April 7, 2014 - As those in the forestry sector know well, truck driving is not for the faint of heart. It is a potentially very dangerous occupation with many risks to manage, especially in B.C.’s mountainous terrain. That’s why industry groups in that province are doing more than ever to make sure workers are protected, with new safety training programs, stepped-up awareness campaigns and plans to lobby the government for changes to federal transportation legislation.

In 2005, seven forestry sector truck drivers died in British Columbia. This breathtaking level of tragedy spurred the formation of the B.C. Forest Safety Council’s ‘Trucksafe’ program. “That year was a terrible year with all the deaths, and something had to be done,” says Mary-Anne Arcand, who headed the program for its first five years and is the long-time executive director of the B.C. Central Interior Logging Association, based in Prince George. “When we started the program, it largely started off as an awareness-raising initiative,” Arcand says. “The average age of forest industry truck drivers was 58 at the time, and there can be some complacency with people who have done anything a long time. Providing some reminders about safe and unsafe practices was a very good thing, and we continue to do that.”

Arcand points out that most of the forestry truck drivers in B.C. who get hurt or killed are not behind the wheel when the incident occurs. “Drivers might get hit by a log as they are tightening a load, they might fall, they get crushed because all the brakes aren’t applied properly,” she explains. “That’s why the job is different than other types of trucking jobs. There are very large machines involved, and very heavy objects.” Arcand adds, “We have a million loads of chips, hog fuel, logs and lumber delivered each year in B.C. Only a few of them aren’t safe, but that’s not good enough.”

In the years after 2005, it’s heartening to see that number of B.C. forestry industry trucker fatalities and injuries dropped and stayed steady. From 2006 there were three deaths, from 2007 to 2010, one death a year. In 2011 and 2012, there were none and one. (Note however, that a few of these fatalities involved heart attacks and strokes.) Injury rates involving trucks also decreased. These good results were due to TruckSafe, as well as better safety education by individual companies, but the economic downturn that started in 2008 was also a factor. The recession resulted in much less forestry industry activity, with a great deal fewer trucks and drivers on the roads. Many of the logging and chip truck drivers left the forestry business and went to the mining or oil industries.

Then last year, an astonishing eight drivers met their deaths. As with the decrease in fatalities due to the recession, that situation was partly a result of forestry activity having picked up again, with more log-hauling and chip/hog fuel-hauling trucks making runs. “There’s also an economic imperative to hurry, to try to make up for lost time,” Arcand says. “Another factor in the accident and fatality rate is that other industries such as mining are using the roads that were previously only used by forestry. There are safety issues created from too much traffic, and from the fact that the roads and bridges are being used by trucks that they were never designed for.”

So, the outreach and education continues. ‘Trucksafe’ has evolved to become the ‘Transportation Safety’ program, and has been expanded to include aircraft and boats. It is still run by the B.C. Forest Safety Council. “I’ve been in presentations where it was explained how someone was seriously injured or died,” says Arcand, “and I’ve seen the faces of truckers go white and they say ‘Oh no, I do that.’ And they realize ‘There by for the grace of God, go I’ and it’s a wake-up call. So, they hopefully never use that unsafe practice again.”

The B.C. Forest Safety Council (BCFSC), in collaboration with the province’s trucking and logging associations, is also creating an industry standard of skills and knowledge for forestry sector drivers. It should be completed by the end of this year. “The standard will address regional issues as well, such as the terrain in different parts of the province,” says Arcand, “and it will have room for improvement and change. It will always be a work in progress, as different truck designs and new issues emerge as time goes on.” Administration will likely be handed by BCFSC.

The industry has also created a driver-training program. First, students get their commercial truck driver licenses, and then they are partnered with a trucking contractor for mentoring in hauling logs or chips and hog fuels. Arcand says they are all usually hired by the contractor who mentored them. “The need for drivers and operators is great,” she says. “There are some companies where 40 per cent of the equipment is sitting idle. That’s no good for anyone.”

Exemption for ABS brakes
All across Canada, anti-lock ABS brakes and automatic slack adjusters cause lots of trouble for logging trucks. “ABS brakes are designed for highway trucks, and not suited to off-road use,” says Mary-Anne Arcand, executive director of the B.C. Central Interior Logging Association. “They are required on all trucks under federal legislation, but they fail in the bush on rough terrain, and in the snow and ice.” The ABS valves seize. Mud, snow, ice and dirt damage sensor cables and plug ABS sensor discs or tooth wheels, causing the entire system to malfunction. Schedule X braking systems are tougher and safer – all that is required, says Arcand.

“We are being penalized with fines for broken parts and malfunctioning ABS systems when we come out of the bush and onto main roads, and this is not fair,” she explains. “Our association is working with the three other B.C. logging association and we are taking a two-pronged approach. We have convinced a brake manufacturer to come and look at the buckets of broken parts, to try and start a discussion about modifications and solutions. The other part is that we are pulling together recommendations for lobbying to change federal law in co-operation with other provinces, requesting a 100 per cent exemption from having to have ABS systems in logging trucks.” There is a precedent, in that low bed trucks are exempt already.

