A One-Man Band

by | Dec 18, 2023 | 2023, November/December, TimberWest Magazine

When a logger like Charlie Alexander insists on working alone, his equipment becomes both his best friend and his trusty crew. The newest addition to the company is an FAE model PT-300 tracked carrier with a mulcher attachment.

Alexander works at a power plant and does logging work in his free time. As an owner-operator and sole employee of CBA Logging, Alexander is a one-man band, doing what he loves, the way he wants to do it.

Alexander purchased the FAE PT-300 tracked mulcher earlier this year. He demonstrated the machine for FAE at the Pacific Logging Congress In-Woods show in September before taking delivery of the machine. Alexander uses the tracked mulcher to help manage his own sizable tree farm, do clean-up for other loggers and landowners, and perform maintenance work on rights-of-way and firebreaks.

Alexander, 53, born and raised in Chehalis, started working in the woods as a boy by helping his father, who logged part-time. The second-oldest of five boys, he can call his brothers to give him a hand if needed, although they work in other industries.

There’s a reason Alexander has kept his business small and works by himself. “As far as working alone, I’m not a very good coach, and I find it easier doing it all rather than telling someone else how to do it.”

A member of the Washington Tree Farm Program, most of his business comes from word-of-mouth referrals. “I’m known as the guy that’s a logger, brush mulcher, road builder and miscellaneous hazardous material mover. I love doing it.”

Charlie Alexander uses his FAE model PT-300 tracked carrier with a mulcher attachment to do clean-up work for other loggers and landowners and to perform maintenance work on rights-of-way and firebreaks.

Besides his new FAE PT-300 track mulcher Alexander has a Komatsu 300 HD shovel, a Clark 666 skidder, and a Dresser TD-15 bulldozer. He fells by hand, rents equipment or contracts for some logging tasks, and he hauls with his own trucks.

Chehalis, where Alexander lives and has his business, is a small city not quite 30 miles due south of Olympia, Washington. The region supports forests of Douglas fir, hemlock, alder, maple, and cedar in the foothills between southwest Washington’s Cascade and Coastal Mountain ranges. The terrain can be steep, the ground, soft. Alexander supplies logs to mills within about a 100-mile radius.

Alexander has bought equipment over the years from Cascade Trader in Chehalis. In fact, even his father did business with the equipment company. “They treat us pretty good,” said Alexander. “They’re family friends.”

Alexander invested in the FAE PT-300 tracked carrier and mulcher to replace another machine that burned up. “Between me and Rich Lennox, who owns Cascade Trader in Chehalis, we found FAE USA,” the U.S. business unit of FAE, which is based in Italy.

“When I found FAE’s dedicated track carrier, I saw that I could cover a lot of ground a lot better and a lot more quickly than I ever did before,” said Alexander. “It’s the best investment I’ve made.”

Alexander is interested in possibly adding some FAE attachments. For example, the company makes a tiller head that goes below the surface and mixes the mulch with the soil. Other FAE attachments can grind stumps and roots and also rocks. “I’m just waiting for my wallet to fill back up a little more to see which one I’m going to get next,” he said.

As a small contractor, Charlie Alexander rents equipment or subcontracts for some logging tasks; he hauls with his own trucks.

Mike Samples, the Northwest FAE USA representative, had previously had discussions with Alexander, who at the time was interested in an attachment for road-building work. “I’ve stayed in touch with him since,” said Samples, “so when it came time to replace his track mulcher, we took both he and Rich to Georgia to see FAE USA’s whole operation and let him try out the PT-300 in person.”

“We can teach someone how to operate the machine in an afternoon,” said Samples, “but there’s a separate learning curve for it to be productive. We’ve found the fastest and best operators are in Washington, California, and Alaska, and Charlie Alexander was one of them.”

The FAE PT-300 tracked carrier can be powered by Cat or Cummins engines ranging from 275 to 325 hp. The carrier, with oscillating undercarriage, can be paired with four types of hydraulic units: forestry mulchers, tillers, stump cutters, and dozer blades.

The hydraulic system provides excellent reliability and efficiency, and the spacious cab is designed for comfort, ergonomics, and operator safety. An integrated system featuring a network of sensors to monitor key operating parameters ensures optimum performance. Applications include forestry clean-up and maintenance, stump removal, fire mitigation and protection, right-of-way and roadside and railroad vegetation maintenance, wildlife habitat protection and food plots, creation and maintenance of trails, and more.

FAE is an Italian company that designs and manufactures attachments for tractors, excavators, skid steers, special vehicles, and tracked vehicles for forestry, agricultural, road construction applications. It also manufactures tracked carriers for forestry and agriculture. Attachments include forestry mulchers, tillers, stump cutters, and more. The company offers more than 90 products and 400 models.

FAE has four manufacturing facilities, six commercial branches, and a network of authorized dealers around the world. Its U.S. operations are based in Georgia.

(For more information about FAE and its products, visit www.fae-group.com.)

The FAE PT-300 track carrier and mulcher enables Alexander to leave a clean-looking job, but there are other benefits, too. “I see too many guys leave a job looking like a bomb went off,” said Alexander, “and I like to leave it like a red carpet was just laid down.”

“It’s more than making it look good, though,” he continued.” Grinding all that biomass and leaving it right there on the ground helps stabilize the soil, which is much better than burning it or hauling it off.” In addition, as the mulch decomposes it returns nutrients to the spoil, which aids in new growth.

With the track carrier, “I can do it in all kinds of wet, steep terrain,” added Alexander.

Alexander’s wife, Tiffany, does the books for the business. They have an adult son. The business is based in their home, and Alexander also has a shop on his property.

Alexander said he and his family like to ride motorcycles and ski in nearby White Pass.

“Chehalis is a tight knit community, and I have a lot of wonderful friends,” said Alexander. “I love this work and the machinery it takes to do it and have all my life. When I leave the house in the morning, I’m not headed for a job. I’m headed for a good day.”

Jan Jackson

Author

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