Subscribe Archives Calendar ContactTimberWestMadison's Lumber DirectoryAdvertiseMedia Kit LSJ Home Forestnet

 

Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

June/July 2015

On the Cover:
British Columbia has been slammed with forest fires this summer, with more than 200 wildfires burning around B.C. in mid-July. For an update on the current wildfire situation, please go to Logging and Sawmilling Journal’s website at www.forestnet.com (Photo of helicopter working on a controlled burn at the Cisco Rd. forest fire near Lytton, B.C. courtesy of BC Wildfire Service).

B.C. sawmill explosion, fire ruled accidental
A coroner’s jury has ruled the explosion and fire at the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George, B.C. in 2012 as accidental, and it made a number of recommendations to help prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.

Business-minded logging
Long-time coastal logging contractor Ted Arkell of Dyer Logging has found the challenges of logging have changed over three decades in the business, with a need to be far more business-minded to make a return on your equipment investment these days.

A Re-start for Rough and Ready Lumber
A significant investment in the small log line at Oregon’s Rough and Ready Lumber has resulted in better aligning production to the local log supply—and delivered solid economic benefits to a hard-hit part of the state, with the re-started sawmill.

Successful move into log hauling for Valley Carriers
A long-established, family-owned B.C. trucking firm, Valley Pulp & Sawdust Carriers, has recently expanded into log hauling, and is finding their already established trucking base—and their focus on their customers—gives them an edge in this competitive business.

Building operator loyalty
Alberta logging contractor Ted Freake finds that when it comes to the people who run his equipment, it pays to take the time to train operators—sometimes from scratch—with the goal of building loyalty and long term employee relationships.

Avoiding logging equipment fires
Nate Burton, Technical & Safety Services Manager of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, on the top five causes of forest equipment fires, and how operators can avoid them.

Returning to logging
The ongoing recovery has seen some contractors returning to the forest industry—New Brunswick’s Greg Davis and Wade Regan have now returned to the industry, and moved from a chainsaw/cable skidder operation to mechanical harvesting and a harvester/forwarder set-up, to better ensure their success.

DEMO show is on the way
Planning for the largest live equipment logging show in North America next year—DEMO 2016, to be held at the UBC Research Forest near Vancouver—is well underway, with recent planning meetings firming up the details for DEMO.

Canada North Resources Expo: another winning show
The Canada North Resources Expo, held in Prince George, B.C. at the end of May, was a huge success, thanks to features like a 30 per cent boost in outdoor exhibition space and the show hosting the first Northern B.C. Safety Conference.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and FPInnovations.

The Last Word
Given the changes that have occurred in the Canadian forest industry—and what’s to come—Tony Kryzanowski says it’s time for the Canadian forest industry to refresh its research and development priorities.

DEPARTMENTS

Supplier newsline

 

 

 CLICK to download a pdf of this article

Valley Pulp & Sawdust CarriersSuccessful move into log hauling

A long-established, family-owned B.C. trucking firm, Valley Pulp & Sawdust Carriers, has recently expanded into log hauling, and is finding their already established trucking base—and their focus on their customers—gives them an edge in this competitive business.

By Paul MacDonald

When it comes to trucking, B.C.’s Valley Pulp & Sawdust Carriers Ltd has hauled a lot of different materials in its decades of operation—from aggregate to soil to sawdust to wood shavings. But it has not hauled logs—at least not until the last couple of years.

Valley Carriers, as it’s known to customers, is based in Abbotsford in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver, and has been trucking materials for more than 50 years; it was founded by Neil Klassen in 1963, who started hauling sawdust and firewood from local sawmills to farms, with a single truck.

Fast forward to 2015, and the company now has 26 trucks and 70 employees, 25 of those employees being family members.

Valley Carriers still hauls to local farms and landscape businesses, but these days they also haul chips to pulp mills on the Coast, from the Interior, using a variety of trucks and their collection of Titan walking floor trailers. In addition to using local reloads, they also have their own barge loading facility on the Fraser River, for moving chips over to Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.

These days, Generation Three of the Klassen family, or G3 as they call themselves, run the operations of Valley Carriers, and they recently expanded the company into log hauling.

Travis Klassen, CEO of Valley Carriers and Neil’s grandson, says the move into log hauling was a natural transition for the company.

Travis Klassen (far right) and Ben Klassen of Valley Pulp & Sawdust Carriers.Travis Klassen (far right) and Ben Klassen of Valley Pulp & Sawdust Carriers.

