Competitive Outlook

J.F. Logging, Ltd.
Prince George,
British Columbia

Jed Fryer was just 21 years old when he bought his first log loader and logging truck. Now 39, he still is one of the younger guys in the woods of northern British Columbia. It’s that youthful ambition that has led him to success in the challenging business of log hauling.
“I’ve definitely got a different outlook on trucking and how things should be done in order to stay competitive in this game,” says Fryer, owner with wife Tiffany of J.F. Logging, Ltd.

The company was started in 1998 when Jed was working as a loaderman, and decided to buy his first truck. Tiffany (his girlfriend at the time) decided she was going to get her CDL and haul logs, so they added a second truck. She hauled for about six months, while Jed continued to load, and eventually they realized it would be better for them both to be behind the wheel. They hauled together for about eight years, and in 2007 they added a couple more trucks, and then a few more the following year. By 2009, they had built a sizeable fleet of 16 log trucks, along with two log loaders.

“Logging is up and down, and when it rains it pours. There was a major downturn in 2008 where there wasn’t a lot going on and a lot of guys were going broke and selling their trucks. While all this was going on, we happened to be working for a company that had a lot of work, and we were able to buy trucks pretty cheaply because there were a lot on the market,” Fryer says. “A lot of times, guys were in need of a job but couldn’t afford to have their own truck, so some of the trucks I’d buy came with a driver. I was buying a truck a month because things were going so well and before we knew it, we had a dozen trucks.”

The fleet now numbers 14 Kenworth T800s and two Peterbilt 367 high hoods, set up as conventional long log haulers, and hayracks and B-trains with two dual axle trailers for moving short logs All are gleaming black and spec’ed similarly with 18-speed transmissions, 46,000 lb rear ends and 600hp Cummins motors. The higher output works well for highway hauls, and Fryer has found that they also deliver improved fuel economy. It’s also necessary to pull the heavy loads that can weigh nearly 140,000 pounds. The off-road hayracks, fitted with wide bunks, really pack it on at around 187,000 pounds

One thing that might seem unusual to truckers here in the states is the third axle on the ground isn’t a drop axle, but rather a tri-drive component that adds powered traction. 

Fryer’s trucks are in amazing condition for good reason - they are either 2013 or 2014 models. “Three years is what I strive for (when trading up), but the last time we were so busy and we put so many hours on them, that it just made sense,” Fryer says. “We work them 15 hours a day, 250 days a year. It’s works better because they’re under warranty and all we have to worry about are the payments.”

Back when the business had its growth spurt, guys were looking for pre-emissions trucks, Fryer was in the perfect place to sell off his fleet and made a profit. Of course, that meant he’d need to replace trucks, and he did so with new models, not worrying about emissions gadgets and technology mucking things up. 

“If you want new trucks, you just have to live with it,” Fryer states. “We make sure that everything is under warranty, but honestly we haven’t really had many issues. You learn to see things - like a leaky EGR cooler, before they become an issue and get them fixed. If the check engine light comes on, it typically turns out to be a sensor or something simple like that.”

Fryer likes to dress up his trucks with lots of chrome and lights; not only LED marker lights, but also auxiliary driving lights. “We drive a lot at night during the winter; some guys will leave at midnight and up here it doesn’t get light until nine or ten in the morning. Driving lights are pretty important to be able to see, and we’ve also got moose and deer to watch out for.”

Those moose and deer are a large part of the reason that Fryer believes in protecting his trucks with heavy-duty Kenworth stainless steel boxed-end bumpers. 

The extra flash and chrome pays double dividends in attracting and keeping good drivers and also in bringing top resale dollar. “You can sometimes get $15,000 more for them at the end, if you don’t mind spending an extra $5000 to $10,000 in extra chrome and lights in the beginning,” Fryer says. 

Fryer’s trucks continue to haul primarily for KDL Group, out of Fort St. James, B.C., a large logging contractor that also has some 30 trucks of their own. Some of the wood comes back to Prince George, but it’s not uncommon to have 12-hour trips. 

As the fleet has grown, Jed and Tiffany have moved into managing the business from the office. Jed keeps a truck available so that he can fill in and help when needed. Once a trucker, always a trucker, you know. 

On each of the KDL Group logging sides you will find half a dozen or so JF Logging trucks. JF Logging has their own loaders - a 2012 model 2850C Madill and a 2013 880 Tigercat, keeping things moving efficiently. Each machine is sending out 25 to 30 loads a day.

“It’s a big advantage having our own loaders because the loader can look after our trucks all that much better. If you don’t have your own loader, another company is dispatching you. We keep things more organized than most anywhere you’d ever go without your own loader,” Fryer says. “It’s never the situation where the last couple trucks can’t go back because the loaderman has to leave early; our operators know it’s their responsibility to make sure that everyone get’s their loads.”

Drivers are paid on percentage of what their truck makes. Fryer pays 28 percent, but don’t cry for his guys. The average driver is bringing home between $100,000 and $120,000 a year. Combine that with excellent equipment and health, life and disability insurance, and you’ve got employees that are dedicated to their job. In turn, Fryer expects his drivers, most of whom are in their twenties and early thirties to give their all to the job.

“I kind of target the younger guys who want to work hard, are ambitious and have a lot of pride in what they want to do,” Fryer says. “I expect them to get up every morning, be out there on time and do their job professionally and in a safe manner.”
“If I’ve hired somebody without much logging experience, they’ve got a ton of driving experience and I can see that they are willing to learn. For the most part, though, the guys already know what they’re doing and just need a little molding into the way I like to do things.”
So far, the way Fryer likes to do things is working out well.

“As long as you’re doing what you love, and it’s not a chore to get up every morning to go to work, then you should consider yourself successful. I definitely do,” he says, “and I try to provide a work atmosphere and a job where the rest of my employees can say the same thing.”

 by Darin Burt