Wayne Lintott, general manager of the B.C. Interior Logging Association, describes a recent survey of contractors, owner-operators and truck drivers involved in log hauling. “We found that there are many premature failures with ABS braking systems, particularly in off-highway use situations,” he says. About 84 per cent of survey respondents felt that the ABS systems did not perform satisfactorily in log hauling applications.

In a recent article in the Association’s magazine ‘Truck Logger B.C.,’ Lintott quotes a couple of experienced industry stakeholders about their concerns, one of which is runaway vehicles: “When going down a hill, a driver is able to maintain control by using both the brakes and the Jake brake. If a computer shuts off the Jake brake, then the truck has lost one of the two holdbacks that a driver has. With the Jake brake gone, speed dramatically increases and it is nearly impossible to keep control…with my experience, I feel ABS brakes are a hazard to the safety of drivers.”

Another drive person Lintott quotes, a driver with 30 years’ experience, says: “ABS brakes…have no place in the logging industry. Then comes the most concerning of all, the safety factor. ABS will either work or it will not and in most logging applications it will not work. This causes the driver to have to continually adjust driving to compensate for the faulty ABS system. The driver never knows if he is locking up one axel or all axels. This is not a good feeling when you are on 12 per cent grade in a snowstorm. Another safety concern of mine is that ABS valves are supposed to not interfere with normal braking if the ABS fails. I have seen more than one case where an ABS valve has failed and has not allowed air to get to the service brake which takes the brake out of service.”

We asked Transport Canada (TC) if it agrees with these findings about ABS brakes under off-road conditions. The Ministry responded “TC is aware of concerns related to the maintenance and operation of ABS-equipped logging trailers used off-road within B.C. The Defect and Recalls Division of TC has not received any complaints regarding ABS brake systems on vehicles operating in off-road conditions in other provinces or territories.”

When asked if TC was going to consider an exemption of mandatory ABS brakes on logging trucks, why or why not, and if so, what would be the likely timeline, TC responded: “At this point, there is insufficient evidence for TC to consider exempting the braking systems of logging vehicles from the requirements for ABS. TC mandates the installation and performance requirements of ABS brake systems on new and imported heavy trucks and trailers.  TC does not have jurisdiction over vehicle use, maintenance or modifications. While the regulation of new and imported motor vehicle safety standards falls under federal authority, it is within the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories to regulate vehicle usage, maintenance and modification. As such, provinces or territories could authorize vehicle modifications (such as to braking systems), if they so choose.”

Recruitment of forestry sector truck drivers in B.C. is going well, but Arcand says current recruitment levels are not sufficient to replace those retiring. Wayne Lintott, general manager of the B.C. Interior Logging Association, says it’s tough to attract workers due to a combination of factors, such as the lure of big salaries in the oil patch, the seasonal nature of forest industry work, and the long hours each day.

On the plus side, some of the drivers who used to drive log trucks and left to go to the oil patch and the mines are returning, and some new drivers want to try the forestry industry over these other sectors. “I’ve heard that some of the drivers who’ve been in the mining industry are leaving because it’s so boring,” Arcand says. “They want to be out on interesting roads and see nature.”

She adds that with log or chip hauling, a driver gets to go home at night and for a young man with young kids, that’s very attractive compared to having to stay nights away in an oil camp or mining camp. “Forestry in B.C. may involve some camp situations in the future, but right now, it’s community-based and that’s important for lots of drivers. And wages are going up a little.”

Stay tuned in the coming months for updates on this story.

Note: Mary-Anne Arcand has passed away since this article was written. We extend our condolences to her family and colleagues.

Mar. 4, 2014 – The new GT Radial GDM635 on/off highway drive tire is being introduced in North America to provide mixed service fleets consistent traction and effective protection against stones and long tread wear.

Featuring a full inch (32/32nds) of tread rubber for outstanding durability and wear, the GT Radial GDM635 is currently available in the 11R24.5 size. It is backed by the GT Radial six-year limited warranty.

"We're excited to kick off the year with the introduction of an outstanding new drive tire for on/off highway applications," said Justin Wright, commercial product marketing manager for Giti Tire USA, which markets and sells GT Radial tires in North America. "The GDM635's deep lug tread design is one of the tire's strongest selling points, offering a full inch of rubber to get the job done."

Wright said the new deep-tread drive tire is perfectly suited for a variety of mixed service fleet operations, including logging, mining and oil field services.

The GT Radial GDM635's aggressive independent block design is optimized to provide consistent traction, and the tread's v-shaped grooves with stone ejectors offer effective protection against stone retention and drilling. The tire has been engineered with four belts, which provide effective casing protection for outstanding durability and retreadability. It has a special cut/chip tread compound to resist cutting, chipping, chunking and tearing in harsh off-highway environments.

