Alfred Poole was 19 when he began working in the forestry industry in north-central British Columbia. He basically had a choice between two career paths: farming in a region known for raising beef cattle, and logging. Other family members worked in farming. “I was allergic to the farming stuff,” he quipped, “so I went into logging.”
Poole started out in the trucking segment of the business, beginning with a Cat wheel loader and a truck, hauling logs. He later added a second truck.
He ventured further into forestry operations in 1995 when he bought his first processor, although he continued to do some trucking until 2012.
Today, his company, A&A Bulk Harvesting, has a fleet of Cat equipment to process trees under subcontract to other forestry contractors. A&A currently employs 11 people in its operations.
Poole has homes in Vanderhoof, almost 900 kilometres north of Vancouver, and also Fort St. James, another 60 miles further north and located next to Stuart Lake. He has a company shop at his home in Vanderhoof and an office at his home in Fort St. James.
In this part of B.C., near the geographical centre of the province, the terrain in the region can be relatively flat or hilly. “We do some steep ground,” said Poole, although it is not like the slopes of the coastal mountains.
A&A specializes in processing trees into logs for mills. Poole subcontracts to another contractor that fells the timber and skids the trees to a landing. A&A does all its work at the log deck. The logger he subcontracts to has trucks for hauling wood and also contracts for additional trucking.
The logs his company produces are supplied primarily to mills for Canfor and Dunkley Lumber; Canfor operates both pulp and lumber mills in the region.
Poole’s company processes trees per mill specifications. For example, some trees may be bucked to lengths ranging from just over 12 feet to almost 37 feet. Diameter may range from about 10 to 15 inches. Pulp logs are generally 18 feet long, about 9 inches in diameter and no less than 4 inches diameter at the top.
About 80 per cent of the trees the company processes are lodgepole pine that have been killed by the mountain pine beetle, estimated Poole. About 15 per cent of the company’s production is green spruce and about 5 per cent fir.
The beetle’s impact on timber in B.C. has been massive. The mountain pine beetle has killed an estimated 723 million cubic metres of timber since the infestation began about 20 years ago, according to an update by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. The wood-eating pest has impacted about 18.3 million hectares, which is more than five times the area of Vancouver Island.
However, the infestation has slowed considerably since it peaked in 2005, according to the government agency.
It’s not unusual for forestry contractors to specialize in a niche or one aspect of logging, noted Poole. Some specialize in felling, and others, like him, in processing. He has thought about venturing into timber harvesting, too, but so far has not taken his business in that direction.
Poole contracts by weight or volume, averaging about 30 loads of wood in the summer and up to about 40 during winter.
A&A has a fleet of Cat forestry equipment, mainly track forest machines set up for processing trees. The purpose-built forest machines can be configured for general forestry operations to work as a processor, stroke delimber carrier, or road builder, or in a log loader configuration for shovel logging, log loading, and other tasks.
A&A has six Cat 320D forest machines, a Cat 320C forest machine, a Cat 324 forest machine, and a Komatsu 250 excavator, all set up and equipped to function as processors. One Cat forest machine is matched with a SATCO processor, and the other machines are paired with Waratah processor attachments. The company’s other equipment includes a Cat 279C track skid steer, and a John Deere skid steer.
The company participated in testing of the new Cat 538 forest machine. The new model came equipped with a SATCO 323T processor. It is the company’s second experience with a SATCO processor, the first being when Poole’s dealer—B.C. Cat dealer Finning—invited him to try the Cat 320D forest machine with the same attachment in 2014.
Poole was approached by a Finning representative and asked to help field test the Cat 538. “It’s worked out very well,” he said.
“I’m kind of impressed with it,” added Poole, who was testing a machine for Cat for the first time.
His company received the Cat 538 forest machine in the early summer of 2015. It has mainly been operated by employee Alex Turcotte. “Alex is kind of enjoying it,” said Poole, who also has experience running the new machine and is now negotiating to purchase it.
The Cat 538 is “very quiet,” said Poole, and also has good power. The new model also burns significantly less fuel. “It uses way less fuel,” he said.
Diesel fuel was about 80 cents per litre at the time he was interviewed. “It’s down quite a bit,” he said, from a high of over $1.
Equipment that is more fuel efficient helps hold down operating costs, he acknowledged, since diesel is a significant cost of operating. “Makes quite a difference in the fuel,” said Poole.
