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Contractor Profile

Top Dog

Hayes Forest Services has grown from modest beginnings to being the top volume contractor in Canada, and branched out from its roots to offer a broad range of services, including helicopter logging. 

By Rick Crosby 

When Donald and Harriet Hayes formed Hayes Forest Services Limited in 1956, they began by logging land they owned on Vancouver Island. At the time, the Hayes had little idea that they were starting a coastal logging outfit that would continue on well into the next generation and the next millennium. In fact, the company, based in the small community of Cobble Hill, has grown to the point where it was named the top volume contractor in British Columbia-with volume of 800,000 cubic metres-by Logging and Sawmilling Journal. 

Due to the large size of logging contractors on the BC coast, this essentially makes Hayes one of the largest logging contractors in Canada. (See the September 2000 issue for the full list of BC's top contractors). But for the Hayes, it all began with that small logging job more than 40 years ago. Harvesting their own land in turn led to requests to log other people's land, small Ministry of Forests timber sales and contract work with local companies. 

Then came contracts with some of the early integrated forest companies in British Columbia that were logging on the coast. The 1960s were a decade of tremendous growth for the BC forest industry and for companies like Hayes Forest this meant additional business opportunities. In 1970, Hayes Forest shifted their logging operations from Toba Inlet on the BC mainland to the East Asiatic Company on the west coast of Vancouver Island. East Asiatic was an integrated company with a pulp mill at Gold River and a sawmill at Tahsis at the head of Tahsis Inlet and they were looking for contractors on the west coast. "Very little logging had previously been done in the area and they offered us a large contract out there," recalls Harold Hayes, now vice-president of Hayes Forest. 

The West Coast was opening up at the time and harvesting was just starting in the outlying areas within Tree Farm Licence 19-the West Coast was basically a new frontier, notes Harold. 

Donald Hayes (above) is the second generation of the Hayes family to head up the company. Hayes Forest Services is now one of the leading helilogging contractors on the BC coast.

 The 1970s were challenging times for the forest industry in BC. It was about this time that Donald Hayes, now president of Hayes Forest, and his brother Harold took over the company from their parents, who had decided to retire. Through this period, lumber markets were up and down, with the predictable ripple effect on logging, and the BC industry was undergoing significant changes. 

Also, some long-standing issues and challenges first began to surface-the environmental movement and early land claims of First Nations people. "There were lots of things happening," Harold recalls. Hayes Forest has rolled with the changes of the industry, however, and has since grown significantly through building the operation and by acquisitions. 

While the forest industry in BC in recent years has evolved-with new methods of harvesting, new equipment and environmental restrictions-the volume of timber on the coast has come down as the Annual Allowable Cut has been reduced. This kind of reduced cut translated into smaller operations for the logging companies that chose to remain static in what was becoming a very changeable industry. Hayes Forest, on the other hand, opted to grow the company, to keep it competitive and make sure it had the economies of scale to make it efficient. 

One constant that remains unchanged, however, is that logging on the coast is never the same from one operation to the next. Every trucking application, for example, has different needs depending on the steepness of the grade, the weight of the loads and the distance of the haul. "The type of wood being hauled dictates whether it's highway or off-highway," says Donald. "All this dictates what sort of trucking configuration one puts on each job. So in a company like ours, where there are many operations, there's many different truck configurations to match the job that we have to do." 

Current operations for Hayes Forest include second growth harvesting, ground-based systems and cable and aerial helilogging systems throughout coastal BC. Their main conventional contract operations are with Weyerhaeuser, Timberwest, International Forest Products and Western Forest Products. The company has operations from Gold River and Port Renfrew on northern Vancouver Island, up Toba Inlet, the midcoast and Prince Rupert. The range of services they offer now is broad and includes helicopter logging and fire fighting, conventional logging and forestry management and engineering. 

This was the kind of evolution the forest industry was demanding. At its most basic level, helicopter logging is really just another yarding method. But there's no question that it has added another dimension to the way timber is harvested. But helicopter logging requires large amounts of capital and sophisticated organization and aerial support services. To make the transition into helilogging, Hayes built up their existing organization, adding people with specific skill sets in aviation. "We went out and hired the expertise and brought them in-house," says Harold. 

Hayes Were Pioneer Logging Truck Builders 

 

The heritage of the Hayes family in BC's forest industry goes back much further than 1956 when Donald and Harriet Hayes started logging on Vancouver Island. It stretches back to 1925 when Douglas Hayes-Donald's father and the grandfather of the company's current Hayes Forest management team-was first involved in a truck manufacturing company. 

Hayes was in the parts business in Vancouver and it was a natural progression from there to assembling trucks. Over the next several decades, Hayes broke new ground in West Coast truck logging, manufacturing heavy trucks for the tough coastal logging roads, and the Hayes truck became a regular feature of the coastal logging scene in BC. From 1952 on, the company was known as Hayes Trucks until Mack Trucks bought it out in 1969. 

