Transportation

It’s a new year, and with it comes new regulatory burdens for the trucking industry. Most notably in '09, it’s the mandatory use of speed limiters in both Ontario and Quebec. As of January 1, it has been illegal for any heavy-duty truck built since 1995 (when electronic speed governors became a standard engine function) to not have that limiter set at a maximum speed of 105 km/h.

An idle machine is the devil’s workshop as far as the forest industry is concerned. Whether it’s in the mill yard or out in the bush, we like to see our rolling stock rolling. If there’s a piece of iron with too much time on its hands, the assumption is we have too much iron.

The newest F-150 is now coming off the assembly line in Dearborn – and though it’s still referred to as a “half-ton” truck, it’s anything but. In fact, with the highest towing and payload capacities ever it’s sure to cause a stir among potential buyers – but capacity aside, this newest Ford F-series pickup now in Canadian showrooms is also one of the best equipped.  

While people still talk about “saving trees” when they avoid using paper, that claim is now even more ridiculous than ever. As the chart opposite shows, the Canadian pulp & paper (P&P) industry moved from being a consumer of roundwood in 1965 to an industry based clearly on the use of building product residues and recycled paper in 2005. Not only should that drastic change have implications on the way the sector is perceived by the public, it should also have profound implications on the way we manage our forests moving forward.

If one of the first rules of kindergarten is to put things back where you found them, the management and staff at the Coopérative Forestière Girardville (CFG) have learned their lesson well. Thanks to two new mechanical planters from Sweden, the silviculture specialists seven hours northeast of Montreal are working closely with Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife (MNRW) to put even the most extreme and nasty sites right back into production. Given the recent reductions in allowable cuts across Quebec, that’s good news for everyone.

Once again, the cost of trucking will be increased due to regulatory requirements south of the border. This time however, it’s safety – not the environment – that’s driving the change.

In the current tough climate, managers and foremen can help their businesses survive (and later thrive) by reviewing their normal operating procedures to recuperate here and there what I call “Money lost in the routine.” In most operations there is a lot of work that can be done in this field, and quite a bit of money that can stay in your pockets. In fact the savings mentioned below represent the minimum amounts for each change made (and consistently adhered to). This money is real; money I have seen in past efficiency projects.

Truckers like to gripe about fuel prices – and lately, they have every right to do so. The cost of diesel has reached unprecedented heights, and there’s absolutely nothing log or chip haulers can do about it. While truckers and trucking companies can’t control the price of fuel, they can control how much they use. This can be accomplished by spec’ing for fuel economy, eliminating unnecessary idling and adopting proven fuel-saving devices. Each of those tactics has been covered in this space before.

Contractors in BC are taking a page right from the Kenny Rogers’ gambler’s song as they tough out the downturn with survival strategies. You got to know when to hold ’em and when to walk away, they say.

Mack logging rig a true Titan

With a standard 16-litre, MP10 power pack with 605 hp, Mack’s new Titan 6x4 is aimed straight at the logging sector. So too is its almost 2,100 ft-lb of torque at 1,200 rpm, astounding figures to be sure. Looks also astound, from an aggressive long-nose hood and more chrome than a Harley convention. Mack says that this power comes with surprising efficiency (although smaller engines are available). Using an advanced combustion system, the MP10 engine combines software, intelligent fuel injectors and improved air management systems to boost fuel economy. Important for busy log haulers, it features 30,000-mile oil drain intervals and convenient access points for hassle-free servicing. A high-capacity cooling package is standard on Titan to ensure the MP10 provides optimal performance under load. Important for those working slopes, the Titan uses Mack PowerLeash engine brakes for a massive 575 braking horsepower at 2,100 rpm. It’s a good looking truck outside, but the elevated cab and wrap-around dash are no slouches either. www.macktrucks.com

 

Volvo back in the woods

If every show has one really big piece of news, this was it. As this month’s cover shows, Volvo Construction Equipment is back in the woods, hard and heavy with a totally new line of purpose-built track feller bunchers. The supplier has been moving into the logging game increasingly over the past few years, first with its tracked forestry carriers, and most recently with its LevelMax self-levelling undercarriage. But the introduction of three models of bunchers is a massive step.