Travis’s brother, Ben, was already doing hauling of wood chips from the Merritt area, about 200 kilometres northeast of Abbotsford, when they decided to move into log hauling. “It just seemed like you couldn’t place a truck in Merritt and not have work for it,” says Travis.

Currently, they have six logging trucks hauling out of the Merritt area, for a variety of logging contractor clients, to Weyerhaeuser, Tolko and Aspen Planers mill operations. The diversity is by design; essentially, they don’t want to put all their logging truck eggs in one basket.

“We like to keep it spread around, so if a logging operation goes down, we can just move over to another operation,” says Ben, who is also the Company’s Chief Operating Officer.

“I like to stay diversified. You can be hauling for great contractors, but things can change for them, and they might have to move to another area. The forest industry is the forest industry, that way. I don’t want us to be doing 35 or 40 per cent of our log hauling for one contractor.”

By all accounts, they are off to a fine start. The log hauling has quickly grown to the point where it represents 25 per cent of their total business.

But, as Ben points out, the log hauling business was brand new to them when they started out.

“I went to the first cut block with our truck and had never thrown a wrapper in my life,” he says. “But I was pretty confident I would be able to figure it out.”

Ben has since thrown wrappers thousands of times, and though he oversees the log hauling side of the business and driver training from his base in Merritt, he climbs into the cab on a regular basis.

There are a number of keys to a successful trucking business, but of course one of them is having good drivers.

“Getting the right people is the hardest part of the business,” says Ben. “But what I’ve said from the start is that we were going to base the operations on the drivers, and not necessarily demand.

“The market can demand a lot of trucks, and that’s fine—we get calls all the time to do work. But we’ve tried to keep high hiring standards, and that’s worked out well for us. I try to be particular about the drivers that we hire—they’re good guys that don’t need babysitting. We’ve been able to attract good people.”

Because Valley Carriers has carefully and gradually grown the log hauling business, they’re not in a spot where they have all these trucks, and have to have those seats filled. “I’ve never been stuck where we will take anyone and put them in a truck,” says Ben.

As mentioned, Ben trains the drivers—sometimes from next to scratch.

“If you give me someone who really wants to do this, and they are willing to do the work, I will make them a logging truck driver,” he says.

“It takes attentiveness and training, but it’s not the hardest thing in the world to do,” he added.

To some extent, trucking is trucking, but log hauling can be a whole different breed of work.

“I tell the guys all the time that the mistakes that happen in logging aren’t any different from the mistakes that happen on the highway or on the pavement—they are just magnified ten-fold because of where you are.

“Driving on the highway, you can let the clutch out hard, and blow the driveshaft on a paved hill and it’s no big deal. I’ll come out with my tools, and we’ll fix it on the nice dry pavement.”

Valley Pulp & Sawdust CarriersBut with logging, it’s quite a different story. “When that same thing happens on a logging road, you are sitting on a river of mud, and no one can get out on the road that you are on, and the crew is stuck in there, and we have to bring a loader down because you are blocking that road.” And there is no nice dry pavement on which to do the repairs.

Ben says there is no substitute for two or three years of experience driving a logging truck. “You put someone like that into any truck and it will take them half-an-hour and they will have the tranny, the shifting and the mirrors all figured out.”

But that said, he’s fine to train someone new. The desire to learn and attentiveness are key qualities in a driver, he says. “Nothing beats experience, but a willingness to learn almost equals the experience.

“I’ll ride with them for a week or two, and during that time we’ll probably come across 30 to 40 per cent of the situations they are going to have to deal with. And I’m actually happy when it’s a bit stressful. If guys get overconfident, then it can get sketchy very quickly.”

In the areas they haul, each road usually has two or three tough sections, and it’s generally slow going.

“Up around Prince George, you may have guys that are able to do 100 kilometres an hour on the main haul roads—but that’s not us. We might be able get into sixth gear on some of the roads around Merritt, but that’s about it.”

Ben says one of the things he looks for in drivers is guys who want to work hard. “Our work ethic is one of our strengths—that, and our drive to keep our customers happy.”

And Ben notes that they run a lean operation. “As a company, that’s what we have always done. And it’s the forest industry—we’re hauling timber here, not gold, and price points have to be hit for us to be successful.”

While the overall Valley Carriers fleet is made up of a variety of truck brands, all the trucks on the logging side are Western Stars, from James Western Star in Kamloops. “They’re all equipped with Detroit Diesel engines, and are working really well for us,” says Ben.