Giti Tire USA is the sales and marketing operation in North America for Giti Tire Pte. Ltd., which manufactures GT Radial brand tires for passenger, SUV, light truck, truck, bus, and high performance vehicles. In truck and bus tires, the company provides a wide range of GT Radial long haul, regional and mixed service products in North America. Most of the GT Radial premium long haul line is verified by SmartWay: GSL213FS for steer axles, GT669+FS for drive, and the GT979FS (low profile sizes 22.5 and 24.5 only) for trailers.

GT Radial tires are sold through distributors, independent dealers and retailers throughout North America. For more information, visit www.gtradialtrucktires.com.

Feb. 19, 2014 - This is the seventh year that the Canadian Truck King Challenge has pitted the most popular pickups in the country against each other. However how we do it each September is no different from what you do every day of the year – and that’s the point. So, the rain, mud and cold are a vital part of testing; my judges and I have to feel what you feel, contend with what you contend with and ultimately appreciate what you appreciate – and judge each feature along the way.

As in years past we tested at my IronWood site in Kawartha Lakes, Ont. We use a public 19-kilometre test loop that consists of a hilly gravel road, broken twisting asphalt and a smooth highway section. We take trucks out in groups of five and drive them round and round – switching drivers on each circuit until all five judges have driven all five vehicles. The trucks are always used in the same condition: all empty, all towing or all with payload. Back-to-back testing is the best way to compare vehicles.

 It took us about 2 ½ hours to do a complete back-to-back test; then we’d head to the yard for the next five. We do this over and over for 10 hours a day for two days, making notes and scoring along the way. And while 19 kilometres doesn’t sound like much by the time we were finished, collectively, we drove over 4,000 kilometres.

So, what happened? Well, 2014 is going to be a big year for Ram; the work it has been doing for at least the past five years is all coming together now and it showed up in the scoring. The company’s technology, design work and the will to take chances crystallized in one unique pickup truck.

 The overall points winner of the Canadian Truck King Challenge is the 2014 Ram 1500 powered by the 3.0L EcoDiesel with 8-speed transmission. This is a revolutionary setup – one that we feel is going to be copied very quickly – but it deserves credit right now. It takes guts to be the first and this small diesel from Ram works very, very well. Price-wise the diesel will be a $4,500 option; however, it will be available on every trim level except the absolute base.

At a lower price point (in our under 45K category) Ram did it again with the 2014 Ram 1500 powered by the 3.6L Pentastar V6 with the 8-speed transmission. This powertrain speaks to the other holy grail of truck ownership – power, capability with decent fuel economy. There was a time when this was simply impossible, remember? Not anymore. In large part this is due to the 8-speed gearbox – again a revolutionary step forward. For that matter all the Rams – 3L diesel, 3.6L V6 and 5.7L Hemi all came to IronWood with 8-speed transmissions. This gearbox worked well in all configurations during every test.

The three Detroit-sourced HD trucks were tested outside London, Ont. Because HD owners tow a lot, that’s what we do too. Each truck was outfitted by the manufacturer with a fifth-wheel hitch and we partnered with Can-AM RV centre towing 14,000-pound fifth-wheel RV trailers over a 300-kilometre route. The next day we stripped the fifth-wheels out and loaded up 3,000 pounds of IKO shingles and set off on a 200-kilometre route. Once again the judges switched up back to back during the driving.

In this HD category it was the 2500-series Ram equipped with the 6.7L Cummins diesel that won out – though just. Last year saw the Silverado HD in first place; however, for 2014 it still suffers from the dated interior, poor video screens and older software of last year. Mind you, we have already seen the 2015 Chevrolet and that’s all been fixed – but for now, we can only grade what we get. Ram was in a similar boat last year but for 2014 Ram’s chassis was upgraded and strengthened while the engine was also tuned up and converted to use the DEF fluid for cleaner combustion and better mileage (though still not the best).

Truck king tables 

Three categories: three wins
One high-tech addition this year was the installation of data readers in each truck. We contracted a third-party company (recommended by Natural Resources Canada) called MyCarma to have a technician on site both days to record and interpret the fuel economy data from readers they installed in each truck. We made a point of recording each truck in each condition. Empty, loaded, and towing. The resulting figures are as real-world as they get. During each stage of testing, trucks were hot-swapped by the judges (never shut off) as they traded vehicles. They idled between loops and recorded the fuel used by the judges as they tested acceleration, braking and handling. No Dyno testing here – these numbers are real and dirty, just like those that everyday owners might achieve.

