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Harvesting: Link To The Future

Summary: Coast contractors like Ted LeRoy are increasingly looking at roadside processing. His first step is a Linkbelt 4300 Quantum with a Lim-mit 2200B roll-stroke delimber.

By L. Ward Johnson
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to use.

Ever since the first explorers went ashore to cut spars for their sailing ships, the west coast of British Columbia has been considered the bastion of big timber and big equipment. Today, however, the big timber is disappearing along with the big equipment used to harvest it. Coastal loggers are rapidly moving into second-growth stands, where smaller, lighter machines like feller bunchers and processors are the order of the day.

These systems not only offer economic advantages, they also have less impact on the environment and more readily meet the requirements of the new BC Forest Practices Code. One of the vanguards of this new approach is Ted LeRoy, who owns Ted LeRoy Trucking Ltd. of Duncan, BC on Vancouver Island.

LeRoy is convinced that within the next few years coastal logging will go through a major restructuring, and he is backing up his convictions with commitment. LeRoy is downsizing his logging equipment and last November, he took delivery of one of the first roadside processors to show up on a coastal operation: a Linkbelt 4300 Quantum excavator with a Lim-mit 2200B Roll Stroke Delimber.

The Linkbelt 4300, supplied by Parker Pacific of Nanaimo, BC, is a 33,000-kg excavator, powered by a Cummins L10-1.5c six-cylinder diesel that puts out 249 hp. Two va ri able-displacement axial piston pumps and one gear pump power the hydraulic system, which has four selectable working modes. The Forestry Cab,supplied by Parker Pacific, is mounted on six fluid-filled mountings.

It has a Margard 5000 Lexan window package, air conditioning and a cloth upholstered suspension seat with head and arm rests. Operator control levers are located in four-position, tilt-ing control consoles. A service monitor keeps the operator in touch with critical machine functions. The Lim-mit Stroke Delimber, which is supplied by Risley Equipment Ltd. of Grande Prairie, Alberta, is mounted as a layover system on top of the excavator.

It has a 28''-diameter barrel, enabling the unit to process trees up to 24'' in diameter. A 46'' circular topping saw allows the Lim-mit to process to an 18'' top diameter. A butt saw, located at the forward end of the boom, handles cuts up to 26'' in diameter. The delimber features a programmable measuring system that processes to precise length and diameter limits. Aggressive feed rolls move the tree through the barrel for measurement, while the limbs are removed by the head.

Ted LeRoy started logging in 1968, when he bought his first truck, a 1953 LJ Mack. It cost $2,100 and required considerable modifications before he could begin hauling logs with it. LeRoy hired on with Malloch and Mosley and trucked for them until 1970, when he expanded his company and his capability with a Barko 160 loader. Contracts followed for Western Forest Industries, MacMillan Bloedel and, in 1978, Crown Zellerbach, who was looking for a contractor to log in Johnstone Strait. By this time, LeRoy had a full-fledged stump-to-dump operation and he was ready to take on a long-term contract.

Since then, LeRoy has logged continuously in the Johnstone Strait area, where he presently logs 130,000/m 3 per year. In addition however, LeRoy also logs 30,000/m 3 at Powell River, and 90,000/m 3 at Phillips Arm. At pre-sent, he has 70 pieces of logging and road-building equipment and provides steady employment for 60 people. This year, LeRoy expects to log about 100,000/m 3 of old-growth and 178,000/m 3 of second-growth.

The decision to buy the new stroker delimber was made by Jason LeRoy, Ted LeRoy's son, who is now general manager of the company. Jason explains that the company had a single-grip harvester, a Valmet 500T, which they intended to replace with a dangle-head unit for roadside processing.

"I was up in the Interior on holidays last summer," says Jason, "and I heard there was a mechanized operation nearby. Naturally I had to go see it. When I got out on the operation, I noticed the Lim-mit and started asking questions about it. I watched it for a while, and was very impressed. I soon changed my mind about the dangle head.

The Lim-mit seemed much more suitable for our purposes." What Jason particularly liked about the Lim-mit was that it scanned the whole log before making any bucking cuts and it measured both diameter and length during the process. Since both diameter and length were programmable, the Lim-mit could han-dle different specs for different species.

Another advantage was that as the machine was processing a stem, it had complete control of it. "I saw right away the stem couldn't get away down the hill once it was processed and a cut was made. As well, the Lim-mit could place the log any wh e re it wanted when processing was completed.

