The future looks clear, sort of

by Mike Crouse, Publisher

Congratulations... on reaching the New Year, which most would agree is shaping up pretty well with increased housing demand, and industry responding, and the mills humming right along. Demand is high for our most ecologically sustainable and renewable product, wood! And from what we’re hearing from contractors all over the country is they’re working, and they’re also in high demand, in no small part because there are fewer logging contractors and fewer crew. With demand for loggers high, and the supply of loggers and available logging contractors low, this should mean better paying and longer, more stable contracts.

As you look out into the future of your own business, take a second look at the December “From the Stump” column where we recommend you look online, attain and read a copy of the Wood Supply Research Institute (WSRI) study titled: Wood Supply Chain Analysis 2013. This is as good a look through the crystal ball at our business prospects and the forces coming to bear on logging in the USA for the coming half-dozen years. Forewarned is forearmed, and this report is readily available both to those you’re negotiating with (the mills, and landowners), and serves as a strong basis for your understanding of your position and their need for your skills.

While this study examines the equipment needs and logging capacity, there is only scant attention paid to the more pressing challenge of personnel: present and future.

Finding the next generation of loggers has been the topic of conversation most of the past 20+ years, and that future is now. Availability and cost of tomorrow’s equipment is recognized fact industry accepts. Availability and the cost to attract and retain a crew is a more stark shortage much of industry does not accept, instead taking the congressional approach of... kicking the can down the road. Whether a logger can log for less in a 3rd world country has little meaning when your forest is in North America.

Forestry Tower Inspection

This note from an Oregon tower logger, which he shared with us from Woodweek, a New Zealand timber newsletter, on Madill 171 and 172 upper tower inspections.

Two recent failures on Madill 171 yarders in New Zealand have resulted from cracking right through of the upper tower section in the vicinity of the guyline ring. The 172 tower is of similar construction in this respect and so must be considered similarly vulnerable. In both cases the skyline sheave assembly has separated from the tower and fallen to ground: one falling with the severed skyline rope; the other riding the skyline downward. Both cases are obviously extremely serious and could have resulted in serious harm.

This is an area of the towers on machines of this type which will require close scrutiny immediately and during subsequent Annual Yarder Tower Inspections.

This is now a known failure mechanism with this tower type. It is occurring due to the age, usage and design of this part of the towers and is known as a metal fatigue failure.

The problem will not go away short of redesigning and rebuilding this section of the tower. Each tower of this type still in use is almost certain to fail sooner or later. All owners of such towers must take effective preventative measures as indicated below:

Inspection Action Required: 

  1. Remove guyline ring retainer blocks (2) to enable the ring to be displaced from its working position.
  2. Clean using degreaser and visually inspect area under guyline ring working position paying particular attention to the “back” of the tower.
  3. If any cracking is noted engage a chartered professional engineer (CPEng) to advise on repair options.
    1. All repairs to the main structure of a yarder tower require a Structural Certificate from a CPEng. Tower Inspectors will not be able to issue an Inspection Certificate without a Structural Certificate from a CPEng.
  4. If no cracking is observed engage a qualified and competent (preferably IANZ1accredited) Non destructive testing (NDT) company to inspect this area of the tower using suitable NDT methods for which the company is qualified/accredited.
    1. Absence of visible external cracks does not necessarily mean the tower is free from internal cracks which may propagate rapidly. 
    2. The engagement of a properly accredited inspection company is critical to ensure the validity of the results obtained.
    3. If NDT suggests cracking may be present, refer to # 3 above.
    4. If NDT suggests the tower is sound, revert to annual inspections which must include NDT if visible cracks are not detected.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thorough tower inspections are in everyone’s best interests, especially considering the majority of the tower’s in use are old enough to have voted several times. It’s not just their age, but the demands placed on towers today: greater distances, increased forces, carriages with far more pulling power, increased strength on steel cables for their diameter, all technical improvements the increase the forces at play on those towers.

Shell Rotella®’s Unsung heroes

It’s rare we see a series beyond the “reality television standards” (which is to say no standard) however Shell Rotella®’s “Unsung heroes” documentary series, which came to our attention a month ago, is unique in portraying working men and women from several “hands on” businesses in their real work place doing their jobs well.

One of those stories was on Myles Anderson, a fourth generation logger from Ft. Bragg, California, part of the Anderson Logging family, and first Vice President of the American Loggers Council. We’ve known the family and Myles for a number of years.

We called and talked with him about this five-minute video piece about Anderson and the logging crew, and he noted they spent a couple of days shooting from day break ‘til the end of the day. What was especially surprising about the finished piece was its actually delivering on the promise of people doing their work that keeps America running. No drama, not contrived hyper-bull, just a nice, productive day of professionals doing their job.

It was refreshing, shocking only in its showing loggers in the real logging world.

Our compliments to Shell for putting together a truly unique series of short run documentaries on Unsung heroes. Puts Shell on our own unsung heroes list.

Should you wish to see this five-minute documentary, you can access it through the American Loggers Council site at:

The crystal ball

What’s notable in the coming year appears to be a further, albeit gradual, upswing in business further validating what economists told us back in January of 2009: this will be a long, slow, gradual recovery, not the sudden spike after a sudden decline we’d seen in the previous few decades of business cycles.

We believe a large part of the ongoing drag on economic recovery comes from the attitude and mindset of the various legislatures, elected officials, and bureaucratic class who exist in a world light years apart from the rest of us. The seat of government is occupied by a bloated mass who live by a budget bound by few constraints, whose income, benefits, and vacations are guaranteed... a far cry from the uncertainties of the business marketplace.

As legislatures, particularly federal, and all too often states as well, continue to cheerfully generate laws, which in turn generate constantly changing rules and regulations, the bottom line effect to the business climate is uncertainty.

Chief amongst the uncertainty drag on business presently is the ironically titled “Affordable Care Act,” which at the very least was well intended but poorly conceived, poorly written, years after being signed into law is not very well understood by anyone, and has succeeded in muddying the water while greatly increasing the cost of health insurance. Whether you like it or not misses the issue of its primary byproduct to date: uncertainty.

Create uncertainty in business, effect growth, hiring, expansion. Duh.

Onwards into 2014. There is no free lunch, in spite of what many of our countrymen believe. Good luck, and good logging in the coming year. At the end of each day, bring everyone home safe and healthy.