Testing notes and overall summary
Payload this year was 1,000 pounds of patio stones on pallets. Trailers were twin-axle dumps and car carriers. Most trailers weighed in at 6,000 pounds – another at 6,100 pounds and one at 6,900 pounds. The weights varied because the trucks sent to us all had different limits – so we tried to give heavier trailers to trucks that claimed higher towing limits. Also, the smallest truck, the Toyota Tacoma hauled 3,500 pounds. All the judges agreed that generally all trucks hauled well, but the torque of the Ram 3.0L diesel with 8-speed automatic stood out; its air suspension also held the load level and felt firm on the road and made its attitude with a trailer on always level. The Tundras, while new this year and powerful, still suffer from a lack of chassis rigidity, though special mention is deserved for the new 1794 trim package. This has to be one of the most upscale interiors put in a pickup.

The Fords generally felt good during all the testing (and at the moment, they are the oldest models we tested) – but the surprise for most judges was how well the base 3.7L V6 handled the weight in the bed and while towing. Its overall cost and fuel economy was impressive. However, three of the four Fords we were given for testing had electrical gremlins in their trailer lighting hookups.

The new 2014 GMs are strong, trannies are smooth, but the ride is slightly twitchy under load and several judges had steering complaints. The new interiors are nice: they feature excellent materials and layout. They also had several innovative features in the truck beds such as integrated steps in the bumper and lighting under the box lips. On the fuel side, note how close the results are between the GM 5.3L V8 and the newer 6.2L V8 – way more power and very little extra fuel consumption.

The off-road is the shortest test. It’s done on a half-mile-long course consisting of muddy hills, rock-strewn fields, a water-filled trench and an off-camber test to get the wheels in the air. Three things showed up out in the field this year.

First, with builders looking for more aerodynamic advantages, they keep adding length to the front air dams, which resulted in several trucks scraping repeatedly through the course. Second, the mechanical rear differential locker on the GMs works well and is still unique; otherwise, the trucks all handled the course, except in the off-camber where the GM’s rear differentials nicely locked up when power went to the lifted wheel. Third, and this is a gripe that’s several years old, the Fords still have the electrical hookups below the bumper where they collect mud, dirt and grime.

As with many tests, much is based on opinion. However, it is educated opinion offered up by five Canadian automotive journalists with well over 150 years of combined trucking experience. Numbers do tell a tale, though, so it’s worth looking at the overall scores as averaged among the five judges.

The first thing that stands out is how close they all are. This means that there really isn’t a bad truck in the bunch. Each has strengths and weaknesses, but as in any competition there must be a winner and a loser, and we feel confident in our choices.

truck king score

Feb. 18, 2014, Toronto – Technological innovations are changing the face of Canada's trucking industry, and will continue to do so as long as the industry is willing to embrace change.

At FPInnovations' Performance Innovations Transport conference in Toronto, experts from across North America and Europe presented information on the newest technologies that are impacting the industry and how they are being integrating into day-to-day operations.

The introduction of driver support systems, which has been adopted by all OEMs in the construction of new vehicles in some form, has provided real-time driver evaluation. Anders Johnson, who works at the SP Technical Research Institute in Sweden, spent 17 years working in research and development at Scania. Johnson explained that the Driver Support System introduced by Scania is targeted at improving driving performance by offering real-time support that can coach the drivers into making better decisions on the road. The Scania system evaluates the quality of the decision made pertaining to hill driving, anticipation, brake usage and choice of gears. The end result is that drivers find out in real-time if they are using best practices on the roads, while fleet managers collect data on the quality of the driving being done by each individual operator. But the system has to be active in order to be effective, a decision the driver must make at the start of daily operation.

The problem with new technologies, as explained by Wes Mays of Peterbilt Motors Company, is that it is difficult to get driver buy-in of some of the new innovations that are introduced.

Peterbilt developed a Driver State Monitor System, which monitors the alertness of drivers during the long haul. In the testing phase, Peterbilt found the system to be highly effective in making drivers aware when they were getting too sleepy to be behind the wheel by monitoring things like heart rate and blink rate. But the industry itself has not bought into the system, citing issues regarding distraction and a lack of overall desire to pay for the feature.

With the constant development of new technologies targeted at providing safer truck operation on our roads, it will be a wait-and-see approach to find out whether or not the industry will embrace the newest innovations.

Feb. 17, 2014 - Could it be that forest companies and racing car teams are waging the same battle? At first glance, no, since both industries have little in common apart from their focus on the performance of very powerful machines. A research group at FPInnovations, however, believes that forest companies could benefit from some of the expertise surrounding the high-speed spectator sport, especially when it comes to aerodynamics. Using the science of fluid mechanics, the impact of the shape of a race car’s exterior, components can be modelled to see how to increase fuel efficiency. When will a logging truck be on the podium for energy performance?

