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Maine Logger Grows Business: R.C. McLucas Works with Anderson Equipment to Add Second Komatsu Feller-Buncher

Richard McLucas has grown logging business since acquiring it more than 10 years ago.

By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 5/1/2014


PORTER, Maine — Richard McLucas has been around loggers his whole working life, but mainly as a trucker, hauling wood for the forest products industry. It wasn’t until a little over 10 years ago that Richard — then in his mid-40s — decided to get into the business himself.

                The decision has paid off as Richard has guided a company he acquired into significant growth and expansion - and that coming during a spell of economic upheaval and a tough climate for the forest products industry.

                His company, R.C. McLucas Trucking Inc., which performs tree-length and cut-to-length logging as well as operations to produce wood fuel chips, recently invested in a second Komatsu XT430L-2 feller-buncher that it purchased from Anderson Equipment.

                R.C. McLucas Trucking has 42 employees and moves 275-300 truckloads of wood products per week, including hauls for other logging businesses and forest products companies. Its four logging and chipping crews account for about 80 percent of the trucking volume.

                In addition to employees running logging and chipping equipment, the company has its own forestry crew and 18 truck drivers.

                Richard’s company is based in Porter, about 40 miles west and slightly north of Portland and close to the New Hampshire border. He keeps an office from his home and also has a company maintenance shop nearby. One crew does logging and chipping 120 miles north in Rangeley, utilizing a nearby bunkhouse for accommodations during the work week. Of the other three crews, one performs cut-to-length logging and others do tree-length logging and chipping.

                The company just weeks ago acquired its second Komatsu XT430L-2 feller-buncher. Its crews also are equipped with a couple of Tigercat feller-bunchers. For cut-to-length logging it uses a Tigercat 822 with a Risley Equipment Rolly harvester attachment. John Deere grapple skidders are used to move trees to the landing.

                Production of wood fuel chips is accomplished with three Morbark chipping machines. All are portable units. Loaders — two Prentice machines and a Tigercat — are used to feed wood to the chippers; two are mounted on trailers with pull-through delimbers, and the other is mounted on a truck. Limbs and tops are processed into fuel chips.

                The company also supplies firewood, annually producing a few thousand cords. For producing firewood the company has a Multitek 2040 firewood processing machine.

                It has a small wood yard in Porter, mainly for producing firewood although it also serves as a temporary storage yard when needed. The company has recently been storing hardwood pulp logs at the yard.

                Richard grew up having members of his extended family in the logging business and worked for them. His grandfather, Kenneth Libby, now deceased, operated a logging business that eventually was bought by Richard’s uncle, Everett Libby, also deceased. Richard tagged along with them when he was a boy and as a young man stacked 4-foot pulpwood for them. Later, Richard operated a skidder for his uncle for a few years and then began driving a logging truck. He bought his own truck in 1988 at age 28, contracting to haul wood for his uncle and other loggers.

                “We started with one truck,” he recalled, “and in a year or two went to another one. It just kept growing from there.”

                Richard, 54, did not enter the logging business until 2002-03. He had hauled wood for a logging contractor, Fred Bickford, for about 18 years. Fred, whose focus was chipping, finally decided to retire at age 77 and called Richard one evening and asked him to buy his business.

                “I did, and for a while I wasn’t sure I made the right decision or not,” recalled Richard, “but it all turned out well.”

                At the time, however, Richard’s business was relatively small, about four or five trucks, as was Fred’s. Fred Bickford Chipping was equipped with only one feller-buncher and one chipper and operated with just a few employees.

                Richard acknowledged that he has grown and expanded the company significantly in the past 10 years.”I guess we just kept getting busier and busier,” he said. “Opportunities came along.”

                Richard bought his first Komatsu machine after acquiring Fred’s business. He was satisfied with the performance of the first machine, which influenced his decision when it came time to buy a new feller-buncher just recently. “They seem to cut a lot of wood,” said Richard.

                The preferences of the employees operating the machines played a big role in his decision, too, he indicated. “I try to put them in (the machine they prefer) the best that I can,” he said. The Komatsu machines feature self-leveling and comfortable cabs.

                The Komatsu feller-bunchers, equipped with Quadco high-speed saw heads, are track machines, which Richard finds is better suited for the rocky, hilly terrain of western Maine. “Most of the ground you have to work,” said Richard, is rough. “The wood that was on good ground is gone,” he noted.

                Richard’s company has been using Quado saw heads since his first Timbco machine about seven or eight years ago. “We have always had Quadco,” he said.

                The Komatsu feller-bunchers run a Quadco 22-inch saw with replaceable teeth. The hot saws are well suited for cutting and harvesting biomass material quickly, Richard noted. “That’s why you use a high-speed head,” he said.

