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Efficiencies for Log Haulers

TIMMINS, Ont. - The Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC) recently held a conference that explored ways of improving efficiencies for log haulers.

TIMMINS, Ont. – The Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC) recently held a conference that explored ways of improving efficiencies for log haulers.

Improving the performance of the truck itself is one way to achieve a better bottom line in a log-haul operation, and presenters suggested there are many ways of doing so.

Automatic trannies

Jean-Francois Aussillou and Nick Finamore were on hand to talk about the advantages of spec’ing automatic transmissions for forestry applications. Aussillou pointed out that in 2001, no Quebec logging trucks were spec’d with Allison automatic transmissions while today there are more than 20 operating in the province.

“There’s a significant growth in the demand for our product,” Aussillo said, adding the first Ontario logging truck to be spec’d with an Allison automatic has just been ordered.

He attributes the increasing popularity to four factors, saying an automatic transmission will: cause less damage to the truck; it will do less damage to logging roads; will lessen stress and fatigue for the driver; and will deliver better fuel mileage.

Finamore cited a research project that indicated a 37-minute haul can be reduced to 32 minutes using an Allison automatic transmission.

“Over the course of a 10-hour day that’s an extra 90 minutes more time to spend with your wife and kids or to make another trip,” he pointed out. Allison reps said start-and-stop applications are best-suited for automatic transmissions since they excel during acceleration.

“You do more work with the Allison than a manual transmission and that’s money in your pocket,” Finamore said.

On-board computers

Another way to improve trucking efficiency is to implement on-board computers, advised Tony Reynolds of International Road Dynamics (IRD). He said on-board computers are key because they allow you to monitor compliance with items such as central tire inflation, while also keeping an eye on driver behaviour and targeting costly habits.

On-board computers can also help fleets identify their best drivers and reward them, added Reynolds.

“I have found the incentive component is a really good motivator,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be expensive – it could be $20 for pizza and beer.”

IRD’s on-board computer has a buzzer that sounds when a driver exceeds a certain speed.

“It’s loud enough to be irritating,” Reynolds said. If a driver immediately responds to the buzzer, no violation will be recorded, but if it is ignored and the driver continues speeding, the computer will record the incident.

Reynolds said other advantages of on-board computers include: cost savings; improved fuel economy; better driver evaluations; increased driver accountability; better awareness of the fleet status; and simpler warranty claims since you can prove how the unit has been driven.

On-board weighing devices

Jimmy Sevigny of Quebec-based Cleral addressed ways log haulers can maximize payloads using on-board weigh scales. Although on-board scales have been around for 30 years, Sevigny said they’ve come a long way in recent years while also coming down in price. An on-board scale for an air-ride equipped unit would cost $5,000 five years ago, but today that same scale can be installed for $2,500.

At that price, Sevigny predicts a payback time of between six to nine months. While the scales aren’t legally binding, they do offer an accuracy of 99.5 per cent, or 96 per cent in the bush. Cleral’s on-board scales can be installed on an air-ride trailer within 45 minutes whereas previous generations would take all day to be installed.

“We know how much it costs you to miss a day’s work,” said Sevigny.

Once installed, Cleral’s scales only need to be calibrated once even if a tractor swaps between trailers.

“If you have a well-maintained suspension group, you don’t have to touch it,” Sevigny said. “You only re-calibrate if you alter the suspension group.”

Proper spec’ing

Proper spec’ing is perhaps the best way to improve trucking efficiency and FERIC offers help in that department through its Star Truck program. Jan Michaelsen, a senior researcher with FERIC, discussed the Star Truck program at the conference. Essentially FERIC will sit down with a log-haul fleet manager and discuss the company’s particular application. Then, FERIC suggests ways of spec’ing a more efficient tractor in the hopes of trimming TARE weights, improving fuel economy, reducing maintenance costs and increasing payload.

Michaelsen discussed a case study whereby a carrier was able shave off 726 lbs by opting for a C13 430-hp engine rather than its larger cousin.

The smaller engine saved $1,268 in fuel per year and more than $6,000 over the life of the vehicle. And despite marginally higher maintenance costs and increased downtime, the smaller block engine still delivered savings overall.

Other components are also placed under the spotlight during the Star Truck analysis. Common recommendations (besides a smaller block engine) include: aluminum rims; eliminating the sleeper; engineered trailers; 14,600-lb front ends; single exhaust; single frame; smaller fuel tanks; and aluminum bumpers, cab protectors and clutches.

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