One of a series of articles on the future of the B.C. forest industry. You can find the series on Facebook or Twitter by searching for the hashtag #BCForestFuture or at the links below.
Times are tough for the forest industry in northern and central B.C., and every efficiency loggers and mill operators can find makes a difference.
With timber stands heavily damaged by the mountain pine beetle across the region, companies have to haul longer distances than ever, and new technology offers ways to increase productivity and reduce costs.
One of those new technologies seems deceptively simple. It's adding more axles to a log-hauling truck and trailer, to increase payload beyond the six, seven and eight-axle trucks currently in use.
That's a project of FPInnovations, the industry-government research and development group with operations in B.C. and across Canada. And getting approval from the B.C. transportation ministry to use nine-axle trucks has been "a big gain," said Doug Bennett, research manager for transportation and infrastructure at FPInnovations.
The first trucks are hauling on Highway 16 and Highway 27 to Canfor's mill in Vanderhoof. Truck components are being manufactured at Freflyt in Vanderhoof.
Bennett said the additional payload for each trip translates to a saving of 14 to 15 per cent, or $3 to $4 per cubic metre of wood. If longer trucks were used across the province, the estimated saving to industry is about $30 million a year.
Canfor's Stephen Mackie said the larger loads also help the company deal with a shortage of truck drivers. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions are an other attraction, in an industry leading the way toward lower-carbon construction and biofuels.
"For the nine-axle log truck it's about eight per cent reduction in GHGs," Bennett said. "The chip van we're working on is a 10-axle unit, and that's got an 18 per cent reduction in GHGs."
The high-capacity chip van is designed to increase the load from 63,000 to 79,000 kg. Mercer International is partnering with FPInnovations on the project for its Celgar pulp mill in Castlegar.