Not that these impressive looking bunchers came out of thin air. Volvo purchased innovative Quebec-based buncher manufacturer Direct a few years back, and with it decades of feller buncher engineering and design experience. It also inherited a great base to start from, as the modular Direct machines were well respected producers. Working with Direct engineers and designers, the Volvo team headed by Ken Kelly added some distinct manufacturing efficiencies and components from Volvo. This includes Volvo engines and hydraulics, and most noticeably, Volvo Care Cabs. CFI Magazine spoke to some of the operators for early feedback, including one well-known regional producer from Lac St. Jean Quebec currently running a Direct machine, and his insights are with the operator photo at right.


Models include the Volvo FB3800C full swing radius, Volvo FB2800C minimum swing radius, and the Volvo FBR2800C zero swing radius. These can work as buncher or harvester, with harvester booms available with up to 10.5 m (33 ft) reach. The DEMO models will go back to work in the Quebec woods, while production units will be available later this year from Canadian dealers Great West Equipment and Strongco. www.volvoce.com

 

Cat in for the long haul

Caterpillar Forest Products hosted a forest media breakfast early on a frosty Saturday morning, providing information on their forest business philosophy and logging equipment plans, as well as this forestry writer’s only experience eating eggs Benedict deep in the woods. Cat Forest Products president John Carpenter touched on Cat’s commitment to the future of forestry through a variety of initiatives, including encouraging the next generation of loggers. He also stressed that Cat’s participation in shows like DEMO 2008 is an indication of their commitment over the past few tough years. “The market will recover, and the industry along with it.  Cat Forest Products will be there with the right products and the right people when it does.” He also commented on the company’s potential role in the emerging biomass sector.


The Cat site showed a range of cut-to-length and full-tree equipment in action, as well as a Peterson horizontal grinder on biomass duty (Atlantic Cat is now the Peterson dealer for Atlantic Canada). One of the most intriguing to local loggers looking for the right mix of size, power, and fuel efficiency was the Cat 501HD track harvester with Cat’s own PD-57 harvesting head. The machine is driven by new Tier III Cat C6.6 engines with ACERT technology that provide 11% more torque at lower RPMs than the Tier II engines, for higher hydraulic flow under load (faster processing) and reduced fuel use. Purpose built for CTL logging, with forward mounted cab-rear engine position for visibility. The DEMO model had a squirt boom for extra reach, which still handled the PD-57 head, Cat’s largest. It allows a 66 cm (26 in) maximum cutting diameter and has extended limbing arms for easier picking out of piles. www.cat.com

 

Fuchs loaders carry or pull

Whether you want to pick and carry, or pull your wood around on a trailer, Terex Fuchs had machines on active duty for both. The MHL464 pick-and-carry machine shown uses a rear-boom positioning design to create a balance between high loading productivity and fast movements around the yard or logging site.  This largest of material handlers can easily stack logs over 30 feet high, to reduce inventory space and improve efficiencies. The MHL 460 at DEMO was loading 8-ft wood on a 30-ft long yard trailer. Both machines have 221-hp engines for power to tow fully loaded trailers or carry logs in adverse terrain. www.terex.com

Some 10 years back, when my oldest daughter Tara was just three, humourist Bruce Cameron came out with his “Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter”, which have since been expanded to 10. If you have daughters, read them. They seemed funny, yet exaggerated, when Tara was three. Now that she’s 13, they seem  maybe a little too lenient. For instance, rule nine on lying to the worried father ends with “I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres. Do not trifle with me.” Hey, why the warning?


These rules came to mind last week at the Canadian Woodlands Forum spring meeting in Moncton, NB. Part of the meeting was a contractors’ roundtable, where a room full of loggers talk issues they’ve been having in everything from machinery and maintenance to training and safety. One hot topic this year was dealer support, and the horror stories I heard made me think that loggers need to come up with their own set of rules to hand out to roaming equipment salesmen. Here’s my go at it – feel free to add your own rules, or send them to me and we’ll share them here.

 

Ten Rules for Selling Me Gear
A low price is nice, but you need to sign off on a checklist of service charges, travel fees, mechanic rates, the availability of 24-hr tech support or phone help lines, finance flexibility, inventory levels, rush charges, invoicing and payment expectations, etc… That few thousand you are saving me on the deal today can vanish in a hurry through downtime, delayed parts, extra charges, and higher-than-average service and travel rates.

