Hard-Working Liebherr A902 Loader Proves Good Fit for Turner Hargrove’s Diverse Logging Operations
SILER CITY, North Carolina — Turner Hargrove is the third generation of his family to make a living in the forest products industry, so he has seen all of the ups and downs the industry has to offer.
Like many old-time family businesses that have managed not only to survive but to prosper in the forest products industry, Turner has learned that there are two keys to longevity. Companies must be willing to be flexible in the face of change, and they must be dedicated to doing a good job when customers entrust them to harvest timber from their land.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into getting the equipment we need to do almost any kind of harvest we might be asked to accomplish,” Turner said. “And when we leave a harvest, we want to feel we’ve done the best job possible for the landowner. That’s important in keeping a good reputation through the years.”
Turner came to the forest products industry through the sawmill business. His grandfather began sawmilling in the late 1930s and was eventually joined by Turner’s father, who operated a sawmill into the late 1980s. Turner worked in his father’s sawmill until the early 1980s, when he saw opportunity in logging and started his own company, Turner Hargrove Wood Products. At first Turner concentrated only on logging. After a few years, however, he expanded into chipping.
Turner Hargrove Wood Products is based in Siler City, which is located roughly 50 miles west of Raleigh in North Carolina’s Piedmont region.
Turner’s company has the flexibility to tackle a wide range of timber cutting jobs. The company will take on clear-cuts to thinning, removing trees for residential development or a new golf course, selective cuts. The jobs vary according to the requirements of the landowners or customers.
“No two pieces of land are alike,” said Turner, “and no two customers have the same needs. So we have to be ready and able to do what needs to be done on each job.” Turner buys his own timber and has been known in the region for decades, so he is called on for logging small patches as well as large-scale jobs.
Although thinning has not been a strong focus in the past, it is rapidly becoming so. “We’re doing more plantations recently because there’s a lot of pine coming of age to be thinned in our area.”
Because of his proximity to North Carolina’s growing population centers, Turner is finding increased opportunities for harvesting operations in order to clear land for development. At the same time, there is a growing trend toward selective logging because of increasing pressure by public policy makers against clear-cut logging and because of the special nature of some forests.
Just 30 miles or so from Siler City are extensive forests of long leaf pine that grow in the region’s sand hills. The sand hills are drier in the winter, so Turner sometimes schedules selective cuts in the region during months when weather can be a problem closer to home. The work typically consists of removing hardwoods in order to improve the pine forests.
Another type of work that has proven to provide significant opportunity is re-logging areas that were poorly harvested in the past — even the recent past. “We do a lot of areas that were done only a few years ago,” said Turner. “We go in and get the weed trees out so that a better forest can grow.”
Turner Hargrove Wood Products produces from 250 to 300 tons of wood per day or about 10 to 15 loads. The mix varies based on the kind of harvest. On some jobs the company may take out 10 loads of logs and two loads of chips a day. On sites that have been previously — albeit poorly — logged, most of the material may tend to be low-grade, and the numbers may be reversed.
Turner keeps his company equipped with a wide range of machines in order to have the flexibility of performing a mix of work and producing wood at the volume the company needs to remain profitable. When he invests in a machine, he buys what he believes is the best equipment for a particular purpose. His approach has paid off in machine performance and durability, according to Turner.
For example, Turner recently added a Liebherr A902 truck-mounted knuckleboom loader and began working it in his harvests. The Liebherr A902 loader is one of the hardest working pieces of equipment in the company’s logging operations. It is used to merchandise timber skidded to the landing, for delimbing trees prior to chipping on the landing, and for loading trucks. To handle these tasks the loader must be both fast and extremely durable, noted Turner.
He got his first look at a Liebherr loader in action at a previous Atlanta Expo. “I had a good piece of equipment already operating,” he said, “but this machine looked like it could fit into my operation even better. I decided to look it and see if it was as good as it looked like it could be.”
Turner later contacted Liebherr’s factory. “They came down here and looked at my operation,” he said. Liebherr had never really equipped one of its loaders for logging in the South, where many contractors rely on loaders for pull-through delimbing with a buck saw for cutting to length and topping. Once set up for his operation, however, Turner found the Liebherr to be everything he had expected.
Because of the many demands on a loader in Turner’s operations, the machine must be able to withstand long hours of heavy use, which means heavy-duty hydraulics as well as sturdy mechanics. “It’s a real strong loader, and it’s equipped with excavator hydraulics,” said Turner. “It seems to be just what we needed and appears as though it will be a machine that will last and work effectively for years.”
Turner’s approach to equipment — picking what he believes to be the best machine for a particular function — led him to Tigercat for cutting. Most of the company’s cutting is done by a Tigercat 724 D feller-buncher. A second harvester, one that has already clocked more than 4,000 hours, has been outfitted especially for thinning and is available as a back-up machine.
Turner’s son, Turner Hargrove Jr., does almost all the cutting on the harvesting machines and has become very proficient both in production and job quality.
Turner chose the Tigercat machine because he found that it worked well in both large and small timber. “Our old head didn’t have the accumulation capacity in small timber that the Tigercat gives us,” he said. The ability of the Tigercat to perform well in both kinds of forests is important because Turner Hargrove works in so many different kinds of forest conditions.
The Liebherr A902 loader works in conjunction with a CTR Model 400 pull-through delimber and a CTR Model 42-IP buck saw.
Once pulp trees are delimbed, a Trelan flail debarker and chipper finishes processing the wood into chips. “I’ve used Trelan’s equipment for years,” said Turner. “I’ve always thought they make the best machines on the market for my uses, and that’s proved out in actual operation. I’ve always been pleased with their equipment and the service they give me.”
The company uses John Deere wheeled skidders and a Cat track skidder/dozer for skidding and other tasks required in road building and landing maintenance.
Quality equipment is important to Turner because different jobs present various challenges — challenges that can be overcome with the right machines. “You’ve got to have equipment that can reliably give you high production over an extended time with minimal repair costs if you want to make it today,” said Turner. “If you go out and buy something just because it costs less than a better machine, you are likely to pay for it many times over later.” At the same time, machinery requires considerable capital investment, and loggers are not necessarily getting proportionate price increases from mills, he noted.
Plantation thinning and harvesting will become an increasingly important part of his business, Turner predicted, as will removing timber for development projects.
Despite the challenges of more limited fiber supplies, suppressed prices, competition, and other factors squeezing the logger, Turner is confident about the future. The future will continue to bring change, but he will be prepared to adapt and equipped for new challenges.