Spec’ing the Right Log Truck

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NANAIMO, B.C. – Very few applications are as difficult to spec’ for as logging. A logger on the West Coast, for instance, may have vastly different needs than a log hauler in Northern Saskatchewan.

Still, there are some general rules of thumb for spec’ing the right logging truck. One of them is to do just that – spec’ a log truck.

Yet, some owner/operators continue to use over-spec’d highway tractors in logging applications.

Some do so in hopes of attaining better resale value while others opt for highway tractors so they can easily shift to hauling other types of freight during the off-season. However, it’s kind of like taking a baseball bat to a hockey game.

“A highway truck is meant to be a highway truck,” says Richard Mayer, owner of Nanaimo Mack in Nanaimo, B.C. “They’re not built for logging. They just won’t stand up to the flex that the frames take. Now, you’ve got a five-year-old truck, but it squeaks like a 20-year-old truck.”

So much for that theory about better resale value.

Rich Hileebrand of First Truck Centre in Llyodminster couldn’t agree more.

“I see it all the time, you get a highway truck out there with a large bunk on it and they tend to crack apart and break down,” said the Western Star and Freightliner sales rep. “They have steering component issues and frame issues. If you don’t use a logging truck to do a logging truck’s job, you’re going to have a frame problem.”

Rick Volwes, general sales rep with Mack and Volvo dealer Stafford Truck Centre in Kamloops says unless you spec’ a bona-fide logger (like Mack’s CL733, the CH613 or Volvo’s VHD), you’re going to encounter problems.

“You get way too much flex in your frame,” he says. Also, highway tractors tend to have lower clearances which can cause components such as the fuel tank to get damaged or snagged.

In addition, logging trucks typically have better cooling systems, which are very important in this particular application.

“A highway truck’s cooling capacity is by no means anywhere close to what a logging truck’s would be,” says Hileebrand.

In Western Canada’s forestry sector, Mack, Western Star and Kenworth are the main players. International also has a logger – the 5900i, which has been on the market for about two years.

“It’s a real heavy-duty truck, it’s not an overspec’d highway tractor with no bunk, it’s actually a logger,” explains Ed Kvasnak, sales representative with Prince Albert, Sask.-based Maxim Transportation.

Mack’s most popular log trucks are the CV713 Granite and the heavier-duty CL733.

“The Granite is heavy enough for the bush, and a great all-purpose truck,” says Mayer. “It has a great turning radius, and great visibility.”

It’s powered by a 460-h.p. Mack engine. The CL733 is ideally suited for tri-drive applications and it has a 530-h.p. Cummins engine under the hood. Both cabs are built extra tough, with reinforced corners, dashes and floors.

With the more widespread use of tridem drive trucks in the logging industry, Mack has taken steps to make this offering more attractive to its customers. Within the last month, the truckmaker began offering tri-drives as a factory option.

“We never did the tri-drive option at the factory level, it was something that was done after the fact, and as you can understand, it adds costs,” says Mayer. “Now we’re competitive at the factory level.”

Other manufacturers in B.C. and Alberta are continuing to see more and more demand for tri-drive tractors.

“Right now, the tri-drives are a big thing in logging,” confirms George Driedger, sales representative for GreatWest Kenworth in Grande Prairie, Alta.

Some of his customers have been making an extra $300 to $400 per day by running tri-drives.

“Pretty soon, guys with tandems are going to be forced to get tri-drives,” Driedger predicts.

But it comes with a cost – about $20,000 more than a tandem-drive Kenworth.

Rick Bennell, a sales representative with James Western Star in Prince George, B.C., agrees.

“Tri-drives’ payloads are higher, you can tack more on a tri-drive, the traction is incredible and with tri-drives, you can go places where a tandem couldn’t unless it was chained up,” says Bennell, noting about 50 per cent of the tractors he sells to logging customers are now tridem drives.

When spec’ing a logging truck, weight isn’t always the most important consideration, according to GreatWest Kenworth’s Driedger.

“Guys aren’t usually worried about being lightweight, if anything you go a little heavier,” he says. “You want a heavier front-end. You don’t want a 12,000 front axle, you want a 14, maybe even a 16 and you want to make sure you go with a heavier frame.”

However, in neighbouring Saskatchewan, where the allowable gross vehicle weights are typically lower than in Alberta, weight is a bigger issue.

Take for instance the case of Carlisle Dyck, a Meadow Lake, Sask. contractor who hauls 16-ft. logs aboard super-B log trailers. The mill he is contracted to allows up to 20,000 kg TARE weights with the allowable GVW being 54,500 loaded. Therefore, the payload weight is 34,500 kgs.

However, every kilo the trucker can shave off his combination’s TARE weight is gravy.

“We can chop as much off of that (TARE) as we want,” says Dyck. “If we chop our TARE weight down to 16,200, well then we gain just about four tonnes on that. That means a lot when you’re working by the tonne/hour.”

So, how did Dyck reduce his truck and trailer combination to 16,200 kgs? He worked with First Truck Centre to spec’ the lightest weight components possible on his Western Star 4900FA. It was combined with the lightweight MBE4000 engine and Doepker’s lightweight super-B log trailer.

The truck itself was slimmed down by spec’ing 100-gallon fuel tanks and of course doing away with the bunk.

The trailer also underwent a transformation and all the bells and whistles were stripped off it, including the permanent landing gear.

“We got rid of the dolly legs, any kind of landing gear, any kind of brackets they might have for hanging things, any heavy-duty bunks. If they have eight-tonne bunks, we go down to a five-tonne bunk,” explains Dyck.

He even removes any unnecessary lighting – anything at all that can go without compromising safety and strength.

With some more alterations, Dyck estimates he can get his truck and trailer combinations down to a mere 16,000 kgs.

“These Doepker trailers at that light weight still have the steel wheels on it,” says Hileebrand, who worked with Dyck to achieve the new standard for lightweight combinations. “We haven’t even tried putting aluminum wheels on it to shave off more weight.”

Darren Smith, also of First Truck Centre adds “We think we can get this down to 16,000 kgs, truck and trailer, which obviously is money in the bank for the end-user.”

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