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New Configuration Improves Efficiency for Forestry Company

REGINA, Sask. - Weyerhaeuser is testing a new log truck configuration in Saskatchewan that promises to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.The new configuration is a nine-axle B-train that m...

REGINA, Sask. – Weyerhaeuser is testing a new log truck configuration in Saskatchewan that promises to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.

The new configuration is a nine-axle B-train that measures 31-metres in length and 3.05 metres in width. It also has 10-foot bunks, six inches longer than in previous configurations. Loaded, it has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 92,500 tonnes, about 70,000 tonnes of which is payload.

Formerly in Saskatchewan, log haulers were only able to operate eight-axle B-trains that grossed out at 75,000 tonnes, indicating the new configuration provides Weyerhaeuser with an additional 15,000 tonnes of payload.

There are currently two such configurations being tested in Saskatchewan.

One is being used to haul eight foot logs in the eastern part of the province while the other is being operated in central Saskatchewan to haul cut-to-length logs.

Dave Harman, harvest systems coordinator with Weyerhaeuser, is in charge of improving efficiency within the company. He’s been monitoring the benefits of operating the new configuration.

“Fifty per cent of our delivered wood cost is transportation to our mills, so we’re looking at how we can reduce that,” says Harman. “I’m optimistic (the pilot project) will succeed.”

In order to test the new configuration, Weyerhaeuser first had to get the approval of the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Highways.

Under a unique partnership in the province called the Transportation Partnership Fund (TPF), the ministry agreed to allow the use of the new trailers, provided 50 per cent of any savings are passed onto the provincial government for re-investment in the province’s highway infrastructure. That makes it a win-win situation, says Mark Wartman, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Transportation and Highways.

“We’ve been working very closely with Weyerhaeuser and the forestry industry in terms of trying to help the forestry industry be as efficient and effective as it can,” Wartman told Truck News.

Studies conducted by the Ministry of Transportation indicate that increased road damage will be minimal, thanks to the extra axle and the use of Central Tire Inflation (CTI) systems on the trucks. While those trucks can’t use CTI on main highways (inflation must be kept high to run at highway speeds), it certainly helps protect logging and gravel roads.

“With the number of axles and the central tire inflation, we think that will minimize road damage,” says Wartman.

He also points out there will be fewer trucks on the road if capacity is increased, thus fewer trips result in less road damage. Even so, Weyerhaeuser doesn’t mind contributing a portion of its savings back into the province’s roads.

“This is a partnership (with the highways departments of the Ministry of Transportation), otherwise we couldn’t be doing it,” says Harman.

“We have a very good relationship with Highways. They are a big part of this and they do share in the savings.”

So far there have been some minor hiccups, but overall the program is poised to be a success, says Harman.

“We’re running into some minor problems, that’s why we’re running the trial,” he says. “We want to run through the spring, summer, fall and winter to see what the issues are. We’re looking at what the fuel efficiencies are, where CTI works for us and any issues concerning road damage.”

Obviously one of the drawbacks is increased wear and tear on equipment, which is inevitable when you add an extra 15,000 tonnes of capacity. But driver acceptance has been good, says Harman.

“The driver doesn’t see any major issues with it. It’s different to handle on the road though,” he adds.

Harman also says the CTI has gone over very well with the drivers who’ve gotten the chance to test the new units. Other forestry companies are reportedly keeping a close eye on the pilot project, with hopes that if it pans out, they too will have the chance to use the new configuration.

“If we see the positive results, we certainly will encourage it (to other companies),” says Wartman. “It’s exciting to see the possibilities of development up there.”

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