                The saws perform well, he said. “You don’t have any problems with them. They work good.”

                Quadco manufactures forestry cutting tools, including saw discs and teeth, and attachments. The company’s product include felling attachments, including high-speed and intermittent disc saw heads, shear heads, harvester and processor heads, stroke delimbers, and excavator-mounted brush cutters.

                It manufactures a series of disc saws of varying size and capacity for a wide range of harvesting applications. Saw discs are engineered for the demands of loggers. Patented, segmented discs protect the disk with replaceable tooth holders, making them ideal for high-impact applications, while one piece discs feature a patent pending, deep gullet design for a more efficient cut.

                Komatsu Forest develops, manufactures and markets the Komatsu forestry machines and attachments. The company manufactures forwarders, wheeled harvesters, tracked harvesters, tracked feller-bunchers, forestry excavators, harvester heads, and a bar-saw felling head. Quality components are designed to improve mobility reliability and comfortable operation.

                Komatsu Forest has two manufacturing facilities, one in Chattanooga, Tenn. and another in Umea, Sweden. The U.S. plant builds tracked feller-bunchers, track harvesters, forestry excavators, and bar saw heads. The Swedish facility is used to manufacture wheel-based harvesters, forwarders and harvester heads.

                The Komatsu XT430/XT430L, which can be equipped with a large variety of attachments, can function as both a feller-buncher or a processor.  It features a Cummins Tier 3 engine that peaks at 300 hp and produces 1,000 pounds-foot of torque. The engine is smooth and responsive in demanding harvesting applications. An enhanced cooling system with wide radiator fin spacing and auto reversing fan keeps the machine running cool in high production applications.The control system features electronic interface between machine functions and the engine.

                Heavy 8.5-inch pitch track components team up with large final drives and a new track roller frame design for good durability in tough logging environments. Long, wide contact area with low weight distribution provides a sure-footed vehicle platform for operator confidence.

                New remote-mounted engine oil filter, grouped grease fittings, a swing-out hydraulic oil cooler, hydraulic oil refill pump, and easy-to-reach service areas help to ensure that preventative maintenance may be performed with minimum effort.

                A large cab is designed for all-day operator comfort. Tinted windows reduce glare and keep the operator comfortable while providing a clear view of the work areas. The controls and seat are also ergonomically positioned to minimize operator fatigue.

                For more information on Komatsu Forest machines, see the website at www.komatsuforest.us.

                Anderson Equipment, founded in 1935, offers new, used and rebuilt equipment for forestry, construction, and mining, including rental equipment. The company has 21 full service locations from Maine to West Virginia, including Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and its infrastructure enables Anderson Equipment to serve customers from Kentucky to Canada.

                For more information about Anderson Equipment and its equipment product lines, see the website at www.andersonequip.com.

                Richard’s company contracts to provide logging and chipping operations for forestry management businesses, and he also buys standing timber.

                In the Rangeley region, the company cuts mainly hardwoods like rock maple and yellow birch and also spruce and fir. To the south, around Porter, there is more pine and oak.

                Fuel chips are supplied mainly to some of the big paper mills in Maine, which also are customers for pulpwood — Sappi, Verso, and New Page.

                Pine saw logs generally are supplied to one of two sawmills while hardwood saw logs are supplied to a concentration yard in New Hampshire for eventual export to Canada or China.

                Richard has several other family members involved in the business. A son, Shaun, 23, supervises the crew that works in the Rangeley region. Richard’s wife, Gayla, runs the office, and a daughter, Jenilee, 27, works with her; Jenilee’s husband, Phil Barsanti, is a truck driver for the company.

                In addition to some supervisory duties, Richard dispatches the company’s trucks and also drives a truck every day, hauling chips.

                Richard has few hobbies other than doing some snowmobiling. He works 70-80 hours a week, he estimated. “When you’re in your own business, you’re working most of the time,” he said.

                Richard’s company participates in the Northeast Master Logger Certification Program, a stewardship program that operates under the Trust to Conserve Northeast Forest lands.

                Richard is optimistic about the near future. “I think it’s going to be good,” he said. “Markets are strong right now,” he said, notwithstanding that some paper mills in Maine — notably in Millinocket to the north — have announced that they will be temporarily idle. “Down here,” he added, “knock on wood, so far it’s been okay.”

                The recession that began in late 2009 did not severely hurt his business, according to Richard. “Actually, I think it may have helped us a little bit,” he said. “When the economy tanked, some private landowners who needed money sold their timber, and we were happy to help them,” he noted.




 






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