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Logging: FERIC becomes more active in the East

MONTREAL, Que. - The Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC) has been more active in Eastern Canada this year, focusing on ways log hauling fleets can improve their bottom line.FERIC's...

MONTREAL, Que. – The Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC) has been more active in Eastern Canada this year, focusing on ways log hauling fleets can improve their bottom line.

FERIC’s eastern division program manager, Yves Provencher, recently travelled to Jasper, Alta., to meet his western counterparts and keep them posted on the agency’s work in The East.

The industry research group has been examining ways that fleets can become more efficient by improving some of the main factors in any log hauling operation, including the road and the rig.

Improving the roads

In experiments on logging roads in Iroquois Falls, Ont., FERIC has discovered ways to improve road conditions by adding a lime composite. Through trial and error, FERIC found that some solutions worked better than others. By partnering with other agencies and companies, researchers found that adding the proper lime/CKD mixture to logging roads can make for a more efficient operation.

“We proved the fact that if you have a good recipe and a good mixture, you get a good cake,” says Provencher. “Know what you’re working with, distribute the product properly and mix it well. When you look at the final result, you see there may be an advantage there.”

Fleets who pay extra attention to the condition of the roads they run can save on equipment rentals, and have their trucks last longer because of the smoother surface.

Another interesting development being touted by FERIC in the East is the Opti-Grade program, which the organization claims can save logging companies big bucks on their road maintenance costs.

The system consists of truck-mounted electronics that read the bumpiness of the road surface, and provide a print-out of the areas of road that need the most attention. Logging companies can provide their grader with the information, avoiding the costs of spending time on portions of their roads that are already up to par.

Provencher says that the system provides “a snapshot of your road,” which can be used to improve grading efficiency.

“FERIC doesn’t decide where you grade, you decide that yourself,” he says. “The grader would just lift his blade up and keep going,” between rougher sections of road.

This tool can help companies determine trucking rates more accurately as well, and it can even be used to monitor trucks that have the $8,000 system on-board.

Some of the users of the new Opti-Grade system are already singing its praises.

Domtar reduced grading needs from 55 kilometres per day to 19.5.

“They could park a grader because of the use of Opti-Grade,” points out Provencher.

Other companies who are using the system include Tembec, which saved about 25 hours of grading per week in 1999, and Abitibi Consolidated, which was able to park one grader after just two weeks. Provencher admits, “Not everybody that used Opti-Grade saved that much money.”

He stresses that fleets have to “make sure that this grading schedule will be met and then you will start seeing those kinds of savings.”

Fine-tuning the rig

FERIC’s Star Truck Project addresses the issue of truck efficiency in the forestry sector. The project was initiated two years ago, and early results are promising. Fleets participating in the project consult with FERIC to find ways they can improve their truck’s efficiency by reducing TARE weights, improving the spec’s and trimming off unnecessary extras.

There are two main advantages that are being realized by fleets that are taking part in the program.

“The objective, obviously, is to reduce your trucking costs,” says Provencher. But he adds there are environmental advantages to running Star Trucks as well.

“That’s rare in our industry, that we can benefit the environment while saving costs,” he says.

Trucks that are participating in the project are under the microscope for several years before an accurate cost/benefit analysis can be done. However, the first trucks to jump on-board are already yielding results.

More than 50 “free trips” per year have been realized by some trucks.

FERIC is looking for more forestry companies to join the ranks of Tembec, Domtar and Kruger in participating in the program. Truckers taking part will consult with FERIC on a regular basis to track the performance of the sleeked-out Star Truck rigs.

“It’s important to get feedback from the trucker because we want to keep him as part of the team,” stresses Provencher.

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