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New Focus On Hoe-Chucking

Although not new on the Coast, hoe-chucking is receiving

Copyright 1997. Contact publisher for permission to use.

Start talking about coastal BC logging and most people in the industry conjure up images of tall steel towers, large heavy logs, and steep mountainous terrain. But while such operations are not uncommon, the realities of more stringent environmental constraints and the need to remain viable in the face of rising costs are effecting changes in both equipment and logging methods.

In the last few years, coastal operators have been moving to lighter, more versatile equipment and alternative logging methods that are less destructive to the environment and more cost effective on the balance sheet. One approach that meets these requirements is hoe-chucking.

March97 Although not new on the coast, hoe-chucking continues to find converts in areas with suitable ground conditions. One such operation is Western Forest Products'(WFP) Port McNeill division on northern Vancouver Island. With a work force of 85 and an annual cut of approximately 300,000m3, Port McNeill is the second largest logging division in the company. Operations are conducted in a 100,000-hectare area between Port McNeill and Coal Harbour. The forest includes both old-growth and second-growth logging, and operations manager Trevor Boniface runs commercial thinning projects as well.

Collectively the division puts out about 18 off-highway loads per day, averaging approximately 95 m3 per load. Logs are trucked down to the company's dryland sort at Port McNeill, where they are readied for waterborne transport to company mills in the BC Lower Mainland and on South Vancouver Island. Primary equipment includes a grapple yarder for steeper, more difficult areas, a super snorkle for wide right-of-way logging and cleanup, and two hoes forwarding logs to the landing.

Boniface is a proponent of hoe- chucking for two reasons. He says it is cost effective because it is less capital intensive and requires fewer people. But he is also in favour of the environmental advantages it offers in adhering to the Forest Practices Code.

March97 "On most West Coast logging shows, working around water courses and gullies is a major concern. You have to be careful of streamside management zones, and gullies - even dry ones - have to be kept clear of debris. With conventional cable yarding, you can certainly have your share of difficulties avoiding reserve areas, and there is little, if any, control over debris pile-ups in gullies." Boniface says neither situation is a problem for a hoe. "A hoe can work around reserve zones and along stream courses without difficulty and it can lift stray logs and debris out of the gullies as it goes along. If you are logging with conventional cable equipment, you have to clean up this material afterwards. By doing it in conjunction with the regular logging operation, you are more efficient and more cost effective. It's hard to beat that." Boniface cites other advantages as well, including reduced ground disturbance and better log quality. "Cable systems lead the logs along the ground most of the time which can result in significant ground disturbance - especially if deflection isn't just right - which it seldom is.

On a hoe-chucking operation, the machine picks up the logs and moves them over the ground so there is little or no ground disturbance. That not only complies more readily with the Forest Practices Code, but the area looks better after logging is completed and there is less potential for erosion and siltation." With the cut shrinking in BC, logs are becoming more valuable and Boniface says hoe-chucking offers benefits here as well. "In certain conditions, you can have a lot of log breakage with cable systems, but with hoe-chucking, breakage is seldom a problem. A hoe picks up large or small pieces equally well, and since they are placed while being moved to the landing, there is no breakage. That means a better quality log on the landing and more wood heading into the mill for processing instead of being left in the bush as waste."

Machine versatility is another benefit with hoes, as they can be used for any number of different jobs, says Boniface. "We not only move wood to the landing, but we also use the hoes for clean-up on the landing and for piling roadside debris. Hoes can be used for site rehabilitation, as well as for reclamation and site preparation work once logging is completed. You can load out the logging trucks with them as well. There's no doubt, hoes are one of the most versatile machine you can have on a logging operation."

Boniface uses two John Deere 992E log loaders for hoe-chucking and three other John Deere 992D log loaders for loading and sorting on his dryland sort. "We started with Coast Tractor, the John Deere dealer, back in 1989 and have been pleased with the machines and their product support. There have been major improvements over the last seven years as we learn more and more about hoe-chucking."

When Logging and Sawmilling Journal visited the Port McNeill show, Boniface was trying out a new hoe - a Madill 4800, owned by logging contractor Lloyd Juhala, president of LBJ Logging Ltd. of Langley, BC. Juhala had finished his work for the year at another WFP logging operation and brought the 4800 to Port McNeill to store it for the winter. Boniface had heard about this new machine and thought it would be a good opportunity to evaluate it, using his own operators.

March97 Juhala bought the first Madill 4800 when it rolled out of the company's Nanaimo shop last spring. "I knew Madill was building a new hoe-chucking machine," he says, "because they were going around the industry a while back asking loggers what they wanted in a hoe-chucking machine. I was a bit reluctant to buy the first prototype, but after looking it over I realized what they had done made a lot of sense and I decided to go for it. I've been using it now for about six months, and it has outperformed all my expectations."

Juhala says the 4800 isn't just a log loader; it's specifically designed for hoe-chucking and, as a purpose-built machine, it has three significant advantages.

First it has awesome swing torque: "You need lots of power to pull logs out of the piles and swing them - especially when you're working on steep slopes. The 4800 eally excels at this function. It has 4,000 psi of hydraulic pressure for swinging, and we've knocked that back to 3,500 because we don't need all the power." Second, according to Juhala, is its travel capability: "The 4800 is mounted on a D8 undercarriage and at first I thought it might cause too much environmental damage - but just the opposite is true.

There's lots of clearance, lots of power, and it doesn't torque out on steep pitches. You can walk right up steep pitches without using the boom and stick to assist, and with the double grouser pads there is no slippage. Slippage is one of the biggest problems in hoe-chucking, but not with this machine. The environment is protected and we have no difficulty meeting Forest Practices Code requirements.''

The third feature Juhala likes is tail swing clearance: "There's nearly 6' between the counterweight and the ground so there's no hang-ups when you're swinging. Clearance is a problem with some machines, but not with the 4800. It seems to clear all the stumps, lumps and debris with no problem.''

Juhala also says it's a mechanic's dream to repair and service, because the canopy lifts up out of the way and there is room for walk-around service to the hydraulic system and engine - something unusual in equipment.

Juhala is also pleased with engine performance and fuel consumption. "The engine doesn't smoke at all even on start-up. That DDEC 111 electronic fuel injection system really works. Everybody using these engines is finding the same thing - fuel efficiency is very good."

Juhala says the only problem they found on the 4800 was that the heel rack was too light - and Madill has addressed it. "The 4800 is the third machine I've bought from Madill this year. Earlier I bought a 171 slackline, then a 124 grapple yarder, and now the 4800. I think this 4800 is a real breakthrough and Madill has a real winner here as far as I'm concerned. It's the best hoe-chucking machine I've ever seen."

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