Thousands of trucks travel on forest roads and highways across Canada, with loaded and unloaded log trailers, during forest operations or on their way to supply mills. Transport can account for up to half of the delivered wood costs for the forest industry. The 2.7 billion litres of fuel consumed annually by the Canadian forest industry are the equivalent of over 7.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. Year after year, resources are transported over increasingly longer distances to be sold or processed. As a result, transport-related activities are applying greater pressure on both the Canadian industry’s competitiveness and the life cycle of forest products. Add to that rising fuel prices and a desire to reduce the environmental footprint and you have companies that would gain by learning more about fuel-efficient operating practices and technologies. One of the main contributing factors to the fuel consumption of these vehicles, i.e. between 40 and 50 per cent of total consumption, is aerodynamic drag.

Over the years, the FPInnovations research team responsible for transport and energy efficiency has developed a comprehensive toolbox to measure and analyze the impact of a truck’s profile on aerodynamic drag. It is therefore possible to compare various configurations and different products for logging trailers.

Analysis toolbox
The importance of the approach taken by the group at FPInnovations is the potential for developing specific technological solutions. To achieve that, the group’s focus is twofold – identify the best technologies for reducing aerodynamic drag and identify those for reducing the impacts of various trailer configurations.

The group relies on a whole array of equipment primarily to conduct three types of tests. Modelling using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) makes it possible to visualize the air flow and turbulence around a truck and its trailer. Modelling with CFD allows several concepts and products to be tested quickly and economically. Simulations of the most promising products are then calibrated using wind tunnel tests for a second sorting and are finally evaluated with track tests that may be costly but better reflect on-road operations. A wide variety of devices available on the market can therefore be tested and sorted by the first two methods to better understand and compare the aerodynamic drag created by the different products. Then, the most promising product is track tested.

Benefits of improved aerodynamics
A trend seen in the industry is that forest companies with tree-length systems are increasingly adopting felling-processing as their harvesting method. Trailers used in these cases are equipped with several stakes to retain the multiple bundles of shortwood produced by this type of harvesting.

Simulations and wind tunnel tests have demonstrated that by simply removing the stakes, once the trucks have been unloaded, aerodynamic drag may be reduced by 35 per cent. Track tests showed 15 per cent less fuel was consumed. This fuel economy could translate into annual savings of $2,500 to $4,500 per truck. The stakes, however, must be back in place to hold the logs during the next loaded trip. Some manufacturers therefore offer foldable stakes or others that lie flat on the platform. Savings then depend on the added weight of these motorized or mechanical stake folding systems.

The trucking industry could expect to enjoy even more savings by using the right configurations and combinations of technologies. The logging truck of the future will therefore be equipped with good deflectors, strategically installed at the right place on the roof and behind the driver’s cab, and having the optimal deflection angle. The truck will then be able to reach the podium.

For further information, please contact Jan Michaelsen at 514-782-4524 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Feb. 12, 2014 – FPInnovations and Canadian Woodlands Forum are conducting a series of technology road shows in three locations in Atlantic Canada. The half-day workshop will provide practical information on how to prepare a fuel management plan for a forestry company or logging fleet.

The Fuel Management 101 for Forestry Fleets workshop gives participants the practical advice and tools they need to help save money on fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With fuel consuming a large part of a fleet's budget, improving fuel efficiency will make operations more competitive and improve the bottom line. And with expectations for environmental responsibility on the rise, reducing your footprint will reflect positively on your company too.

Who should attend?
This workshop is designed for managers, particularly fleet and forest operations managers, who are looking for ways to improve fleet efficiencies and drive costs down. The course content is tailored to the forestry industry and offers solutions to its unique challenges.

What will participants learn?
• how to prepare a fuel management plan;
• prepare a fleet inventory and calculate your current consumption through hands-on training with sample worksheets and formulae for calculating baseline measures and fuel consumption;
• review the costs and benefits of various fuel saving options;
• how to put the plan into action and sell it to management;
• how to monitor and track your plan's success.

The workshops are being held on the afternoons of March 4, 5 and 6, 2014 in Grand Falls, Fredericton and Stellarton. For more information and to register, go to http://cwfcof.org/sites/cwfcof.org/files/media/FuelManageWorkshop.pdf

Jan. 28, 2014, Grande Prairie, Alta.- Weyerhaeuser has put out an urgent call for trucks needed at its Grande Prairie Operations. The company is looking for log-haul trucks or a fleet and loader for the rest of this winter. Typically operating until the last week of March or early April, most of the haul is on private Weyerhaeuser roads. 

For more information, contact Joe Henry (Harvest and Haul Manager) at 780-539-8133 or 780-296- 6497.

Oct. 23, 2013 - To what extent can India be the next China for the B.C. forest industry? It’s a question a growing number of pundits are asking. Exporting wood to India is nothing new: almost all B.C. lumber producers sell to the emerging superpower; but as local players assess new horizons in a bid to maintain their industry’s recovery, India increasingly seems like fertile ground for major export.

But make the comparison with China to any resource analyst, and the response will be muted. “It’s just not a big enough market yet,” says Russell Taylor, president of International WOOD MARKETS Group Inc. “You’ll hear about big percentage year-over-year numbers, but from a very small base.”

