Nov Dec, 2002






Loggers Have Alternatives to Achieving Low Ground Disturbance

By Tony Kryzanowski

When it comes to traction in the cutblock, tires are only half the equation. While many loggers tend to favor ring chain products as the cheapest alternative, advances in pattern studded chain products and even non-chain traction products, such as tracks developed by Swedish manufacturer Hultdins, deserve strong consideration.

White Mountain Chain Ltd. manager Ed Leach says one alternative is the pattern studded chain. The advantage is that it works well in areas where low environmental impact is the objective. His company is located in Bonners Ferry, Idaho and distributes the Norwegian-built Trygg line of tire chains to a number of outlets in the American Northwest. He says the lower profile of pattern or “double diamond” studded chain creates less ground disturbance, and offers the operator a smoother ride. “I tell customers that using ring chain is like riding on a corn cob,” says Leach. “After doing that for 12 hours, you are pretty well beat.”

According to PEWAG Chains Ltd. national sales manager for traction products, Eric Sullwold, some loggers achieve greater longevity and better value from their pattern studded chain by rotating them from front to back after the first season of use. While it is hard to justify the price differential between ring chain and pattern studded chain in today’s uncertain market, this is one way to achieve two years of wear and full value from a pattern studded chain investment.

Headquartered in Newcastle, Calif., PEWAG’s line of chain products is manufactured in Austria. Sullwold agrees that the double diamond studded chain design has earned a reputation in the Northwest as a durable product that provides good traction and is also environmentally sensitive. However, he adds that ring chain has its place: “Ring chain is better in a soft dirt application, but on rocky slopes, the double diamond studded style is better.” While ring chain and double diamond studded chain designs are the most popular choices among Northwest loggers, Trygg has introduced a design alternative aimed at keeping the chain studs pointed toward the road surface as well as extending the usability of tire chains in general.

Part of the problem with pattern studded chain is that once the studs wear down, they have a tendency to lay over, thus creating a traction problem. Some companies have developed a half link system to combat this problem. For its part, Trygg has developed a twist link design that keeps studs flush with the road surface even when they have been worn down. “You still have all that chain link when the stud gets worn and it is still useable,” says Leach. “With the twist link design you are going to get more life out of the chain, and basically get more for your money.” Some companies have also introduced chains manufactured from steel alloys, as opposed to low carbon steel, as another means to achieving greater chain longevity.

According to chain distributors in the Northwest, contracting out a price of forestry equipment that is less damaging to the environment is becoming more of an important selling point. In an attempt to address growing public concern related to ground disturbance by forestry operations, loggers have been looking for alternatives to the traditional ring chain brands. One alternative to tire chain is a line of traction products developed by Hultdins, incorporating the use of selfcleaning crossbars instead of chain links in its products’ design.

Hultdins manufactures a trademarked ECOTrack product line for skidders as well as a CTL wheel track line for harvesters and small forwarders. According to the company, which has its North American headquarters in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, the ECO style track comes in three distinct cross member profiles. “This link system is very close to the outside radius of the tire, reducing rolling resistance by 80 percent,” says the company. “This reduction in rolling resistance helps prevent damage to the ground, thus the word ‘ECO’.” Hultdins adds that while its ECO products cost more up front, they typically last two to three times longer than chains, are much easier to install and require a lot less maintenance. While environmental concerns and an uncertain market have created challenges when selecting tire accessories, it’s obvious that contractors do have a choice over traditional chain products.



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