By Lindsay Mohlere
In mid 2019, Darrell Jacobs, owner of Darrell Jacobs Trucking out of Klamath Falls, Oregon, went looking for work for his logging company. The timber market was down, and logging was slow.
“I’m a pretty small outfit and, honestly, this area is awful tough for work,” says Darryl. One of the difficulties he finds is that many timber companies already have relationships with other outfits. “I mean, they got their certain people, and that’s that,” says Darrell. “I’m always kind of on the outside looking, scrambling. I just absolutely could not pick anything up.”
Fortunately, Darrell ended up connecting with ODF stewardship forester Jason Pettigrew and Leigh Ann Vradenburg from the Klamath Water Partnership.
Vradenburg is the coordinator of the Chiloquin Community Forest and Fire Project (CCFFP), which is a partnership effort between private landowners, federal and state agencies, and others.
The purpose of the project is to achieve fire resistance, fire response, forest health, wildlife habitat, and grazing objectives on private lands on a landscape-level scale, across boundaries with Fremont-Winema National Forest.
As of 2020, the partnership has acquired nearly $4 million in grant funds to complete forest treatments on private property to reduce the risk of wildfire.
Meeting Landowner Challenges Earns Award
ODF and CCFFP selected Darrell’s outfit to take on a contract to work in the Copperfield Draw area of Klamath county. As a result of his work on the project, ODF awarded Darrell Jacobs Trucking Inc. the prestigious 2020 Operator of the Year for Eastern Oregon.
In particular, the company was recognized for working with multiple small woodland owners on the forest health improvement and fuels reduction project.
ODF based the award on the company’s efforts to consistently apply best management practices to safeguard forest resources. According to the award, Darrell Jacobs Trucking “protected the wet and riparian areas, was thoughtful in the operational layout to protect soils, reduced smoke emissions through biomass utilization, enhanced mule deer habitat through forage manipulation, and went above and beyond to engage with landowners, respect their wishes, and keep them informed.”
The whole project covers 180,000 acres, of which 38,000 acres is private land. More than 60 percent is forested. The entire area is at high risk for wildland fire as identified in the Chiloquin Community and Klamath County Wildfire Protection Plans.
“One of the biggest challenges on this project is you’re basically working in someone’s yard,” says Darrell. “They might have 30, 40 acres, but that’s their yard. You go talk to them and discuss what you’re doing. We’re there to try and get everything pretty well lined out before we get going on the project. Jason Pettigrew and Leigh Ann had a lot of the really hard stuff, honestly, worked out on their end.”
Darrell found didn’t working around fences and powerlines challenging. “I was just trying to keep everyone happy.”
Trucking to Logging — an Evolution
It seems Darrell Jacobs was destined to be a logger. At an early age, he was introduced to heavy equipment, operating a Caterpillar and helping his dad work piling contracts. “I started at the age of 12,” says Darrell. “My dad had piling contracts, and I ran CAT all summer long. I’ve always been good with equipment. That was always my niche. A little bit of “mechanizing” and decent with equipment.”
After he graduated from high school in 1991, Darrell set out on his own when his parents bought him a truck — a 1969 A-Model Kenworth. In 1995 he bought a brand new Peterbilt, and in 2000, he started expanding his company. “I bought a new Kenworth and kept that Peterbilt because a high school buddy of mine wanted to start driving. I taught him to drive, and he went to work for me. And then we just kind of kept expanding from there.”
Darrell explained that in 2000, he had the opportunity to go ripping for a Denver company with a CAT for replanting. At that point, he bought a 7G CAT and went to work.
“I just kind of dabbled with that, and then in, what was it? ‘07... ‘08, something like that, when everything crashed, all the equipment was pretty cheap. I was talking to a sawmill, and they put me on. So I bought some equipment and went logging,” he said.
Darrell currently runs a fully mechanized operation and employs a crew of 10, which includes four truck drivers.
Reinvesting for Success
Darrell admits he doesn’t have a particular equipment philosophy but favors keeping his iron updated because less downtime means more uptime. “I’ve got some newer, pretty nice iron,” he said. “I invest a lot back into my equipment, just trying to keep updated because I’ve watched people run iron until it just dies.”
To date, Darrell fields a 2019 CAT 535D skidder, alongside a 2015 CAT 535D skidder. His 4040 Link-Belt processor is a 2017 model equipped with a 623 Waratah head. A Komatsu 450 and a 425D, paired with Quadco heads, handle the cutting. His shovels include a CAT 320 and a Link-Belt 240.
True to his roots, Darrell runs four trucks – one Peterbilt, three Kenworth. He says that there’s nothing wrong with Peterbilt, but after he bought the first one in 1995, “I just didn’t love it as much as I did the Kenworth.”
Equipment is only part of the picture. “I got really nice equipment, but I got fantastic guys. I mean, my core guys are just excellent. They’ve been with me for a long time. Gary Lightly, my main guy, has been with me since I started logging. I’ve got four truck drivers. I have two Timbco operators. I’ve got two skidder operators, and then I got Gary, a processor operator.” He also has another shovel operator.
Darrell says he and his crew do most of the maintenance work but farm out the big stuff. “We do what we can, which is a pretty good chunk of it. But then a friend of mine, Kevin Bennett, owner of Bennett Diesel Repair, does the rest. I got a shop and everything, so we do a lot of it, but like I say, he comes in for the big stuff.”
His equipment and his people contributed to his successful completion of the project that earned the ODF Eastern Oregon Operator of the Year award, but in the end, Darrell says, “The big goal is keeping all the landowners satisfied and happy.”
ON THE COVER
A photo of Darrell Jacobs Trucking's Caterpillar 320D in action.
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