MB under fire
Harvest System Report
Trans-Gesco touts its huge TG-88 forwarder as both highly productive and environmentally friendly.
By Richard Turtle
In an effort to reduce the enviromnental impact of logging operations, manufacturers are striving to provide haresting contractors with equipment that balances site sensitivity with economic performance and productivity. But rather than building smaller, lighter machines, Canadian manufacturer Trans-Gesco offers a high-capacity tracked clambunk skidder dubbed The Gentle Giant. The company describes its TG-88 as "the most environ- mentally friendly machine available for forestry operations."
Daniel Chastenais, Trans-Gesco's marketing and sales manager, explains that one of the primary considerations in designing the TG-88 was to offer a skidder capable of hauling large loads over long distances while keeping ground disturbance to a minimum.
And one of the benefits seen by companies using the TG-88 is a reduction in roadbuilding costs because of the machine's high flotation, payload capacity and its ability to economically increase skidding distances, says Chastenais.
One contractor using the TG-88 is Rick Nychuk, president of Nychuk Lumber Ltd. in northeastern Ontario. Nychuk, who has been logging more than 20 years, was previously running Trans-Gesco's TG-40 and is impressed with the power and performance of the new model. His company harvests primarily spruce and pine in the Kirkland Lake area, skidding full trees distances of up to two km. He has been running the TG-88 for just over a year.
Nychuk notes that while the machine is not cheap, it has proven its worth in all weather and ground conditions he has encountered and has handled the conifers he usually cuts as well as poplar. "Since we bought it (in June 1996), there's been zero down time," he says. "It's been really good. There have been a few minor problems but nothing that's been the fault of the machine."
And Nychuk's operator is also sold on the powerful TG-88 which offers a payload capacity of 35 tons. "He wouldn't go back to a (smaller) skidder," says Nychuk. "It can carry six to seven times what a skidder hauls."
For Nychuk, the tracked clambunk skidder runs a single 10- to 12-hour shift, five to seven days a week.
In Iroquois Falls, also in northeastern Ontario, Abitibi Price took delivery of a TG- 88 in the late spring of this year. The company's Fibre Initiative Co-ordinator Mario Halley says the purchase of the TG-88 was based on the performance of its predecessor, the TG-80, which Abitibi Price still operates. However, on the new machine, the wider 60" track was chosen because of soft ground conditions in much of the area being harvested. Within weeks of taking delivery of the TG-88, Halley was convinced the machine would live up to the company's expectations.
"It's a really great machine. It performs better than expected," he says. "We had estimated (increased productivity would amount to) $70,000 per year, and I'm quite confident that will happen." The TG-88 is skidding black and white spruce as well as poplar payloads "in the 25-tonne range' and is outproducing the TG-80. Halley says the wide tracks provide superior flotation and "the operators can't believe the difference."
He explains that the TG-88 is getting into a lot more soft ground than even the TG-80 could. Skidding distances vary, depending on the season, with maximum distances of approximately 800 m reached during the spring when the ground is still frozen.
And based on the machine's performnance running two I 0-hour shifts per day, Halley was hopeful the TG- 88 would be able to keep up with two feller bunchers.
The TG-88 weighs in at approximately 27,000 kg and is powered by a Cummins LTA 10-C turbo after-cooled 325-hp diesel engine. It also features 100 per-cent hydro- static drive with eight wheel motors powered by four 75gpm hydrostatic pumps. The hydrostatic drive eliminates the need for axles or drive links as the only power link is the flexible high-pressure hose.
Mechanical drivetrain problems are virtually eliminated as it has no differential and no transmission. The tandem wheel motors are synchronized with a double stage flow divider/combiner, and its electrically operated valve allows all wheel traction by locking the front tandems. When fitted with the 1524-mm (60") tracks, "it has extremely low ground pressure, just over six psi with a 50,000-lb. payload," says Chastenais.
That high flotation has proven effective in all weather and ground conditions, including swamps and black sod, he adds. "That's why we're so successful in the northeast (of Ontario). All the mills there have our machine working for them because of that," he notes.
There are currently about 40 Trans-Gesco TG-88 machines working throughout Canada from British Columbia to Quebec, says Chastenais. The company recently broke into the Abitibi market in Quebec, expecting to deliver its second machine there in August. He adds, "the main reason people have chosen it is for the protection of regrowth. It can follow the feller buncher track without damaging new growth."
In Quebec, current regulations allow machine travel on no more than 33 per cent of a forest being cut, and by 2001, that will be further reduced to 25 per cent. Environmental regulations such as these played a significant role in the success of Trans-Gesco's TG-88, explains Chastenais.
The TG-88 clambunk can follow the feller buncher track using its knuckle-boom loader with a reach of seven m (23') to grab bunches on either side. Its reach can allow operators to use only every second or third trail made by the feller buncher. The loader has a maximum capacity of 1,814 kg (4,000 lbs.) at 6.1 m (20') while the clambunk capacity is 3.53 M2 (38 ft.2).
Chastenais says that while the TG-88 is most typically matched one-to-one with feller bunchers, depending on skidding dis- tances and ground conditions, it could out- pace a single felling machine because of its high capacity.
He adds that the machine's stability allows it to work where other skidders can't. That has made it well suited to some of the steep and rocky terrain in the west, where it has also been used to skid three to four km along trails made by harvesting equipment, thus reducing the need for costly construction of permanent roads. "That is very important for saving money on roadbuilding," says Chastenais.
To reduce spinning inside the tracks, the TG-88 is equipped with special min- ing tires with straight grooves for positive traction. And because the tires are nar- rower than the tracks and feature rubber that is about 6" thick, he explains, they stand up well to the punishment inflicted by combining heavy loads with difficult terrain.
The main frame is made from high-tensile steel and allows easy access to all components. As well, the articulation and central pivot are designed for maximum life and minimum maintenance. Ground clearance is approximately 70 cm (28").
Trans-Gesco offers six track widths ranging from 28" to 60" in either standard or "Banana' style.
Trans-Gesco also offers the TG-88SW, a shortwood forwarder, described as the "little brother" of the TG-88.
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