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Operating in remote locations along the B.C. Coast, logger Doug Sladey requires rock-solid reliable equipment—and he is getting that reliability, and performance, from a fleet of Hitachi purpose-built Foresters.
Doug Sladey, President of B.C. logging operation Sladey Timber Ltd., is motivated.
“I’m a third-generation logger, with 40 years in the industry,” says Sladey. “Both my sons have told me they want to work in the family business. So I’ve got more reasons than ever to keep our own company healthy as well as participate in the various organizations dedicated to keeping the industry strong.”
And part of keeping the industry strong is having a long term vision. “When you think about it, we’re simply farming the trees—we just have a long growing season. The trees we are harvesting are on an 80-year rotation.”
The Sladey operation is based in Madeira Park, in the middle of British Columbia’s “Sunshine Coast,” a remarkable area of fjords, islands, inlets, and bays facing the Pacific Ocean, just north of Vancouver.
The equipment that is used on each Sladey Timber job is barged to each site, and a road is pioneered from the water’s edge to the targeted timber stands.
Diesel-powered boats ferry the crew to work each day, escorted by the occasional porpoise, whale, or eagle.
“Nearly all our jobs are remote and inaccessible by inland roads,” says Sladey. “Our crew is like family because we work, socialize, and enjoy each other’s company. We’re just good old local boys. Most have gone to school together and are friends for life. Our foreman has been with us for 38 years. We had our first retiree last year.
“Our local dedicated team is comprised of a mixture of age groups ranging from 25 to 65 years old. Not only are all of them versatile operators, they’re pretty good mechanics. They are responsible for changing oil, servicing the machine they’re operating, and changing their own hydraulic hoses if one should blow.”
Given the remoteness, Sladey’s requirements from a manufacturer for machine performance and reliability are at the top of the scale.
“Just imagine asking your dealer to send his mechanic and service truck to a harbor hours away from the branch so he can be loaded on a barge, pulled slowly to our landing with a tug, and, once on land, hopefully be able to maneuver on our temporary road—while making darn sure he packed all of the right parts. Well, first we’d be down for days, and second, it would cost a fortune.”
So it’s no surprise the company only owns brands proven to be equal to the job. They literally can’t afford not to.
“Excluding pickups, we have one or two each of a select few pieces of equipment on every cut block. A couple of Kenworths, a feller-buncher, an articulated truck for road building, and a fleet of Hitachi purpose-built Foresters.”
One Forester ZX350RB builds the roads, and then as the harvest nears completion, removes most of them as specified by the project plan. A ZX350F is equipped with a Waratah 624 processing head for classifying and cutting the logs to mill specs.
Their newest Forester ZX370F-3, just delivered this season, features single-grouser tracks and next-size larger undercarriage and swing-control motors. These features are a must for aggressive shovel logging, which is the West Coast’s answer to lower-cost movement of logs out of the forest rather than yarding or helicoptering.
Appropriate (and legal) for moving logs on slopes up to 40 per cent grades, a hoe-chucking operation means Sladey’s Forester has to travel up grade, travelling over wet logs, mud, and rocks to where the tree was felled. It then picks the log up and rotates it in the air from front to back, again and again—typically up to four times—and then stacks it along the haul road.
Another Forester cuts the logs to the correct length. The timber is loaded on a truck and taken to the water’s edge, where it is rolled in with a splash to form floating rafts. There is no more demanding effort put on a hydraulic excavator-type machine than shovel logging.
“We harped and harped for years to all the manufacturers for a machine designed by a logger, built for a logger, and equipped to tackle the demands shovel logging puts on it,” says Sladey. “My feeling is that with the newest Hitachi Forester, we’re finally—or at least almost—there. We’ve got the extra windows for better visibility and the dual swing motors for power. We’ve got a larger undercarriage so there’s real power to the tracks and it doesn’t bog down. The booms are purpose-built and tough. The screening on the engine is really good. It filters out all the needles, moss, and dust so there’s less risk of fire or overheating. Windows in the cab actually open—which is big because they used to be sealed.
“Hitachi was already making a very reliable machine,” adds Sladey. “Twenty-thousand hours on one is nothing. And, we’ve been sold on the Isuzu engine for years. It’s reliable and gets better fuel economy for the production than any logging machine we have experienced.”
And when it comes to support, Sladey is pleased there, too. “Ralph Currie, our sales representative for the Hitachi dealer, Wajax Equipment, has been great. I call him a personal friend because of the classy way he treats us. No hard sell—he simply makes sure we have the product we need when we need it, the options we require, and a competitive price. After the sale, the dealership gets us parts in a timely manner, and follows up to make sure our Hitachi machines are in good working order.
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