Taylor goes on to say that although hemlock has been sold to India, “India is mainly a teak market: tropical timbers dominate. The big story for softwoods is radiata pine logs from New Zealand, and India has been importing up to 1.5 million cubic metres per year: sizeable volumes but at very low prices. The logs are used at sawmills for low value packaging and pallet type of materials.”

Cautious optimism tends to characterize any debate about foreign export, but as far as the newly re-elected
provincial Liberal government is concerned, the time has come to go full-out in cementing ties with India. “The growth potential is tremendous,” says Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson. “In fact, when I was recently reappointed to cabinet, one of the initiatives given to me by Premier Christy Clark was to develop a new and diversified wood market in India. We won’t enjoy exponential growth as we did in China, and development will definitely occur over the long term – but we’ve already made crucial inroads in establishing a framework for meaningful export and investment.”

Thomson is referring to Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd. (FII), the Liberals’ market development agency for forest products whose mission is to grow the B.C. industry by “bringing its products to the world.” Last December, FII opened an office in Mumbai beside the government’s Trade and Investment bureau. Since then, FII has embarked on regional education and promotional campaigns, and earlier this year it hosted a trade mission in which 18 B.C. forestry representatives met with architects, builders, manufacturers and government officials (the mission is said to have generated new sales of over $5 million for the B.C. industry).

Successful trade missions are one thing; creating a substantial and permanent export relationship is quite another. As it stands, the volume of wood exported to India yearly has fluctuated wildly: from 11,707 cubic metres in 2010 to 61,698 in 2011, down to 52,820 last year and only 13,239 as of April of this year, according to FII figures (the fluctuations are due to factors such as the GDP hitting the wall in 2012 and, more recently, U.S. market price improvements). SPF has overwhelmingly been the biggest commodity sold by volume (accounting for 49,101 of 2012’s 52,820 total, and 44,457 of 2011’s 61,698 total) followed by Douglas fir and hemlock.

These are hardly earthshaking numbers; so why is the government so bullish about India (whose housing material of choice is concrete and steel), and how does it plan to gain a real foothold in the market?

FII representatives couldn’t comment at the time of this writing because Victoria was in the midst of ratifying media communications policies in the wake of the May election. But a government insider who spoke to Canadian Forest Industries magazine on condition of anonymity says that “although India’s dense population mandates concrete high-rise construction, wood is used extensively in interiors and for plywood and finished products like furniture, doors and window frames. Also, as India’s economy continues to grow, it faces a horrible dilemma: its traditional sources for imported wood such as Malaysia and Burma are drying up.

In fact, trade with Burma might end altogether next year due to environmental considerations.”

The source goes on to say that FII has made considerable unheralded progress in smoothing the way for exports. “For example, its people helped resolve tariff issues that prevented western red cedar and hemlock from being exported to India. What remains, apart from educating Indian industries about the benefits of our wood, is for them to find the right mix of markets and homes for our different grades and cuts.”

As beneficial as FII’s presence in India undoubtedly is, one person in B.C.’s private sector deserves credit for single-handedly laying the groundwork that made the current export volumes and initiatives possible. Colleagues refer to him as the “Godfather of India”; he began exporting lumber to India 15 years ago when that nation wasn’t even on anyone’s radar. His name is Tom Sundher, a former hemlock mill manager who today is president and owner of Coast Clear Wood Ltd. in Surrey, B.C.

Coast Clear Wood acts as the agent to Western Forest Products and Weyerhaeuser into India, but 15 years ago, after Sundher visited relatives in India and witnessed an enormous use of wood, he couldn’t get anyone in B.C. to consider exporting to that country. “I talked to private companies and associations, and they dismissed me outright,” he says. “The provincial government informed me that India wasn’t even on their list of countries to keep an eye on.”

Sundher was stonewalled for almost a decade until he finally convinced MacMillan Bloedel to use him as an export agent. “We went to India, attended trade shows and got orders rolling,” he says. When Weyerhaeuser bought MacBlo, Sundher became their export agent.

It was Sundher, along with FII and the federal government, who managed to lift the restriction on western red cedar and hemlock four years ago. “Our botanical names for the wood weren’t correct and we needed pest assessments,” he recalls. “Once that was done we decided to perform the same service for all of our species – which is why today India can accept almost anything we grow.”

Bob Flynn, director, international timber, for RISI, has provided a comprehensive analysis of the Indian market via a new report, “2013 India’s Forest Products Industry” – a document FII is using to formulate strategies and initiatives.

Canadian Forest Industries tracked down Flynn in China to learn what he thought of B.C.’s prospects of expanding business with that nation. “Let’s first talk about the comparison between India and China,” he says. “China was the result of a convergence of factors: that country’s massive stimulus to construction in 2009-2011, which came at the same time that Canadians were desperate for an alternative to the dead U.S. lumber market, and the same time the B.C. government pushing salvage of beetle-killed timber, which resulted in a lot of low grade product that the China market was perfect for.

