May and June 2006
 

 

 

New Era for Logyards

Teevin Brothers Facilitates Cost-Efficient Transport

By Bob Bruce

Over the years, many older mills located close to state and national forestlands have been faced with the difficult decision - upgrade existing facilities, relocate near available timber, or shut down.

Teeven Brothers sends rail cars primarily to southern Oregon mills. A single 70-ton rail car holds the equivalent of between three and four log trucks.

Particularly for mills in southern Oregon, where the supply of federal timber has been significantly reduced in recent decades, maintaining a sufficient supply of raw materials has sometimes meant having to look to sources hundreds of miles away from the mill site — typically from northern Oregon and southwestern Washington. The problem with that solution is that it greatly increases the cost of getting the timber from the brush to the mill.

Aside from the financial impacts of increased labor costs, fuel costs, and equipment maintenance costs, there are the less tangible but equally damaging costs and impacts of increased truck traffic on the increasingly congested I-5 corridor. Safety issues arise for both log truck drivers and other drivers with more log trucks traveling longer distances.

So congested is I-5 in fact, that the State of Oregon through its Transportation and Growth Management Program, has set aside grant money to encourage private companies and municipalities to explore alternative methods to move materials and products around the state without having to rely exclusively on the freeway/road system.

One possible solution to the problem is to establish a network of intermodal transfer yards. At these yards goods and material can be brought in on a short-haul transport (like a truck); offloaded, sorted, re-grouped, loaded onto a less expensive and non-highway related transport (like railway or barges); transported the bulk of the distance via the more cost-effective and less environmentally- impacting method; then at a receiving transfer yard redistributed to a short-haul transport for delivery to the final destination.

Because railroads deal in volume and consistency, Teeven Brothers can negotiate pricing and scheduling.

Back in 1999, in a move that probably surprised a lot of people at the time, Teevin Bros. Land & Timber Co. recognized the same needs and opportunities— considerably in advance of the curve, you might say — and established its own log sorting, transfer, storage, and intermodal transport yard on the banks of the Columbia River in Rainier, Ore., across the river from the large Weyerhaeuser ocean terminal.

For many years the land had been the site of a Crown Zellerbach pulp and paper saw mill. As Zellerbach consolidated and sold off various properties, the mill was dismantled leaving a large empty space. The subsequent Mount St. Helens eruption washed prodigious amounts of rock and silt down the Columbia, lowering the river depth at the location from 40 feet deep to just around 6 feet deep.

When the Army Corps of Engineers came in to clear out a channel, they used hydraulic lifts to open the Columbia back up again, and in doing so deposited a few million tons of dredge spoils right up alongside the old Zellerbach site, significantly enlarging the space and building the beginnings of a usable barge dock. At that point, the Menasha Corp took over the site and began using it as a storage and sorting yard for their own timber.

Not long after however, Menasha also went through a restructuring and divestment phase. That's when Teevin stepped in and took over the property.

Operations took off relatively quickly. In less than six years, annual log handling volume in and out of the yard has reached in the neighborhood of 100 million board feet. Efficiency and safety are both top concerns at the yard, and with a relatively small yard crew they routinely offload and sort 100 log truckloads per day. Many days that volume doubles to around 200 loads, and there have been times when up to 240 loads have been cleared in a single day — with a slightly longer work day, to be sure, but with the same crew in the driver's seat.

In 1999, Teeven Brothers established a log sorting, transfer, storage and intermodal transport yard in Rainier, Oregon.

They run three LeTourneau log stackers, two Cat 320 log loaders, a Cat 325L and a Cat 325C log loader, a Cat 330B log loader, a Kobelco log loader, a Cat 966F front end machine, and a Cat 980C front end machine. Miscellaneous support equipment includes a grader, sweeper, roller, and forklift, among others.

According to Cheryl Konop, Operational Resources Manager for Teevin Bros., one of the big advantages to both Teevin and their customers in having a separate material handling and forwarding facility is that where its not unusual for inventory volumes and workloads to fluctuate at the individual mills — thus potentially idling the yard crew for indeterminate stretches of time — the Teevin yard sees a fairly constant workload.

If for example shipments to one mill scale back for a time, that slack will generally be picked up by some other customer. More than anything, that is what lets Teevin keep quality workers on the payroll and thus maintain high levels of ongoing productivity and yard safety.

One of the main features of the Teevin yard is the 1,300-foot rail spur that runs along about half of one end of the inland edge of the yard. The company is just completing an additional 1,000 feet of spur, nearly doubling their capacity.

The numbers are impressive: A single 70-ton rail car holds the equivalent of between three and four log trucks. The current 1,300-foot spur can park about 22 rail cars for loading. Running one shift a day, loading and sending out rail cars to mills in southern Oregon (their primary market currently), that amounts to about 8,800 rail cars per year — or about 30,800 fewer log trucks driving down I-5.

Most of the rail transport is handled by regional short line railroads such as the Portland & Western that take timber south as far as Roseburg and places in between. The company has also shipped via rail to mills outside of Oregon — all that's required is to hook up with the appropriate Union Pacific or Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotive.

Beauty bark is being loaded at Teevin Terminal, in Rainier for delivery to Teevin Terminal, Stockton, CA. River transport is even more economical than rail car — one barge can hold as much as 120 rail cars.

Sounds simple, but Konop points out that when it comes to working with the major rail lines, bigger is not only better, it's almost a requirement. A mill looking to occasionally ship just a few rail cars of logs on its own might find the price to be much higher in the end than staying with good old log trucks. The railroads like to deal in volume and consistency, which is where an intermodal shipper such as Teevin has the advantage in negotiating pricing and scheduling.

River transportation is even less expensive and more efficient. In fact, it is so efficient that so far Teevin has only been able to use barge transport for incoming timber. Here's the reason: A single barge holds enough timber to replace 120 rail cars (or close to 400 log trucks). Not many mills need that
much timber all at once. However, ocean-going barges can also load and unload at the Teevin yard, and the company recently loaded 21,000 cubic yards of bark dust headed for Southern California.

Reinforcing the dredge spoils along the Columbia with a steel retaining wall, putting in mooring dolphins, and paving the surface cost the company close to $3.5 million, but the expectation is that as fuel costs continue to rise, and highway congestion becomes even more of an issue for consumers and businesses alike, transportation hubs such as the Teevin Bros. Rainier intermodal transfer yard will become increasingly important.

Having a separate material handling and forwarding facility allows Teevin Brothers to maintain fairly constant workload and employees are rarely idle.

 

The company uses a variety of equipment, including LeTourneau log stackers and Cat and Kobelco log loaders.

 

TW

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This page was last updated on Friday, October 20, 2006