Ironwood Heavy Highway and Terry Tree Service, LLC Focuses on Training and Safety While Emphasizing an Environmentally Friendly Approach to Customers

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Right-of-way clearing and storm damage cleanup get a big boost at Terry Tree Service LLC and Ironwood Heavy Highway LLC from a Tigercat LX822 feller buncher and a TimberPro 830B forwarder.

ROCHESTER, New York — Star power turns heads. Even so, John H. Schwelm, CTSP, the general manager and safety director at Ironwood Heavy Highway LLC and Terry Tree Service LLC, was not surprised by the interest their company’s Tigercat LX822 feller buncher attracted recently in Pa.
Ironwood Heavy Highway (IHH) had its Tigercat LX822 working a natural gas drilling site on the Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration project in north-central Pennsylvania, where hill tops are being cleared for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) water retention ponds. Surrounding contractors on the site were impressed, said John. The amount of work the feller buncher can do in such a short time attracted many onlookers – from a safe distance.
The speed and agility of the Tigercat were well-known to IHH, of course. IHH purchased the Tigercat LX822 from CJ Logging Equipment in Boonville, NY in August 2009 for a specific project for a state wide utility company. A 14-mile long power-line corridor had to be widened substantially on both sides, essentially 28 miles. The slope along the path was severe.
“It was so steep, you couldn’t even drive on the corridor and walking it was just plain tough,” said John. To gain traction and stability, other equipment had to follow the jagged benched road etched in the substrate by a dozer. But the Tigercat with its leveling capability and closed loop track drives took to the inclines with ease.
“This is a very substantial piece of equipment,” said John, referring to the Tigercat. The last thing anybody expected after the delivery of the machine was vandalism. Yet the machine was broken into. It was only a window on the door but the parts were quickly secured and replaced by CJ Logging Equipment with no down time for us.
Bill Bourgeois, sales representative for CJ Logging Equipment, has worked closely with IHH over the last several years. Most recently, he helped IHH get what he calls a “specialty machine, a TimberPro 830B forwarder with a roll-off system. The forwarder has a hydraulic lifting mechanism, which is manufactured by Stellar Industries and designed by John Lambert at TimberPro.
The roll-off system built into the TimberPro 830B will simplify the mat placement so integral to much of the work that IHH does. Timber mats, which are eight feet long by 14 feet or 16 feet wide are put down to protect the substrate and the environmental concerns from the equipment rolling over it. The mats are made from deciduous six-inch diameter timbers, largely oak. Each mat weighs approximately 1500 pounds.
IHH buys the mats from a vendor outside the Empire State. “We have 12,000 mats on the ground on one project alone as we speak,” said John.
The specially configured TimberPro forwarder will take on the job of moving mats, a job that John Deere 644D front-end loaders now accomplish. The loaders pick up the mats and put them on a truck, which moves them. On a long corridor, mat placement proceeds leap-frog style with the truck moving between the two ends of the matted corridor.
Mat placement is just one of the details that punctuate IHH’s commitment to the environment. On a three-year project for a power company in Maine, Terry Tree Service LLC had to shut down in summer when eagles were nesting and work in winter. And at the Marcellus Shale site, Terry Tree Service pushed root balls from felled trees along the sides of fracking ponds to create wildlife habitat.
John shares the IHH passion for a job done well and with a real awareness to flora and fauna. As Safety Director he takes a very keen interest in a safe work environment, ensuring that all employees (there are 50 at IHH) understand expectations and follow safety protocols.
Mike Richards, Division Manager for IHH, is a civil engineer with 30 years in the business. John credits Mike with expertise and equanimity that set the tone for everyone that works for the union company and its subsequent growth. Working together, Mike and John write the quality assurance plan, environmental plan and any other documentation required to respond to a request for proposals (RFP) from a utility or government entity.
Since so much of the work IHH does involves crossing sensitive wetlands, state or federal forests and the like, it is not just the group that issued the RFP looking critically at the IHH documentation, but also many different regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, USACOE, DEC, PUC and others.
Occasionally, IHH does merchandise the timber it fells. Usually, though, the final destination of the wood is prescribed in detail in the RFP. Clearing under a single power line might take IHH across the land of several owners – private and public, and each with a claim to some of the wood.