 

I have parts, tools, a service trailer, and mechanics that know gear. You better have a lot more. This is one time where I don’t mind if yours is bigger.

 

I don’t mind paying a fair bill that clearly shows what the money’s for. Take that same amount, shroud it in mystery, add a few vague charges (environment fees that include other things, general labour with no detail, etc...), and you’ll have an unhappy, suspicious client. Everyone wants cost details today. I am no exception.


I’m curious. I want to see those service bulletins gathering dust in your service manager’s inbox or trash file. There must be an automated, foolproof way to ensure that when manufacturers come up with a fix to recurring problems or defects, I get them right in my hands. If Toyota sells millions of cars a year, and yet can still find my wife to tell her of a trans-axle fix on a10-year-old mini-van, surely you and the manufacturer can tell me about a fix on my $600,000 harvester.

 

I may wear a ball cap, drive an old truck, and work in the woods, but I’m no hillbilly. I know gear, and I can recognize bad design, poor quality, or a tall tale when I see it (or when I have to pay $10,000 to fix a problem over and over again). If it’s a widespread problem, tell me what the plan is and when it will be fixed. I’ll be talking to other loggers at the spring show or safety meetings anyway, and I’ll hear they’re having the same issues. Then we’ll have issues.


Thanks for flattering me and putting faith in my operation as I get ready to drop a few million for new gear. But what about the tough times? When I get laid off for an extended breakup, and have to re-work the payments, will that be alright? What about when the machine you sold me breaks down at 4,000 hrs with the same problem I had at 2,000 hrs – you know, that problem you told me was an isolated incident, and for which I have not yet seen the bulletin? If the extra downtime and parts stretch my cash thin, will my credit disappear?

 

Everybody’s busy. Still, a call once in a while just to see how I’m making out with your gear and service department is appreciated. If you see my iron in your shop, or a big parts order for my machine, maybe call me in a week or so to see if it worked out.

 

In this era of acquisitions and rotating dealers, there’s a temptation to distinguish between loggers that bought gear from you, and those that bought from the old dealer. There is no difference. If you take over a new line, you take over all the customers, old, new, and even that SOB who broke your heart last year by going with the competition. If you lose the line I am about to buy from you, I expect excellent service from you, and the new guy. If you acquire a new line of gear of which I already own a piece or two, I expect excellent service from you, and the old dealer. In short, I expect excellent service.


You or the credit company will likely do a pro forma budget to see if I can afford your gear. Take the part about my final hourly costs, blow it up, and staple it to the top of my service file. That’s what it costs me to wait for an answer, a part (and then maybe after that, the right part), a call from the guy in head office who knows computers, etc… I know downtime happens. Can it happen faster?


This one’s simple – We need each other to survive.


This last rule is actually one of Cameron’s rules for dating his daughter (mine too), but it makes perfect sense here. If a lack of dealer support is one factor in forcing a logger under, everyone loses – the dealer, the mill, the manufacturer, and in this tight labour market, the industry as a whole.


If I’ve missed something, or if I’m asking too much, let me know.

 

Scott Jamieson, Editor
1-888-457-3155, ext 24
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

BC’s logging roads aren’t what they used to be. Traffic volumes are heavy, and growing dramatically for mining and oil-and-gas development. Very crowded, and called “resource roads” now, they help make log hauling one of the most dangerous occupations in our timber harvesting sector.

It’s difficult to imagine a less aerodynamic tractor-trailer configuration than your typical square-nosed logging truck pulling an awkward load of timber behind it. Loggers love their classic model trucks with the big, square front end – aerodynamics be damned!

When markets get tough, it helps to have some historical perspective. The folks at Finning (Ca­nada) have plenty. Not only was the Caterpillar distributor founded in the depths of the Great Depression, but as it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, it does so with a team of forestry specialists at the helm that has been through a downturn or two. They’ve also seen a few recoveries, plenty of growth, and a fair bit of innovation.

It’s a public relations nightmare. A top-heavy, overloaded logging truck goes into a curve too hot, or swerves to avoid a dozy car driver drifting across the centre line. The load shifts, and before the driver has a clue, the trailer is going over. It’s a bad day for the driver, but likely worse for the family coming around the bend en route to the cottage.

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