The last one was built in 1975, but the role the trucks played in the pioneering days of truck logging is a fascinating look at how far the industry has come and the hard work it took to get there. Hayes trucks were built to fill a void in the type of logging truck being used in the woods in the pioneering years of truck logging. These early trucks had a bunk and trailer system surprisingly similar to what you see today. 

The difference was that before Douglas Hayes adapted a rotating bunk to Hayes trucks-which allowed the trailer to track in the path of the truck-logging trucks were equipped with rub irons that could make hauling logs frustrating and dangerous. "You had skid plates under the bunk so you had steel to steel but when you went around a real sharp corner you'd get bunkbound," explains Steve Drybrough, who restores Hayes logging trucks on Vancouver Island and has been driving logging trucks for 31 years. "The trailer would drop off the rub iron then you'd have a hell of a time getting it back on. A turntable system eliminated most of the bunk-bound." 

The rotating bunk was an innovation at the time and is still the basis on which logging trucks operate. Such innovations were light years ahead of truck logging operations in the 1920s and 1930s, when three- and five-tonne trucks were used in rugged coastal conditions to haul logs. Fred Meier, who lives in Campbell River, BC and whose passion is old logging trucks, used to drive some of those trucks and has lots of stories about brakes and some of the hills. 

"They had two guys driving the truck, one of them running the brake handle and the other one drove the truck," he recounts. "If you took a right hand turn, it slackened the brake off and when it turned to the left, it tightened the brake up. So this guy running the brake was forever tightening when we were on a right hand turn and loosening like crazy when we were doing a left hand turn." The drivers got used to it but Meier remembers the close calls. "I had the odd runaway but we had spots where if we had a problem, we'd bank the truck off into a bluff or a ditch or onto the runaway spur," he says. 

Some of the early logging trucks only had about 65 horsepower. If you had 130 horsepower, you had big power. These days, with truckers facing longer haul distances out in the bush, there has been a push on for more power. Power has gone from 430 horsepower to an average of 550 to 600 hp. 

Helicopter logging was clearly an idea whose time had come-a natural progression in the forest industry. It quickly became an important component of harvesting because of new environmental standards-it is probably the least invasive type of logging-and the increasing difficulty of accessing timber by conventional road systems. "Helicopter logging was one of the harvesting services that the industry was requiring," says Harold. But for Hayes Forest, moving into helicopter logging was a natural progression. 

"We're constantly trying to adapt our company to meet the range of services that the industry wants and at the same time, we try to expand our business." Helilogging also offers contractors more flexibility and the ability to access and harvest very quickly, features of high value when a large BC forest company is looking to meet specific volumes and log needs. Even in remote locations, a helilogging operation can be set up in about a week. Isolated coastal areas need a fuel barge, landing barge and support equipment including a camp moved to that location but once an operation is set up, work can begin quickly. When a helicopter arrives, a crew can start working within the hour. 

Hayes Heli-Log Services has been involved in aviation since 1979 supporting conventional logging operations, fire fighting and other operations throughout the province. The company currently operates Sikorsky S-61N "Shortsky" helicopters, paired with Bell 206 B support helicopters, making them one of five main helilogging companies on the West Coast. This equipment line-up allows Hayes Forest to provide a full range of services to its customers. Helilogging and the advent of the environmental movement have been two of the big changes in the evolution of the forest industry in BC. Helilogging may be an acceptable method of harvesting to logging contractors and environmentalists alike, but the environmental movement and strict forestry practice guidelines have made work a lot tougher for contractors. 

 "One constant that remains unchanged is that logging on the coast is never the same from one operation to the next." 

Over the last decade, the contracting side of the industry in BC has undergone changes, with some consolidation taking place-an important development that has allowed better utilization of equipment as annual allowable cuts come down. The challenge is to keep equipment running and to log an optimal amount of wood for that equipment. Hayes Forest has been able to more readily respond to the continuing industry changes, both by offering a broad range of logging approaches backed up by related forestry support services. 

The results of their hard work and strong business focus are reflected in an optimistic outlook for the year ahead, despite current tough times for the forest industry on the BC coast. There may be challenges, "but we expect it to be a reasonable year," says Harold. With all the modern technology and equipment, a lot has changed in the industry in the 40-plus years that Hayes Forest has been around. 

An outsider might even think that logging has become easier but, as any contractor can tell you, that's not the case. "It's very hard work" says Harold, who makes the statement as a straightforward observation, rather than a complaint. "It's extremely hard work and it's much more difficult because the demands have increased." In BC there's the Forest Practices Code, changing market conditions, ongoing efforts to keep productivity high-all these things make logging much more demanding than it's ever been. "It's always been hard work and always will be," says Harold. But Hayes Forest continues to be challenged by the changes and works to adapt and be flexible-an approach that has worked in the past and looks to be just as solid in the future.

The Hayes name is also well-known among truck loggers on the BC coast. Douglas Hayes-the grandfather of the current management of Hayes Forest Services-was a pioneer in West Coast truck logging and Hayes trucks are still working hard today. 

 


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