Cat® 501HD Harvester and Cat 574 Forwarder Allow Maine Logger to Keep It Simple, Strong

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Cut-to-length operation D.R. Pepper depends on harvester and forwarder from Caterpillar.

FAYETTE, Maine — It is best to never say ‘never,’ especially when considering good and future options. At one juncture, Dean Pepper, the owner of D. R. Pepper Wood Harvesting, determined he would never join the logging industry. But that was then, or some years prior to realizing he enjoyed the profession.

Dean’s older brother had become a logger. And Dean’s father had been in the logging industry for 35 years. “I’ve always been around it,” said Dean.

Yet eleven years ago, Dean decided to enter the industry as a business owner. “I started D. R. Pepper Wood Harvesting,” he said. “I have to give my father a lot of the credit to starting my own business. He helped me get started.” Dean’s father owned a 540B John Deere cable skidder that Dean started work on and made payments on to eventually own.

Before launching his own company, Dean had experience running heavy equipment. “I worked for a few other people,” he said. “I ran equipment for construction — excavation.”

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In the last several months, Dean has rethought and replaced. With an eye to doing more with less, he turned to Caterpillar for new machines.

Four months ago, he purchased a CatÒ 574 Forwarder to replace a smaller capacity forwarder that had 20,000 hours on it. “I was looking for a forwarder that was a little bigger in load capacity – and had more boom strength and speed,” he said.

Two months ago, Dean bought a Cat 501HD Harvester. The new harvester replaces two machines – a feller buncher and a dangle head harvester. “I wanted to replace the two machines to lower operating cost,” he explained. The costs being reduced included fuel, maintenance and employees.

“I also opted to go with the Cat 501HD with the fixed processing head so that I could have controlled felling,” said Dean. The head on the harvester is a model PF-48. (The Cat 501HD is also available with a telescoping boom for dangle heads. But Dean had determined he wanted to move away from a dangle head, which he had on a machine he replaced.)

The Cat harvester meets the expectations that Dean had for it. It has “simplicity, strength, delimbing power” and it is “easy to run.”

D. R. Pepper Wood Harvesting operates with two people. “I run the harvester,” said Dean. And Dean’s one employee, Justin Dube, runs the forwarder.

Like the Cat harvester, the Cat forwarder is also characterized by simplicity, said Dean. It also has great “stability.” The extra capacity the forwarder provides – bigger than that of the machine it replaced – provides a welcome boost.

With the Cat harvester, there is “very limited” need for a chain saw, said Dean. “I can cut up to a 20 to 22-inch diameter stem, so I don’t need one.” He does, however, have a Stihl. The Cat 501HD , with a fixed head, has a maximum reach of 23.25 feet.

Milton CAT has 13 locations throughout New England and New York. In purchasing his Cat harvester and Cat forwarder, Dean worked with Jared Clawson, a sales representative, as well as other members of the team at the company’s facility in Brewer, Maine.

D. R. Pepper Wood Harvesting is based in Fayette, Maine. Fayette is part of Kennebec County in south-central Maine. The county is one of the more populous divisions in the Pine Tree State with more than 115,000 residents.

Kennebec County also holds a poetic tie to the history of the nation. It is bordered on the east by Kennebec River. In 1607, European settlers near the mouth of the river used the abundant timber to build the Virginia, perhaps the first ship built and launched by new arrivals in the Northern Hemisphere.

Most of the jobs that Dean’s company does are within a 75-mile radius of Fayette. With its numerous small lakes (more than 1,500) and hilly terrain, Maine offers loggers the opportunity to prove the mettle of their equipment on plenty of sloping and unpredictable substrate. (Of the land area in the state, two-thirds is 800 feet or more above sea level.)

Features of the Cat 501HD that make it a nimble performer in any setting are especially suited to the tracts where Dean’s team works. The engine is in the rear. The cab not only is forward mounted, but it also has a front entry. To facilitate servicing, the cab tilts.