Taken collectively, the fe at u res of the Lim-mit seemed to suit our needs much more closely than those offered by a dangle-head unit, so after some further checking with Parker Pacific, the supplier, and some negotiation on price, we bought one." Jason says the Lim-mit now has over 800 hours on it without a bit of trouble.

"Most of the time we work the Lim-mit two shifts a day and it has been averaging around 45 cubic meters to 55 cubic meters an hour since we got it two and a half months ago. We expect to put 100,000 cubic meters through this machine the first year. We windrow tree-length to roadside with a feller bunch-er and grapple yarder, and the occasional bit of hoe chucking, and we process with the Lim-mit at roadside. We like to keep about 10,000 cubic meters ahead of the hauling, so we have a cushion if something breaks down."

Jason is pleased with the Linkbelt and Lim-mit combination. "If we bought another one, it would be configured the same way," he says. "About the only thing we wish it had was a larger fuel tank. Otherwise it's a good unit. The 4300 carrier is ideal because it's light enough and small enough to travel on the high-way without taking it apart. On top of that, it does everything we expected it to do."

Operator on the Lim-mit is Rob Lapointe, who appreciates the operator comforts Linkbelt has added to the 4300. "The cab is warm and comfortable regardless of the weather and it has good visibility. As an operator, I spend a lot of hours in that cab, so creature comforts such as this are important."

According to Ted LeRoy, buying the new stroke delimber is part of a strategy to redesign the whole company for the 21st century. Long a proponent of mechanized systems, LeRoy had the first Timbco Feller Buncher on the coast in 1983.

"We are downsizing all our equipment to better meet the requirements of the Forest Practices Code, new environmental and ecological requirements, and the changing timber base," LeRoy says. "We recently bought a new smaller grapple yarder, a Madill 124, for yarding, and we are switching over to smaller back spars as well, 35 metric-tonne machines down to 30 metric-tonne machines. We are also going to hoe chucking wherever possible. We log a lot of second-growth wood now and don't need that big, expensive equipment to handle it," he says.

LeRoy is also adamant that it doesn't make sense to build big, wide haul roads for big off-highway trucks. "The FPC equates to smaller," he says, "smaller equipment that does less damage to the environment and has less impact on the ground and the soil. We have downsized our roadbuilding excavators to John Deere 690-size machines and we are planning to switch our big trucks over to tridem truck trailers with 10'6'' bunks. We'll be hauling mid - size loads," he says, "and if I'm right, we'll get just as much productivity as we do with the big trucks.

While they won't haul as much per load, the smaller t ru cks will be faster and we won't have to build nearly the road infrastructure to support them." LeRoy sees the whole economic scene in the industry ch a n gi n g. "You are always fighting cost in this business and as everybody knows, equipment is getting more costly all the time. We figure that we can't afford to buy a machine such as this Lim-mit and have it work only one shift a day. That's why we double shift as much as we can.

"We figure to put 3,000 hours a year on a machine, instead of the usual 1,800 to 2,000," says LeRoy. "If you can do that consistently, it changes the whole economic picture of owning and operating a piece of logging equipment. Once it gets 12,000 hours to 15,000 hours on it, you roll it over and away you go agai n wit h a new machine. That's the only way you can keep things going these days."

LeRoy says double shifting is possible now because everybody is on a machine."You can't have people out in the woods after dark if they aren't on a machine, but nowadays everything, even the falling, is done from a machine. That means it's safe to double shift because everybody is off the ground. I expect that with our cut level this year, we have between 100,000 cubic metres and 110,000 cubic metres that is suitable for mechanical harvesting _ and all that will be done by machine."

In addition to the downsizing taking place over the next few years, LeRoy also sees an amalgamation process underway. "It's getting more and more difficult to find anyone who has enough wood these days. Everybody is short of wood. Since there is less wood available every year, due to the shrinking forest land base and new rules and regulations, it only follows that there is more amalgamation ahead for everybody _ including contractors.

To keep going in this business, you have to have wood and if it isn't available from government, then you have to find it wherever you can. If that means buying somebody out, that's what will happen. "Don't get me wrong, I think there's a bright future in store for this industry, but there's no doubt in my mind it's going to be a different-looking industry tomorrow _ and I'm not only talking about equipment."

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