By George Fullerton
On a day-to-day basis, there is a lot going on at R&C Weare Logging Limited, with harvesting and trucking operations, along with a large maintenance and repair shop and mobile maintenance equipment. The equipment line-up includes 13 harvesting machines and 10 tractor trailers hauling wood, in addition to road building gear.
Chris Weare, 36-years-old, handles the bulk of the daily management decisions in the harvesting and trucking operations, and he also supervises the maintenance and repair shop. While the management demands are fairly hefty, Chris comes across as relaxed, friendly and comfortable with his extensive responsibilities.
R&C Weare Logging was established in 1970 when Roger Weare began working for Bowater operations in the central part of the southern end of Nova Scotia, with a cable skidder. Roger along with his wife, Joanne, built their business in their home base, in the Village of Caledonia, Nova Scotia. The operation was built up to five cable skidders with hand cut crews and they eventually added a feller buncher, still using the cable skidders to yard trees to a rail delimber and slasher. In 1995 they added a cut-to-length component, with a Target processor head on a Komatsu carrier.
Chris grew up in the business. Equipment and business was the family table talk, and he began operating feller bunchers at the tender age of eleven. Chris’s early career also provided him with a good deal of mechanical experience, working on gear in the woods and in the shop at the family home. Chris’s responsibilities with management multiplied when Roger passed away in 2014.
Currently, Chris supervises the shop and the harvesting and trucking operations, while his mother Joanne runs the office and contributes her experience to the major business decisions. Chris’s sister, Cindy Ross, also helps out in the family business, providing office support.
R&C Weare’s equipment line-up includes three feller bunchers: Tigercats 870, 860 and 845, all with Quadco saw heads. The harvesting contingent includes two Tigercat 855 machines and an 822, all with Waratah 622B heads, a Direct 257 with a Waratah 622 head, a TK 711 with a LogMax 7000 head and a 322 Cat with a Hornet head.
Chris confesses a deep admiration for the productivity and reliability attributes of Tigercat gear. “Tigercats are built tough and they work well,” he says.
Chris also shared his admiration for Waratah heads for the processor work behind the bunchers. He says they have proven reliable and deliver great performance, and adds that they have excellent computers in his estimation.
“One of the reasons we like the Waratah heads is their ability to pick stems from the buncher piles,” he explained. “They also work okay for harvesting when needed, but we don’t have a great number of jobs where they work as harvesters.”
Forwarder power comes from two Tigercat 20 tonne forwarders and three Rottne sixteen tonne machines. On the trucking side, they operate with a complement of 10 Western Stars, and the trailer inventory includes six B-Trains, two with loaders. Straight trailers include one quad axle and three triaxles, all of which are self loaders. Trailer brands include Trailex, Manac and Deloupe, and the mounted loaders are Rotobec. Weare Logging typically hires an additional three trucks to keep production going to the mills.
Additional log loading capacity comes from a Cat 320 and a converted Timberjack 608, each with Rotobec grapples. Roadbuilding equipment includes Cat 320 and 325 excavators, a D5 dozer and a frameless dump trailer. Service trucks include a Freightliner with a twenty-four foot box and a Ford 450. Diesel tanks for harvest operations are mounted on tag-a-long trailers.
For float service, Weare Logging relies on James Barkhouse, who works pretty much full time moving Weare equipment. Chris commented that the service from Barkhouse is excellent.
The Weare service and repair shop is located just outside the village of Calendonia, in the former Holdrite Lumber sawmill. They purchased the sawmill site and buildings in 2002, and undertook renovations in 2010. The main part of the former sawmill provides two drive-in bays, each of which can comfortably fit a loaded B-Train. The green chain side of the mill building is used for parts storage.
Weare Logging operates on a combination of private woodlot stumpage operations and contract harvesting for Northern Pulp and other mills. The former Bowater woodlands were acquired by the province after the Bowater mill operation at Liverpool was shut down in 2012. A good deal of Weare’s harvest operations continue to be on the former Bowater lands, with the wood shipped to various mills across Nova Scotia.
A good amount of the studwood from Weare’s operations goes to Sproule Lumber in Truro, and is delivered as eight and ten foot lengths. About 30 per cent of the volume to Sproule is provided in eight foot logs, which is primarily produced by the Hornet processor. Sawlogs and some studwood goes to Harry Freeman and Son Limited in nearby Greenfield, which is only 25 kilometres from Weare Logging’s base. Pulpwood goes to Northern Pulp at Pictou.
Trucking distances are quite divergent, with the Freeman mill located less than 30 kilometres from their base in Caledonia, while the trip to the Northern Pulp mill, one–way, is 300 kilometres. The Truro mill is just over 200 kilometres.
Weare Logging’s area of operations covers about a 150 kilometre radius of Caledonia. The return trip to the Northern Pulp mill at Pictou is nine to twelve hours. The long trucking distance led Weare’s to invest in B-Trains, which get a significantly better payload.
Hardwood from private woodlot operations is supplied to firewood operations in Berwick in Annapolis Valley and another operation in Liverpool, on the South Shore. Distance to both firewood operations is about the same from Caledonia.
