Speakers and committees at FRA’s 2018 Annual Meeting and 2017-18 Regional Meetings have addressed the many challenges associated with log and wood fiber trucking. The 2018 Annual Meeting presentation by D.K. Knight, Executive Editor and Co-Publisher of Hatton-Brown Publishers, Inc. was especially notable. He presented the results of Timber Harvesting magazine’s 2017 Trucking Survey and shared his observations and insights on many log trucking issues. He also provided recommendations for loggers, truckers, wood-receiving facilities, and insurance companies on ways they can help improve the safety, efficiency, image, and profitability of log and chip trucking operations. Here is a paraphrased sampling of D.K.’s observations and advice:
To Loggers and Log Truckers:
- Use older, experienced, and retired drivers as mentors for younger and newer drivers.
- Offer safety bonuses and rewards for drivers with safe records.
- Improve the visibility and brightness of log trucks and trailers. Use lots of reflective tape and replace tape that is worn. Keep trucks clean so that reflective tape and end-of-load lights remain bright and visible. Why must so many log trailers be black? Why don’t more log truckers purchase brightly-colored trailers that are more visible, and therefore more likely to register in the minds of the many inattentive passenger car drivers?
- Treat drivers with respect, reward top drivers, support driver training and the TEAM Safe Trucking program.
- Pay more attention to how the wood is loaded on the trucks. Neat, well-trimmed loads look better to the general public and can be safer.
- Use GPS and dash cameras to better monitor the drivers and to reduce unwarranted truck accident liability claims against businesses and insurance companies.
To Wood Receiving Facilities:
- Drive truck turnaround time down. (Over half of the respondents to Timber Harvesting magazine’s trucking survey reported that they lost six loads or more of production per week—some many more loads—due to unloading delays at mills.) This advice has applicability to loggers as well. (I believe that if the truck turn time in the woods and at the mills could be reduced significantly, our industry could improve its trucking productivity and capacity by a reasonable amount even before adding more drivers or trucks into the system.)
- Understand that consistent demand for wood and predictable, steady wood orders help loggers operate on a more consistent work schedule and make it easier for them to attract and retain qualified truck drivers.
To All Sectors of the Forest Industry:
- Support truck weight reform (the “Right to Haul Act”) that encourages log trucks to run on Interstates whenever possible. (58% of Timber Harvesting magazine’s trucking survey respondents indicated that they could reduce their secondary road exposure between 15 and 40 percent if their state’s gross vehicle weight (GVW) tolerance limits applied to Interstates.) FRA and allied associations continue to press for federal legislation to apply state GVW tolerances to Interstates.
Think about this: Many loggers assert that the revenue from their logging operations subsidizes their trucking business or that trucking is a break-even proposition at best. It is difficult to compete for trucking services if our industry’s trucking sector is not competitive with other trucking-dependent industries.
D.K. Knight’s presentation was one of three excellent trucking-related presentations made during FRA’s 2018 Annual Meeting. PDFs of all three presentations can be found in the members’ area (login required) of the FRA website (www.forestresources.org) under the “Resources/Papers and Presentations” link:
Transportation: Assessing the Challenges, Searching for Solutions (D.K. Knight, Hatton-Brown Publishers)
Do’s and Don’ts Following a Commercial Trucking Accident (Trey Wimberly, Perrier & Lacoste)The Power of Group Buying: How the Southern Loggers Cooperative Helps Suppliers Manage Costs (Todd Martin, Southern Loggers Cooperative)