Trucks!” That's how Lake Michigan Carferry (LMC), Ludington, MI, promotes its services to transporters of oversize/overweight loads. The company's 410-foot long, seven-story high S.S. Badger is capable of hauling more than 4 million pounds of cargo.
The Badger can accommodate overdimensional loads up to 16 feet 9 inches wide and 18 feet 6 inches high and in excess of 200 feet long and 600,000 pounds. In a single crossing, the Badger can carry a dozen semis and about 80 cars.
LMC's trailer transfer service allows customers to drop the trailer portion of a semi at docks in Ludington or Manitowoc, WI. An LMC yard tractor then loads the trailer onto the Badger for transport to the other side of the lake, where it is unloaded in a staging area to await pick up.
Traveling at an average speed of 18 mph, the Badger completes the 60 mile crossing in four hours. In many cases, transporting via the Badger significantly reduces highway mileage. For example, truckers who travel 332 miles solely by highway between Ludington and Milwaukee, WI could slash their highway travel to 79 miles by taking the Badger for a shortcut.
“By using the Badger, we use less fuel and cut about eight hours off our driving time,” says Donna Semrau, operations manager for Merrill Iron & Steel, Merrill, WI. “The drivers get their required sleep, and don't waste valuable time sitting in Chicago-area traffic.”
As diesel prices escalate, the fuel savings makes the Badger an even more economical alternative, points out Pat McCarthy, LMC commercial business manager. He notes that the savings in time and money grows exponentially when overdimensional loads are involved.
“If you need to go back and forth between Michigan and Wisconsin, you can completely avoid the delays at the state lines in Illinois and Indiana,” he says. “Indiana for superloads is pretty expensive. You need to line up police escorts and spend as much as $300 per hour for bucket trucks. Just avoiding that state often justifies the cost of a trip on the Badger.”
John Mummert, permit manager at All Erection & Crane Rental Corp., Cleveland, OH, concurs. His company has become a frequent customer, largely because the Badger can save his company time while avoiding potential permitting delays.
“We're very happy with Lake Michigan Carferry,” he says. “They can usually accommodate our needs for oversize/overweight loads with just a day's notice. Their company has always been dependable and provided a well maintained ship. In the 12 years I've been with All Erection & Crane Rental, I can only think of one time their ship was out of service. Plus, some of our drivers really enjoy the Badger.”
Indeed, LMC goes to great lengths to make the trip pleasurable. The Badger has a buffet-style dining room and a deli-style snack bar, free movies, TV lounges, a quiet room, an arcade, a gift shop, and plenty of spacious outside decks for walking or lounging.
Drivers transporting a semi are welcome to bring along one guest at no additional charge to enjoy the interesting, unique and relaxing experience of sailing aboard the Badger.
“The truck drivers enjoy the same great experience as tourists who take the Badger,” says Magee Johnson, LMC director of media relations. “It also can help them meet their hours-of-service requirements because they can log off while they're aboard. We even offer them a free, private stateroom so they can catch a few hours of sleep.”
Last year, the Badger moved 1,500 commercial loads during its sailing season, which runs from mid-May to mid-October. One of the biggest challenges facing the company is building awareness of its services, according to LMC's Pat McCarthy. “We identified SC&RA as the premier organization representing the heavy haul industry,” he says. “We're a niche market, and the association has been a great avenue for us to develop a relationship with customers. We make a point of attending the Specialized Transportation Symposium and having a booth at the Exhibit Center there.”