Chris related that Nova Scotia had lost a good deal of equipment operators and mechanics to the western oil patch over the past number of years. While he realized that a number of his operators had followed the call of big money in the oil patch, he currently has a relatively young crew of operators and truck drivers.
“Our crew consists of relatively young operators in their 20’s and up to their 40’s,” he says. “Our oldest operator is only in his mid-50’s. There are not a lot of employment opportunities in rural Nova Scotia, and our workers like the rural lifestyle and want to live here, and we provide them with a good employment opportunity.”
They generally train new operators by putting them in a forwarder cab with an experienced operator. Initially, the trainee simply observes, to learn how the machine works and operates. Eventually, the rookie operator will try out the seat for short periods. The experienced operator evaluates the trainee’s progress on both operating and maintenance tasks. If the trainee shows promise, the training continues. If the trainee candidate does not appear to have the particular talents to succeed, they are advised to seek alternative employment.
“Typically, we start out operators on forwarders,” says Chris. “If they show good operating and maintenance talents, and an ambition to expand their talents and are looking for a challenge, we try them on a harvester or buncher.”
Six of Weare’s machine operators have extensive experience, and can switch between machines effortlessly, which provides a lot of flexibility for the operation. The balance of the operators have a high competence with just one machine.
Operators and drivers work a ten-hour day shift and they are all on hourly pay. Weare Logging maintains a fleet of nearly a dozen Ford pickup trucks for operator use, to commute to job sites.
Their harvesting and forwarding machines are equipped with FPDAT technology. Northern Pulp provides cut block maps for the FPDAT by data stick. “Our operators really like the FPDAT because they can continually see exactly where they are on their cutblock,” explained Chris.
The FPDat also provides detailed data and analysis of machine function and productivity.
While Northern Pulp provides maps, the operation requires additional layout information including marking wetland/watercourse buffers, boundaries and the like. The layout work is contracted to forester Max Crouse, who also handles layout on private woodlot operations. Crouse also lays out roads that have to be constructed and cruises private woodlot stumpage blocks. Chris said Crouse brings a high degree of talent and professionalism to the operation.
While Chris shares high praise for the dedication and skill of his operators, he also talked about the one position that has historically been hard to fill.
“It seems we can quite readily find operators and drivers and good practical mechanics to work in the shop, but we had a real hard time finding a licensed (transport) mechanic for the shop,” he says.
“We need a licensed mechanic to sign off on safety inspections and warranty work. We searched for a qualified mechanic, but never had much success, so I investigated what additional training would be required to upgrade one of our current mechanics. Through that exercise, I discovered that anyone could challenge the testing.
“I had worked on machines and trucks all my life, so I decided that I would challenge the test, and as a result I gained my red seal certification, so I now spend a good deal of time in the shop.”
With 30 employees and lots of gear, Chris certainly has lots to occupy his work day and lots of nights, no doubt. But regardless of the responsibilities, Chris sees a positive future and enjoys all those challenges, keeping the wood moving, and his clients well served.
On the Cover:
A Tigercat 870C buncher at work for D. Lind Contracting in B.C. In this issue, Logging and Sawmilling Journal looks at the situation the forest industry is facing with an increasingly older workforce, and where future equipment operators are going come from, beginning on page 4. (Cover photo courtesy of The Inland Group).
Where are the industry’s future employees going to come from?
There is growing concern in the forest industry about where future loggers and equipment operators are going to come from—and a B.C. logging company is taking action in its own backyard, working closely with a local high school to encourage students to look at the forest industry for their careers.
A new look for B.C.’s coastal forest industry
Forest management in B.C.’s Sea to Sky Corridor has taken on a new look, with majority-owned First Nations companies, such as Sqomish Forestry LP, now being large forestry players in the region.
Forest safety—by satellite
Satellite technology is transforming lone worker safety in the forest industry by ensuring no worker is ever without access to a vital line of communications in the remote locations so common to the industry.
Resolute ramps up Atikokan sawmill
Resolute Forest Products is ramping up its brand new sawmill near Atikokan, Ontario, part of the company’s overall investment of $150 million in the region, creating more than 200 jobs.
A family logging affair
Chris Weare of Nova Scotia’s R&C Weare Logging has readily stepped up to the plate—with the support of family—in running their logging business, a heckuva of a busy business affair with an equipment line-up that includes 13 harvesting machines, 10 tractor trailers hauling wood, and roadbuilding gear.
Alberta’s Spray Lake Sawmills has bounced back from the economic downturn, and is even stronger now thanks to consistent mill improvements—and it is looking to grow its treated wood program.
Getting ready for legal pot
The imminent legalization of marijuana—which could happen as early as this year—provides a good reason for forest companies of all sizes to prepare themselves with at least a well-defined and communicated substance abuse policy.
Building business-and a safe workplace
Ontario logger John Fleming has won two health and safety awards, and has found that in addition to helping build a safe workplace, the awards have helped build his business.
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 and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
Jim Stirling on how B.C. is dealing with the spruce bark beetle on steroids, and possible containment strategies.