|The online newspaper for the forest products industry including loggers, sawmills, remanufacturers and secondary wood processors.|
Scale System Aids Virginia Loggers Several Ways;
Do-Little Logging Finds Maxi-Load Scale Systems Helps Eliminate Fines for Overweight Loads, Increase Profitability
By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 11/16/2001
ROSELAND, Va. — When the Commonwealth of Virginia stepped up scrutiny of truck loads and then increased its sliding scale of fines for overweight vehicles, John H. (‘J. H.’) Fitzgerald, Jr. and Wendell M. Evans decided they needed precision weighing. J.H. and Wendell, co-owners of Do-Little Logging Inc., were determined to find a way to avoid fines and save money by sending out trucks that were always at legal weight.
However, the logging partners did not want to be far under the legal limit — hauling light loads — and pay to transport fewer logs than allowed by law. Accurate scales seemed to be the answer.
They began making calls to other loggers and equipment dealers, asking about scales. The partners knew another logger who had bought scales at Pioneer Machinery Inc. in Salem, Va., and had passed along a favorable review. They called Pioneer.
At Pioneer Machinery, branch manager Terry Nash and territory manager Billy Keith introduced Do-Little Logging to the Maxi-Load Scale Systems, and Billy arranged for Do-Little to try a Maxi-Load scale system on site for a week.
At the end of the week, J.H. and Wendell were very satisfied with the results they had recorded. They bought the Maxi-Load axle platform scales they had used on a trial basis and another set, too. Buying two scales would allow both of their loaders to operate accurately in terms of filling trucks with road-legal amounts of wood.
Do-Little Logging was established in 1992, and the company went fully mechanized just over five years ago. J.H has been logging for 20 years. He started helping his father — and grandfather — log when he was 12 years old. He began working full-time as a logger in 1988 when he got out of high school, working with an uncle and cousin and using chainsaws and skidders. Wendell has also been logging full-time since 1988 and had considerable part-time experience before that.
"Need and necessity" brought the Do-Little partners together, said Wendell. "Help was hard to get" and even more difficult to keep, he explained, and the two men sat down and talked about joining forces, which they ultimately did.
Do-Little is equipped with two Hydro-Ax 321 sawhead cutters or feller-bunchers, one new in 1999 and the other new in 2000. "When we first bought them we were doing a lot of thinning for Georgia-Pacific," said J.H. "We like them." Most of the company’s work now is clear-cutting. After a clear-cut, Georgia-Pacific reseeds the land.
J.H. and Wendell operate the company’s two knuckle-boom loaders. One of them, a Barko 225 Barko loader, is fitted with a CSI delimber and a CSI buck saw. The other loader is a Prentice 98-310E; it is matched with a CTR 314 delimber and a CTR buck saw. Wendell runs the Barko and J.H. runs the Prentice.
Both loaders get high marks from the partners. "I love it," Wendell said of the Barko 225. "It has plenty of power. It’s a smooth-operating machine."
Do-Little bought "one of the first" CSI delimbers on the market, according to Wendell, who said the company has a good relationship with CSI representatives. The equipment required a few adjustments, he said, and CSI has been "a real good company to work with" in getting the modifications accomplished and providing other service and support.
Nearly all of the logging performed by Do-Little is for Georgia Pacific Corp., which is headquartered in Atlanta. The logging company cuts about "85 percent pine," according to J.H., working on both pine plantations and other tracts. Do-Little used to have a bulldozer for making logging roads, but Georgia-Pacific now handles road construction through separate contracts.
In addition to J.H. and Wendell, Do-Little has five employees. The company operates 12 months except for two weeks of vacation. The men normally work five days a week although sometimes they have pulled seven-day weeks.
One employee drives a log-hauling truck full-time, a 1998 International. In September, Do-Little sold its other trucks after J.H. and Wendell decided to contract for hauling many of its loads.
Both J.H. and Wendell have extensive experience with chainsaws, and they continue to use chainsaws for hand-felling on special jobs they do on weekends — after meeting weekly contract obligations to Georgia-Pacific. "We cut some grade logs," explained J.H. They are generally "select cut" and most of the work is in steep terrain — a combination that often makes the partners reach for their chainsaws, both Husqvarna and Stihl. The company’s Timberjack 240 cable skidder and John Deere 450C dozer also are used on the special jobs, which make up only about 5% of the work for Do-Little Logging.
Contract load or company haul, J.H. said, state penalties for over-weight loads increased significantly in July — "probably double of what was" at certain ranges. The new, higher penalties made the Maxi-Load scales more important than ever.
If a contract hauler gets an over-weight ticket, Do-Little must pay it, J.H. noted. So using contract truckers does not eliminate the need for an accurate system for weighing loads.
The Maxi-Load scales have made ‘hot loading’ trucks "a lot more accurate," said J.H.
Before Do-Little obtained the Maxi-Load scales, "We could keep the weight within about 1,000 pounds," said J.H. The Maxi-Load system enables the company to stay under legal weight and within as little as 50-200 pounds of the target.
The Maxi-Load scales have been "a blessing for us," said Wendell, and have helped the company make more money. The company is able to send more wood to the mill while at the same time eliminating the costs associated with fines for over-weight loads.
