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TimberWest November/December 2013

January/February 2016

ON THE COVER
Photo taken at the 2015 Oregon Logging
Conference

Download the OLC Showguide

Running Big, Running Strong
Jerry DeBriae, owner and founder of Jerry DeBriae Logging Inc. of Cathlamet, Washington, has over five decades of experience tackling just about every challenge a logging contractor will face.

A Road Well Travelled
R D Reeves Construction finds the solutions to stay diversified and local.

Woody Biomass
Stripping fact from fiction

All Hands on Deck
Miller Timber Services and Wildland Firefighting Crews

Tire Evaluation Test

China Amping up Imports
China aims to increase the volume of timber imports from the U.S. despite stagnant economy.

Foresters Face Paradigm Shift 
for Logging Steep Slopes

Technology from New Zealand is set to create a whole new — and safer — way of logging

Gradual Growth for North American Sawmill
Vancouver Urban Timberworks started out modestly and grew into their new Wood-Mizer WM1000

DEPARTMENTS

In the News

Association News

Machinery Row

New Products

Guest Column

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jerry DeBriae Logging Inc. of Cathlamet, Washington

At one point, DeBriae ran ten sides but has scaled back in recent years to seven. Currently, he operates two tower sides, two shovel sides, and a yoder side. Pictured here is DeBriae’s CAT 568 and 324D with a Denharco delimber.

Running Big, Running Strong

By Lindsay R. Mohlere

Whether it’s a small logging contractor working a crew of five and one ground side, or a large operator managing several sides and employees, the everyday challenges of running a successful business are the same. Taxes. Fuel. Health insurance. State Industrial. Equipment. Maintenance. People. They all come with the territory.

Jerry DeBriae, owner and founder of Jerry DeBriae Logging Inc. of Cathlamet, Washington, has over five decades of experience tackling just about every challenge a logging contractor will face.

Jerry DeBriae Logging Inc. of Cathlamet, WashingtonGraduating to the Woods

“I went straight to the woods right after I graduated from high school. I guess I wasn’t college material,” Jerry says with a chuckle. After working for other loggers, he went into partnership with his brother-in-law for a few years before going it alone and forming DeBriae Logging in 1967. Since then, DeBriae has applied his substantial business acumen, while cutting through the tumultuous weather of the logging industry, growing into one of the largest operations in the Northwest.

“I didn’t have a big plan to grow into a big company. It sort of happened. There was no design for growth. I just did it.”

At one point, DeBriae ran ten sides but has scaled back in recent years to seven. Currently, he’s operating two tower sides, two shovel sides, and a yoder side on Washington State land. He also runs a tower and shovel side on land owned by Greenwood Resources. In addition, DeBriae Logging does its own cutting, utilizing a three-person hand crew and three Timbco feller bunchers and contracting out when the need arises. The company hauls, builds roads, and does most of its own maintenance.

DeBriae has passed the everyday responsibilities of running the company to his son, Jerry DeBriae Jr., but he still runs the road building operation and continues to bid on timber jobs.

The Right Iron for the Job

In his fifty plus years in the woods, DeBriae has seen a lot of equipment come and go. It’s no wonder he has a few preferences and strong opinions of what type of iron works best for his companies.

While the Caterpillar brand stands out at most DeBriae sides, John Deere and Madill are favored log loaders.

“I bought the first 568 CAT shovel that came out,” DeBriae said. “Now we have five. They’re by far the best shovel out there.”

The company utilizes several CAT 324s paired with Denharco stroke delimbers. According to DeBriae, the Denharcos are faster and more reliable than others. “The strokers are cable driven rather then chain driven. We like them a lot.”

DeBriae is also impressed with the new Southstar processors, a Canadian- manufactured processor head fitted with titanium blades. “We bought our first one this year and put it on a 568 CAT. It really cuts a lot of wood.”

On the cable sides, DeBriae fields four Thunderbird TBY 90s and one Berger. The company specializes in slack line yarding. “We were one of the first companies to do slack line yarding using a three-drum machine. The wood today is a lot smaller, and I think it’s a lot safer,” he says. “You’re picking the logs up and not dragging them.” In most cases, Boman motorized carriages are paired with the yarders.

DeBriae does most of its own hauling and runs a fleet of twenty-eight Kenworth trucks with the CAT brand favored as the engine of choice.

“We like to stick with one brand,” DeBriae says “That way we’ve got parts, even though we stock just about every part in our shop.”

Jerry DeBriae Logging Inc. of Cathlamet, WashingtonMadill 2850C and CAT 324D
with Denharco delimber.

Keeping and Leasing Machines

An integral part of the company’s equipment philosophy has changed in recent years.

“I used to trade machines at around 8,000 hours, but now I keep them until they’re worn out,” DeBriae says. “We’ll keep them for 20,000 hours now. Can’t afford not to. There are no trade-ins these days, and everything you look at costs half a million dollars.”

DeBriae is also trying out leasing equipment for the first time. “We leased a Denharco delimber. I lease it for five years and get 12,500 hours. The residual is almost $200,000, so I can just turn around and lease another one. Not everybody can do it, but we’re trying it out,” he said.

One downside to leasing is, “If you beat it up, the lease won’t do you any good.”

Fire Trucks

DeBriae has also converted several used Military Medium Duty 6X6 vehicles into rugged fire trucks. The company buys the trucks and manufactures the tank, refitting the vehicle as a fire truck.

“Six wheel drive, they go anywhere,” DeBriae says. “Run down the highway at fifty miles per hour. One of our old ones could make it down the hill. We’ve got six of them, and we’re going to build six more this winter.”

To keep their machines in top condition, DeBriae deploys a field maintenance crew of four woods mechanics to work the sides, and five others work at night at the company shop. “We rebuild some engines but mostly send them out along with transmissions and rear-ends. All the rest, we do it.”

Jerry DeBriae Logging Inc. of Cathlamet, WashingtonTY90 Thunderbird yarder, working alongside a CAT/Denharco combo and a Daewoo 290LL fitted with a Jewell stick and live heel grapple.

People—an Everyday Challenge.

The lack of qualified prospects weighs heavy on most logging operations and DeBriae Logging is not alone. With millions of dollars in equipment and 100 employees, DeBriae is quick to acknowledge that the major challenge his company faces today is people.

“Getting the right people that want to work is difficult,” he says. “Ten years ago it was different. There were twice as many people looking, and they were twice as good. We didn’t have a problem getting them.”

In the woods, at the maintenance shop, and on the road, the problem shows up in all aspects of DeBriae’s company.

Strict company policies have also put a limit on what is acceptable. DeBriae Logging Inc. is drug free. “We drug test everybody,” DeBriae says, while acknowledging the down side. “You have a guy come in and wants to work. You ask if they can pass a drug test and they say yes. And then they never show up again.” On the trucking side of the business, the company also adheres to Federal Motor Carrier regulations.

Ten trucks out of Debriae’s fleet of Kenworths are parked because he doesn’t have enough drivers.

“We’ve only got seventeen trucks on the road. There are no drivers out there. Getting to a point where we might have to start training them,” DeBriae says. “That’s what we did on our road crew. A young kid comes around; we put him in a dump truck. Try to train him. That’s all you can do.”

The company also strives to attract and keep employees by paying a good family wage backed with a 401K program and insurance. Along with annual bonuses, everyone gets a company pickup. “Everybody gets to drive a rig home,” DeBriae says.

Despite the challenges, DeBriae logging is in it for the long haul. The challenges . . . well, they just come with the territory.