At its headquarters in Rochester, NY, the Terry Tree Service runs a grinding operation that produces a very fine product – a beautiful winter seasoned brown mulch. A Morbark 1350 tub grinder does the initial grind. Second and third grinds are done with a CBI horizontal grinder. For a small tipping fee, other companies in the municipal area can bring in wood waste. There are several surrounding municipalities that use the TTS yard as their own.
The mulch from IHH is so much in demand that in the spring ten 100-yard trucks leave each day with bulk deliveries. By the end of May, every bit of the year-old mulch ready for distribution in 2012 will be gone.
Wood products, such as mulch and the occasional merchandized wood, are secondary to the company’s endeavors. In the last year, TTS was a major player in both devastating EF5 tornadoes in Joplin, MO and Tuscaloosa, AL. The restoration efforts in the aftermath of storms are a natural fit. Hurricane Irene saw both IHH & TTS in Platzburg with utilities and the National Guard as well as New York City and Norfolk Virginia overseeing the debris cleanup contractors.
Whether IHH, a signatory with the local IBEW union 1246 is developing space for pipelines, wind turbines or electric generation – or many other civil or industrial infrastructure projects, its approach encompasses site restoration following the clearing or selective thinning required. Thomas Terry III is president of IHH & TTS. Tim Pope is the Chief Operating Officer.
“We pretty much have what we need if we wanted to log,” said John. “We have off-road Timberjacks and bucket skidders that elevate up to 70 feet. We have various Morbark chippers – the Morbark 3036 articulated [model], chips come out when driving down the road, and a 1300 tub grinder.” The big equipment roster at IHH also includes Prentice loaders, several brands of excavators and backhoes, dozers, lowboys and Sterling tractors.
Bill at CJ Logging Equipment explained that many of his customers are engaged in pursuits similar to those of IHH. So he is quite accustomed to working with clients that have primary focus on clearing or storm damage restoration.
Customers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Southern New York are among those Bill serves. “If they’re happy, I’m happy,” Bill said, citing the principle that guides him in each interaction.
A family-owned business in operation since 1981, CJ Logging Equipment has a solid track record of outfitting loggers with equipment from an extensive and robust array of manufacturers. Mark Bourgeois is its president.
From John’s perspective, the Tigercat LX822C is a good fit for IHH because it meets both safety and production expectations. That’s where everything begins (and ends), especially as it relates to his acute focus of good results achieved in a safe work environment. John is sure the TimberPro 830B forwarder with the hydraulic lifting mechanism from Stellar will also be a strong performer for IHH. And the forwarder will streamline mat placement in a way that reduces the number of pieces of equipment and operators required.
John emphasized, repeatedly, that he did not want this article to focus on him. The team at IHH “is just awesome,” he said. “I’ve never seen 50 men work as diligently as they do here.”
To a person, everyone at IHH takes safety seriously. Employees are trained well and follow procedures for personal safety and daily safety checks. All employees and managers at IHH are certified in Electrical Hazard Awareness Program (EHAP), first aid and CPR; all employees in Ironwood are enrolled in an ongoing utility line clearance training program.
The collegiality among IHH employees contributes to excellent results at all levels, explained John. At the top of the list are a job done safely and a job done right. “We’re very transparent. It’s a labor of love for the guys.”
Each employee begins his tenure at IHH with one-on-one safety orientation and training. There is the annual company safety refresher training also. There’s no way to overstate the importance of
safety training and strict adherence to safety standards, said John. A good safety record keeps the expectation modifier rate for workers’ compensation premiums as low as possible; and that’s a nice plus. It is what gets us on the radar for potential work.
John is a native of Glen Burnie, MD. He brings abundant work and life experience to IHH. “I’ve been in trees for about 21 years,” said John. Before beginning work with IHH some three years ago, he worked for a large international tree trimming company “trimming trees back from power lines.” He progressed through their ranks reaching Safety Director of their operations in Australia for several years. He knows a great deal about safety and the environment and trees; and he appreciates being able to combine his interests at IHH.
“What I like about what I do – being outdoors, ensuring the employees ‘get it’ when it comes to their personal safety, and doing things right the first time,” said John. In his free time, John restores MG cars.