"The scales keep over-weight tickets within the adjustable range," said Wendell. In the past, to be certain it was consistently hauling legal loads, the company erred on the side of under-weight loads and averaged about 22 tons per load. Now, with a way to accurately weigh loads, it is averaging about 24.5 tons.
Pioneer's Billy Keith noted that the improved accuracy Do-Little realizes in loading is important in many other ways beyond avoiding fines for being over-weight. A small margin of error in a weight measurement can have a crucial impact on profitability. When a truck leaves the woods for the mill, a logger knows what the driver and fuel is going to cost, noted Billy. But if a truck is a couple of tons shy of a full legal load, the logger’s cost per unit ton of wood is higher than it should be. In addition, loggers are under restrictions in some places, limited to the number of loads they can haul in a given week. If they do not put the maximum legal load of wood on each and every truck, the light loads quickly add up to lost income.
Above all else, what convinced him about the Maxi-Load scales was their ease of use, said J.H. That did not surprise Billy, who said, "That's what sells the scales."
The Maxi-Load Scale System can be moved on the front of a loader trailer or with a low-boy. It can operate on top of the ground or recessed and level. It tolerates skidder cross-overs when trucks are being pushed away from wet loading sites.
The Maxi-Load Scale System is "the only model that’s out that's wireless," said Billy. The radio frequency transmission of information from the scale to the digital reader, which is mounted in the loader cab, means one less obstacle to think about when loading and weighing. The wireless communication also contributes to the "pretty much maintenance-free" ratings the scales get from their users.
The wireless capability and corresponding reduction in the number of parts and components to worry about easily won over Wendell. One less complicating factor at a job site — like another cable — was a bonus to him.
Billy has sold eight sets of Maxi-Load Scale Systems in Virginia. Ken Murray, president of Maxi-Load Scale Systems, which is based in Brunswick, Ga., has been a key player in the success of the scales, said Billy.
Ken, who built the first commercial scale in 1996, has a logging background. "My father was in the wood business," he said. When Ken designed and built his first scale, he was not planning to market it. He developed it to use for his own logging company. "We solved our problem," explained Ken.
Other loggers in the vicinity of Brunswick learned about them, were impressed, and asked for them, and Ken decided to launch a business venture to manufacture and market them. He has sold several hundred of the systems throughout the Southeast. At first he thought he would continue to log while running the new business, but his travel schedule became so extensive that he decided to devote his full-time efforts to Maxi-Load Scale Systems.
Ken's logging background and expertise continue to inform his product line. Realizing that high-volume loggers have somewhat different needs than loggers who operate on a smaller scale and use smaller equipment, Ken designed a second system for the latter group. In July, Maxi-Load Scale Systems introduced a new product, the Maxi-Lite scale.
For Do-Little Logging, the Maxi-Load scales are a good fit for its production volume. "If we're cutting mainly plantation pine," said J.H., production is 18-20 loads per day. In more diverse stands, production is closer to 12-16 loads per day.
Georgia-Pacific has 10 manufacturing facilities in Virginia, mills where the company produces everything from lumber to corrugated products and hardboard. "They tell us how they want it merchandised," said J.H., and the wood is taken to mills for chip-and-saw, pulp and paper, and dimension lumber.
Under a separate operating entity known as The Timber Co., Georgia-Pacific manages more than 4.5 million acres of timberland, including about 60,000 acres in Virginia. Most of the holdings of The Timber Co. are softwood forests, mainly pine. Georgia-Pacific also manages its timber in order to provide habitat for wildlife and opportunities for hunting, fishing and other recreation.
Do-Little Logging belongs to the Virginia Forestry Association. Both J.H. and Wendell earned certification in the SHARP Loggers — for Sustainable Harvesting and Resource Professional — program, a curriculum of Virginia's Sustainable Forestry Initiative program. SHARP trains loggers in sustainable forestry, environmental protection and workplace safety.
When J.H. and Wendell conceived the name of their logging company, they were also thinking of mechanizing, so they came up with Do-Little. J.H. laughs now when he thinks about it, because work days are often long and far from home.
The company is based in Roseland, a community of about 2,300 in Nelson County and located about 75 miles west-southwest of Richmond. It is a favorite stopping point for hikers along the Appalachian Trail. Wendell lives in Roseland and J.H. lives in the nearby town of Tyro.
Travel time can be considerable. When J.H. and Wendell talked with TimberLine, the loggers were working on a job about 130 miles away, a trip that takes nearly three hours.
For Wendell, the workday travel is not much different than weekend travel. He and his wife travel a lot on some weekends to watch their daughter play softball. Some games take them to neighboring states, and they enjoy the trips.
A respite for Wendell often includes trips to places in the Appalachian and Great Smokey Mountains and the beach. He also plays guitar. "I like to play blue grass and Gospel," he said. He accompanies the youth choir at his church and also performs with a group of musicians.
Wendell enjoys logging. "To me it's a lot of satisfaction to be able to do the work," he said. It takes a certain physical ability to do the work, he noted. He also takes pleasure in the fact that timber harvesting can improve forest health, and that he works in an industry that is not only harvesting and processing wood, but also planting and growing new forests.
"Being outdoors" is what J.H. likes best about logging. When he has time away from work, he likes to hunt — bear, deer and spring gobblers.
Do you want reprints or a copyright license for this article? Click here
Research and connect with suppliers mentioned in this article using our FREE ZIP Online service.