Cat introduced two new forest machines in September, the Cat 538 FM and the Cat 558 FM. The first models in the 500 series to meet U.S. EPA Tier 4 Final emission standards, they are now are available from dealers. Both models were exhibited at the Demo International show in Maple Ridge, B.C. in September.
The Cat 538 Forest Machine features improved fuel efficiency and optimized work tools. Horsepower and swing torque have increased, and wider track frames enhance stability.
The Cat 538 Forest Machine is equipped with a 164 hp Cat C7.1 ACERT Tier 4 Final engine. The larger displacement engine generates an 11 per cent increase in horsepower, providing the power for strong multi-functioning and improved implement performance—and more production. It features isochronous speed control to maintain a constant engine speed of 1,500 rpm —regardless of load. The result is unprecedented fuel economy, according to Caterpillar.
The hydraulic system delivers a higher level of efficiency due to optimized components, machine layout, and work tool integration. Performance is boosted through an 18 per cent increase in swing torque and a 26 per cent increase in lift capacity. The increases mean improved implement performance, lifting bigger payloads with better control—and more production coupled with reduced fuel consumption, maximizing machine efficiency.
Poole makes it a point to keep updating his equipment. He has used other processing equipment in the past before settling on the Waratah and SATCO attachments.
Poole has continued doing business with Finning since purchasing his first Cat machine over 30 years ago. Finning has about 20 dealer locations in British Columbia. The nearest Finning dealership for A&A is located in Prince George, about 100 kilometres east of Vanderhoof.
Poole has been pleased with Cat equipment. He cited their “reliability” and the service he receives through Finning.
A&A performs routine maintenance and service on the fleet of Cat equipment, but if they need assistance, they rely on Finning. “If I have a dilemma, they’re here,” said Poole.
The company downsized from about 15 employees four years ago when Poole transitioned from producing long logs to short logs. “It took more machines to do the short wood,” he said. “I have doubled my machines, so I just decided to cut back. We’re still doing a lot, but not as much as I would have been doing.
“Couldn’t find enough operators,” he added.
Business has held steady since then, according to Poole.
Poole and his wife have three children and six grandchildren. It’s not all business for Poole; his chief hobby is going to Kitimat on the northern coast, where he keeps a 46-foot boat. The boat is his “second home” in the late spring and early fall, he said. He also enjoys taking the crew out to fish.
On the Cover:
Jemi Fibre Corporation does just about a bit of everything in the forest industry, with its operations including stump-to-dump contract logging operations in Mackenzie and Cranbrook, B.C. and Saskatchewan, post and peeling facilities and two pressure treating plants, and, most recently a chipping operation. Read all about Jemi Fibre beginning on page 10 of this issue (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).
Spotlight – First Nations forestry in Ontario
A local forest management corporation has been launched in northwestern Ontario to help provide economic development opportunities to First Nations and it’s now been followed by a new First Nations-owned logging enterprise, Mkwa Timber, that is supplying timber to local mills.
Logging, manufacturing …and more
B.C.’s Jemi Fibre Corporation does just about a bit of everything in the forest industry, from logging through to added value manufacturing—and it’s looking to do more, says company president, Mike Jenks.
Workhorse wood chipper
Sutco Contracting is one of the leading trucking companies in B.C. , but it also has a chipping division—BC EcoChips—that does contract chipping with what the company describes as a “workhorse”: a Peterson 5000H chipper.
New scanner eyes mill improvements
The Teal-Jones sawmill in Surrey, B.C. has seen a number of equipment additions over the years—the most recent one came earlier this year with a new Springer Microtec Goldeneye 900 Multi-Sensor Scanner that is reducing the mill’s trim loss and improving its on-grade accuracy.
Field testing Cat’s new 538 forest machine
Veteran B.C. logger Alfred Poole was a clear choice for field testing a new piece of Cat equipment—the new Cat 538 forest machine, which came equipped with a SATCO 323T processing head—and he reports it offers good power, and is stingy when it comes to fuel consumption.
From carpenter...to logger
Nova Scotia’s Justin Thibault tried his hand as a carpenter and crewing on fish boats, but he found that logging suited him better—and has recently expanded his iron line-up with a new Tigercat/LogMax harvester to work alongside another Tigercat/LogMax harvester, and his Ecolog and John Deere forwarders
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 and Alberta Innovates.
The Last Word
It’s time to clamp down on unrestricted ATV access to unprotected public lands, says Tony Kryzanowski.