“Most importantly, the Canadian government and industry had been working 15-20 years to educate the Chinese about the advantages of softwood lumber, how to use it, slowly building business relationships and distribution channels. It was hardly an overnight success.”

Flynn predicts India will be very important for softwood lumber producers, “but the effort to educate and build relationships is just getting started. FII’s efforts will, I’m sure, pay dividends in another 10 to 20 years’ time. And India’s democratic system means that port development, housing programs, et cetera, all take place at a much slower pace than in China.”

That said, Flynn concedes that while growth will not be at the same pace as in China it is likely to continue for decades into the future (for the record, he forecasts that as India continues to urbanize, imports of softwood lumber will nearly triple over the next decade, but still be less than one million cubic metres).

In the meantime, China isn’t going anywhere, and the B.C. industry continues to recover. Sundher, whose company achieved $2 million in sales to India last year, knows intimately that patience and persistence will eventually yield results. “I doubt India will ever be the next China simply because China wants to be the manufacturers to the world, while India is a wood consumer,” he says. “But it’ll be a huge market nonetheless, and I’m heartened by the efforts of FII and the federal government, the latter of which may sign a free trade deal with India by the end of this year – which in turn would reduce the 14 per cent duty on our lumber and the cumulative 22 per cent surcharge by the time it gets to the Indian consumer. I think the future for us is very promising.”

Most reading this know firsthand about how Canada’s forestry sector has undergone unprecedented change over the last 10 years. A perfect storm of factors – the high value of the loonie, reduced U.S. housing starts, stalled newsprint markets, rising energy costs, unprecedented global competition, the softwood lumber dispute – have together created recent industry conditions unseen since the Great Depression. Collectively, these factors cut industry employment by just less than half, from a high of approximately 260,000 direct jobs in 2003 to about 150,000 at present.

But the wood industry is resilient. Like its founding fathers – the men who helped give birth to this nation by toiling in the lumber camps from before dawn ’til after dusk – it’s a scrappy fighter, and on an upward swing again. However, just as the industry ramps back up, especially on Canada’s west coast, another set of thorny factors is rearing its ugly head. It’s turning out that recruiting the workers needed for the industry to hold its own, let alone grow, may be the biggest challenge yet.

One of the toughest challenges is the magnitude of expected retirements. More than half of the sector’s workforce is at least 45 years old. Based on current demographics as well as past retirement and attrition patterns, it’s estimated that during the next 10 years more than 50,000 workers will be gone. (These and other results are explained in the 2011 Forest Products Sector Council labour market report Renewing Canada’s Greenest Workforce - www.fpsc-cspf.ca/sectorstudy/) This 50,000 loss represents approximately one-third of the industry’s current workforce.  

Adding 120,000?
In the most optimistic of future possibilities, Canadian forest product enterprises will need to hire as many as 120,000 new workers by 2020. Even if the sector only holds its own, its labour force demand will equal nearly 40,000 new workers within the same time frame. Millwrights, saw filers, technicians, machinery operators, scientists, foresters, engineers, electricians, IT workers, communications, sales – you name it, forestry will need it.

“We need a workforce mix that will allow us to maintain existing operations while also pursuing a program of innovative new products and expansion into new markets,” says Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) director of communications Monica Bailey. “We are actively working on this, as we know sector employers are already having difficulties retaining workers, attracting youth and recruiting new employees.”

FPAC is working with its members as well as other related players on a three-pronged initiative to renew the forestry sector – which is key to attracting the workers it needs. “Maintaining and growing this industry is about people, products and performance,” Bailey explains. “We need skilled people, we need to continue to create a diverse range of innovative products, and we need to keep improving the efficiency of our operations on all fronts. If we can communicate this reality – that forestry is a dynamic, cutting-edge and growing industry – it makes it easier to attract young people, women, Aboriginal people, new Canadians and more.”

More than money
It’s also critical to get the message out that forestry careers incorporate the values that many of today’s workers hold dear. “It’s not just about good salaries,” Bailey explains. “Even with high wages offered by the oil sands industry, it is having trouble recruiting because it has an image of not being environmentally friendly, and many of the jobs require that workers have to fly in and stay at a camp. Those things don’t speak well to the values of people today.”

Bailey says forestry offers “green jobs” within a renewable industry that’s concerned about the environment. “This is important to people because they want to be able to make a difference throughout their careers – they want to have a positive impact on the environment and on Canada’s future,” she notes. “We also offer great work-life balance in great communities, job security, great salaries, opportunities for advancement and a chance to innovate – all of which holds a lot of appeal.”

Bailey adds that many forestry sector companies also offer “amazing” perks, such as skills training, pensions and in some cases four-day work weeks. “We need to make sure young people, and those around them who influence their career decisions, clearly see the sector as a ‘first choice’ option,” she says. “This is especially true for the ‘in-demand’ occupations – such as trades and professions – where forestry is in competition against many other resource sectors.”

