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Volvo’s EC210BF purpose built forest machines are proving just how versatile they can be on a number of site prep projects in British Columbia.

By Jim Stirling

Volvo’s heavy duty forest machines are proving their versatility and earning acceptance from site preparation contractors in parts of British Columbia’s southern Interior. That’s not easy to accomplish. When you’re a relatively new entrant into a well-established marketplace, you have to earn your rights and overcome some built-in bias. It’s a challenge Volvo and its dealership have accepted with enthusiasm and they back it up with what contractors are crediting as exemplary service and support.                                   

Don Matthew now has four Volvo EC210BF machines and reports he’s well satisfied with their performance. “I definitely give them more than a passing grade, especially with service from the guys at Great West Equipment in Kamloops,” says Matthew. “They’ve got a lot of knowledge about different machines and go out of their way to help keep us working.”                                   

Matthew established his company, Chinook Cove Contracting Ltd, in 2000. It’s based in Barriere, BC, in the North Thompson River valley. The First Nation contractor began a full phase logging business and developed a separate site preparation side.                                   

Matthew recalls he acquired his first tracked Volvo 210A in 200 , matched it with a Waratah processing head and sent it logging. The reason he went with the Volvo was availability and price, he says. The second EC210BF was bought specifically for Chinook Cove’s site prep business. Matthew has built up a regular clientele in the regional licensee community for post-logging site preparation tasks.                                   

The spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic has increased the pace of salvage logging. Indeed, Matthew’s band, the Simpcw First Nation, was awarded 200,000 cubic metres over three years in part as a response to the beetles. He’s used his EC210BFs working the band’s licence.                                   

But like any contractor these days, you have to be alert at all times to new opportunities. Last winter, for example, Matthew landed a contract for power line clearing. He replaced the power clam and stumping attachments used for site prep with buckets and other excavating tools, and assigned all four of the versatile Volvos to the project.                                   

The Volvo 210 machines have been praised for their track power and digging power to pull stumps up and out of the ground, as well as their fuel economy.

The beetle situation is also applying additional pressure to get a new crop of trees established after the dead pine have been removed. The nimble EC210BFs are proving adept at working the transition stage between tree harvesting and tree planting. “What I really like about the Volvo forestry machine is that it comes standard with a high and wide undercarriage,” continues Matthew. “It’s especially useful for getting around and over stumps. It makes a big difference.”  

Matthew is also high on the Volvo’s track power. “They have phenomenal track power and digging power to pull stumps up and out of the ground,” he explains.                                   

He reckons the EC210BFs have the best track power for their size class of any machines in the industry. He’s had experience working with machines from at least four other major forest machine manufacturers.                                   

Matthew notes the EC210BF has the same hydraulic capabilities as other comparably sized machines. “And as for fuel consumption, you can’t beat it,” he adds. No one needs reminding about the importance of fuel economy to the bottom line.                                   

Matthew has positive observations about the well-guarded operator’s cabin and notes the relationship between operator comfort and productivity potential.                                   

Tom Mackenzie is a site preparation specialist. He’s recorded about 15 years experience in the business including stints as a machine operator and a supervisor. During that time, he’s racked up extensive first-hand knowledge of the varying terrains and tree types in the southern Interior around his home base in Kamloops. He established T Mack Contracting Ltd about four years ago and his workhorses are two Volvo EC210BFs, also acquired through Great West Equipment in Kamloops. He also has a renta EC240BFX.                                   

Mackenzie has developed four main customers for his site preparation work. In 2006, he site prepared about 1,100 hectares for them. That meant double shifting the Volvos. He typically operates five 10-hour day shifts and four 12-hour nights. The operating window for site preparation is limited. “If I’m lucky, I get in seven good months a year,” he reports.                                   

That fact of operating life was very much on his mind when he first went shopping for the right machine to prepare logged sites for replanting. “I was looking for a high walker and a competitive cost.” He got both with the Volvo. He opted for the 210 model as the right class of machine after an analysis of his typical work profile. “The stump removal application is about 0 per cent of my business relative to piling and screefing.” A larger machine—like the Volvo EC240BFX or the EC290BFX—has extra power and weight but comes with relatively higher operating costs. It’s the seven-month-a-year factor again.

Mackenzie says originally there was some question about the Volvo’s longevity, seeing it hadn’t been around much. “But they’ve done very well,” he vouches. His first EC210BF, purchased in 2004, now has about 6,000 hours on the clock and the ‘06 model has put in about ,000 hours of work.                                   

Volvos have similarly proven themselves in the operator friendly category. Mackenzie tells the story of one of his operators who was a little skeptical when he learned his new assignment was the Volvo. His first day on the job pleasantly surprised him, says Mackenzie, and there was no more talk about skepticism.                                   

Mackenzie gives the Volvo team credit for working their way through the forestry applications for their machine and making modifications to address any recurring problems. “Their warranty (on the machine) is good and that’s huge,” he points out.                 

Mackenzie says he shopped around and did his research before buying his second machine. And then went back to Great West Equipment in Kamloops and the Volvo EC210BF. “The service department at Great West is phenomenal and that alone is a good enough reason to go there,” he declares. He says the dealership manages to maintain a rare sense of camaraderie that makes customers feel at home.                                   

Mackenzie did specify a couple of modifications to the standard 210. They included changes to the guarding package to improve visibility when working under the forest canopy. He also had made some changes to the machine’s lighting package.                                   

Just as each logging site has its quirks, characteristics and challenges, so, too, do the specifications for site preparation.                                   

“Each customer and each forester within a licensee has their own version of what they want and expect with site preparation. You’re constantly adapting,” continues Mackenzie. For example, piling can be a function of how clean a site is specified. Raised or flat screefing can be specified. He has invested in tens of thousands of dollars worth of attachments for his Volvos to accommodate customers’ requests. These include stumping attachments, screefers, rakes and buckets. It’s not all beetle wood in T Mack Contracting’s operating areas. There are pine forests, of course, but also sometimes mixed with Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock, larch and—in the higher elevations—spruce and balsam forests. “That’s another one of the nice things about the Volvo 210s—they have a heavier undercarriage to help get around and good track power for climbing,” he says.                                   

Mackenzie notes more regional contractors are discovering the Volvo BFX series of machines, be it for road building, harvesting and processing, sorting and loading or in site preparation. And based on his experience with the 210s, it comes as no surprise to him.                                   

The Volvo people keep improving and upgrading the machine and the equipment does a good job, he says. It’s price competitive and Great West Equipment’s good customer relations record combine for an appealing package.