Blogging Logging 8 – Distance and Hauling

In 2010 the dominant factor affecting profitability was fuel prices.  Loggers require fuel for the equipment that is used to harvest timber and for the trucks to deliver that timber to a mill. Diesel fuel prices doubled from 2003 to 2010 from $1.488 to $2.964 per gallon (US Energy Information Administration). All questions related to travel distances and fuel usage were new to the 2010 questionnaire.

One of those questions asked respondents to identify their average one-way travel distance from their business to the timber harvest site.  Most respondents (86%) traveled an average distance of less than 60 miles, with 40% traveling less than 30. This distribution varied by harvest system. A greater percentage of loggers using chainsaw-based and feller-buncher systems travelled average distances less than 30 miles from their business to the harvest site, while a greater percentage of those using cut-to-length and multiple systems travelled average distances of 30-60 miles.  More than 10% of mechanized logging businesses (i.e., all but the chainsaw-based systems) reported average travel distances of 60 to 90 miles.


As to their longest one-way travel distance, most were in the 30-90 mile range. However, chainsaw-based operations still remained close to home with 77% reporting longest one-way travel distances of less than 60 miles. Logging businesses with multiple harvest systems were more uniformly distributed in their responses for longest one-way travel distances.


In 2010, the median fuel usage was 5,900 gallons.  Logging business using cut-to-length and multiple harvest systems used the most, with median consumptions of 12,000 and 10,500 gallons, respectively.


Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Wisconsin logging business report that they subcontract secondary transport (i.e., getting products to mills). Thirty-one percent (31%) reported using their own trucks.  This is consistent with the higher number of subcontracted truck drivers than employed truck drivers by loggers in 2010 that was noted in week 6.  Contracted trucks were used for over 55% of harvest volume by loggers using any of the mechanized harvest systems. Those using chainsaw-based systems relied on contractors to transport 75% of their harvest volume.


Complete index for this series:


  1. Introduction
  2. Harvest systems & production volumes
  3. Profitability & production capacity
  4. Factors affecting profitability
  5. Business demographics
  6. Employees and contractors
  7. Capital investment
  8. Distance and hauling
  9. Certification
  10. Timber sales
  11. Source of timber supply
  12. Timber products and buyers
  13. Interest in biomass harvesting
  14. Survey methods and response
  15. Summary

Authors: Mark Rickenbach (UW-Madison/Extension) and Melinda Vokoun (UW-Stevens Point) [contact info at links]

The Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, which is now part of the Wisconsin Energy Institute, provided initial funding for 2011 logging sector survey. Additional support was provided through the Renewable Resources Extension Act and the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program, both of the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture. We appreciate the assistance of Tom Steele, Grace Maples, and Sarah Traver in helping bring this project to completion.




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