The range of jobs available in the sector is another point that FPAC is stressing. “We’ve found a lot of surprise among young people that we’re not just looking for skilled labour and of course people to do front-line work in the forest, but that we need people to fill corporate office positions in IT, HR, accounting and communications, and so on, and to fill tons of science-related positions, such as chemical and environmental engineers, geneticists,

To help achieve all this, FPAC has created a website dedicated to attracting workers called TheGreenestWorkforce.ca. It’s described as “a resource tool that provides information on the dynamic direction of the forest products industry and career opportunities on offer right across the country.”

“Even though there are jobs available, we discovered that young people were not aware of the positions out there, so this website really helps with that,” says Bailey. “It links to the ‘career pages’ on the websites of major forest product companies, and offers a Twitter feed with careers on offer right now.” She adds that the website has also been a very successful tool in reaching Ontario high school students through the Ministry of Education and high school teachers.

Finding new faces
Although the site is for anyone, it also seeks to attract females, Aboriginal people and new Canadians. About 85 per cent of current workers in the forestry sector are male. Aboriginal peoples already are well represented among the sector’s workforce, accounting for just over six per cent of the labour force compared to almost three per cent in Canada’s entire labour force – and forestry wants to build on that. The participation of Aboriginal people is strongest in silviculture, forestry and logging operations and in the four western provinces.

“Canada’s growing Aboriginal population represents one of the sector’s best hopes to fill positions,” says Bailey. “We want to build on the historical connection. First Nation peoples are showing continued interest in increasing their participation in the sector, and see the possibilities for long-term economic benefits for Aboriginal communities situated close to sector activities.” Effective, local models of partnership based on mutual co-operation and respect can do much to support these efforts, she notes. During 2010 alone, the Forest Products Sector Council (FPSC) held seven Aboriginal engagement sessions across the country.

The forestry sector makes limited use of immigrant workers – only 7.6 per cent compared to the national average of 21.2 per cent – so this represents a good source of potential candidates as well. As with youth and Aboriginal Peoples, making new Canadians aware of the jobs is critically needed – but ways to enhance worker mobility and flexibility across provinces and sectors is also necessary.

“Cross-skilling of workers provides benefits for the workers and the employer,” Bailey observes. “We’re also working on tools and techniques to improve knowledge transfer practices from older experienced workers to newer entrants, so that they can benefit from all that knowledge and skill.” Developing strategies to increase participation in apprenticeship is also key.

In addition to needing more workers, the FPSC report also suggests that new skills will have to be developed to support and grow the forestry industry, to be able to create new products and processes. Training programs must evolve over time, and essential skills profiles and competency maps must
be developed.

Getting the word out
To help “market” forestry careers, FPAC recently ran a “Green Dream Internship Contest.” In June, the winners began posting their personal reflections on their new forest sector careers on the GreenestWorkforce website, Facebook and Twitter. (FPAC also offers other awards, such as the Aboriginal Youth Skills Award, which last year went to a young woman looking at perfume derivatives from wood.)

Millar Western Forest Products of Alberta hired three interns this spring who were all entered in the contest. “We support all of FPAC’s efforts 100 per cent,” says Millar Western’s communications manager Louise Riopel. “It’s so important to get on the radar of young people choosing a career, and show that forest sector jobs are green and growing.”

Her company believes filling the forest sector workforce demand is going to take a multipronged approach. “We have to work on several fronts and tweak our strategies as we go along,” Riopel says. “There is no silver bullet.” In addition to working with FPAC, Millar Western is involved with the Alberta Forest Products Association’s “Work Wild” program that also seeks to build awareness of career opportunities in the forest industry. Furthermore, the company is looking at partnerships with organizations like Helmets to Hardhats, which helps Canadian military personnel transition to civilian careers, and a program based in Edmonton called Women Building Futures that prepares women for careers in the trades.

Millar Western opened a new sawmill at end of 2011 and has a bioenergy project starting up at its pulp mill next year. “We really need quality workers, just like companies in many other industries do,” Riopel says. “We have a strong economy in Alberta, making it especially hard to attract tradespeople. We must continue to advertise our strengths – that we offer competitive salaries and benefits, and also ‘green’ careers that are based on a renewable resource and located in dynamic communities that offer great quality of life. Our industry provides a healthy work-life balance, as well as opportunities for advancement and career longevity.”

No one can predict the future, but it is certain that swift, concerted and sustained actions are needed to recruit the future forest sector workforce, retain experienced workers and improve human resource planning. “Meeting these labour demands is a challenge that the sector is facing now to ensure that it remains a competitive and productive global industry,” says Bailey. “There is massive potential in new and emerging markets and in transformative bio-products. Canada is well positioned to capitalize on the strong global forest products recovery that’s happening now. There are so many options for individuals to have extremely fulfilling and exciting careers.”

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