Ben and Travis say Valley Carriers has an advantage in that it can move trucks around between their various operations. “We needed a tri-drive truck for the sawdust hauling side. Rather than getting something new there, we switched things around and took a truck out of the log hauling side that is two years old, put it into doing the sawdust hauling and got a new one for the log hauling. That two-year old truck will now have another 10 years of life on the highway.”

Valley Pulp & Sawdust CarriersAnd they very carefully watch fuel prices. Though oil prices have come down recently, much of that has yet to be translated into lower diesel prices at the pump. “We’re spending two million dollars a year on fuel,” notes Travis. “If fuel goes down 10 cents a litre, that could be savings of $100,000 for the company.”

And they also have the benefit of a large shop in Abbotsford where they can fix trucks of all vintages. “We can fix trucks from the 1990s right up to today,” says Travis. “We keep revitalizing the truck fleet—but at the same time, our business model is not based on 20 trucks on three year leases that have to be turned in. We can extend the truck’s lives.”

Valley Carriers brings more than trucks to the business relationships they have with all their customers, including the loggers. “We stand behind we do, and integrity is important to us—we’re been that way as sawdust and residual haulers, and we’d like to be seen that way as log haulers,” says Travis.

The Klassens are a family anchored by their Christian faith, and have a Family Charter on their website that they work to follow. In addition to the religious aspects, the charter includes a point to “honour and respect our customers”.

“The charter is not just words,” says Travis. “It’s not your typical mission statement. It comes from the heart, it’s from who our grandpa is and who we decided to be.” It’s integral to all that they do, and a big part of their heritage, Travis added. “We’re not perfect by any stretch,” he says, but they strive to meet the charter.

Everyone is in business, including the trucking business, to make money, but Travis says Valley Carrier’s goals go beyond that. “If you asked why the family has decided to continue the business, part of it is because it’s a true way to act out the values we believe in. We’re not just here to make a dollar—we’re here to give back to the communities in which we operate.”

Last year, for example, the company gave 25 per cent of their profits to various charitable organizations in the communities in which they operate. It has set up the Klassen Foundation, to support a number of charitable groups and projects in the communities.

Part of what separates Valley Carriers from other companies in the business is the family aspect, says Travis.

“I think the family side of it is really the biggest part,” he says. “It used to be that we shied away from that because we did not want to be seen as this hokey, family business.” Hokey they are not. Professional, they are. Travis is a graduate of the Family Enterprise Advisor Program at the Sauder School of Business, at UBC.

Family meetings are held on a regular basis to talk about business issues. “We’ll sit at the boardroom table with 10 members of the family every couple of months and hash out different ideas,” says Travis.

And, he notes, the ideas, can be different. “Some family members are excited about the growth and some people would like us to stay the size we are. But at the end of the day, we keep that family component to the business.”

Valley Pulp & Sawdust CarriersValley Pulp & Sawdust Carriers Ltd has hauled a lot of different materials in its decades of operation—from aggregate to soil to sawdust to wood shavings. It has now taken up hauling logs, including hauling out of the Merritt area for a variety of logging contractor clients, to Weyerhaeuser, Tolko and Aspen Planers mill operations. The log hauling has quickly grown to the point where it represents 25 per cent of their total business.

Four of Neil’s children, Merv, Dennis, Reg and Genny (Generation 2 or G2) are senior partners in the business, but day to day management has now been passed on to G3: Travis, Ben and four cousins, Erin, Russ, Stu & Greg.

The family as a whole gets together every May long weekend, and only some of that is for business. The rest is family time.

From the initial expansion into Merritt, Valley Carriers has since located a couple of logging trucks in the Radium area, in southeastern B.C., hauling for the Canfor mill there.

It was a long way in getting there, but Travis says that their interest in logging trucks stems from trips down to the Deming Logging Show, just across the line in Washington State, when all of the cousins were young. “We’ve been enamored with logging since we were kids,” says Travis.

When they took delivery of their first Western Star logging truck, the whole Klassen Family turned out—and they were pumped.

These days, even though Generation 3 is relatively young, there is talk about passing on the business to Generation 4—or G4. And that will happen, though it may be a ways off.

In the meantime, Travis and Ben Klassen and the other members of the G3 generation see a big part of their responsibility as being about stewardship, managing the business well and passing it on to G4. “Our goal is to maintain our ethics and values through that transition,” says Travis.