We will all remember for a long time the cold air pushed south by the polar vortexes in the early months of 2014. The Cat 501HD was ready for such a departure from normal. Dean explained that he used the pre-heater on the harvester, turning it on the night before. And the harvester “performed well” in the most remarkably cold weather.

As a standard feature, the Cat 501HD has a thermal bypass in the hydraulic cooler line. That bypass accelerates the rate at which components warm. It does so by diverting oil back to the tank – until the oil temperature reaches the level at which it requires cooling. The optional starting aid for cold weather heats engine antifreeze. It then circulates the heated antifreeze through the engine, hydraulic tank and cab to facilitate easy start-up of the harvester.

When Dean chose the Cat 501HD, he did so with a bit of firsthand knowledge of how it performed. “I had run one very similar to it,” he said.

With a 100-gallon fuel carrying capacity, the Cat 501HD can keep going 2 ½ to 3 days without refueling. That gives a significant boost to a lean logging operation, such as the two-person company that Dean owns.

The most challenging species that D. R. Pepper Wood Harvesting cuts is oak, said Dean. The stability of the Cat 501HD augments its strength when harvesting the biggest and heaviest trees. To enhance the steadiness of the harvester, as well as to ensure its durability, Caterpillar has tied the full length of the track frames to the car body.

The Cat 501HD Harvester and the Cat 574 Forwarder are proving a good fit for Dean’s business. “For the past four years, I have been working for Sappi Fine Paper in their stumpage program,” said Dean. “We are usually harvesting in a mixed stand of wood. Most of our production consists of hardwood pulp. Pulp wood goes to Sappi Fine Paper. Logs go out to various mills, including Irving Dixfield, Kennebec Lumber Solon, Pride Manufacturing Burnham.”

The Sappi Fine Paper North America’s (SFPNA) Sustainable Forestry Program is a sophisticated effort in Maine. It deploys forest professionals of every sort (from licensed foresters to wildlife biologists) to help landowners manage woodlots in a way that maximizes value, while being attentive to sustainability and aesthetics. The parameters that Sappi establishes for the loggers with which it contracts are exacting. The aim, after all, is to ensure the best results for the landowner, the long-term future of forests, and the company itself.

Meeting the Sappi expectations is just part of the day for Dean’s company. “D. R. Pepper Wood Harvesting is a small business that takes pride in what we do,” said Dean.

Generally, Dean’s company forwards lengths only to roadside points where they are picked up by a company doing the trucking. “I contract for the trucking,” said Dean. The trucking company he uses is Gordon Lumbering and Trucking.

The Cat 574 Forwarder has a maximum off road speed of 14.5 mph. Its payload is 32,000 lb.

With its many installations throughout New England, Milton CAT is able to provide a quick response to its customers. The team at Milton CAT understands the competitive and highly regulated nature of the environment in which loggers work. The dealer offers Cat equipment and also complementary machines.

Caterpillar Forest Products, headquartered in LaGrange, Ga. has a commitment to continuous improvement. Multifunction capabilities, reduced fuel consumption, and longevity are among the goals that the company engineers keep in mind as they refine machines.

Sustainability is another acute interest of Caterpillar. The opportunity to rebuild major components of the machine is one the company embraces. By building major structures and components that can be rebuilt, the company helps reduce waste (for society at large) and replacement costs (for owners).

Contributing to a steady-state and healthy environment also concerns Caterpillar. Its ACERT™ technology is in place to reduce engine emission at the point of combustion. The technology gets the job done with fewer moving parts, which translates into more cost savings.

Although Dean once thought he would never become part of the wood products industry, his change of heart has resulted in quite a satisfying alignment. He said that he “enjoys being in the woods every day – being able to work in different areas of the state.”

The trials of being a business owner are in themselves invigorating. “Every day there is a new challenge to face,” said Dean. That, too, is something he enjoys most of the time.

Time away from the business sees Dean relaxing, snowmobiling and spending time with his wife Katie and children Mason and Julianna.