High Fuel Prices Squeeze Out Loggers, Says Council

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Skyrocketing, record-breaking diesel fuel prices are forcing some logging and trucking operations to shut down. More shutdowns will follow, predicted the American Loggers Council.

Fuel was once 25 percent of the cost of operating a truck. Now it is up to 60 percent and more, according to the ALC. “When it costs $1,118 to fill up a logging truck, plus the other expenses to operate, there is not a profit at the end of the day,” the organization said in a statement.

Unlike most industries, the logging industry cannot pass on increased costs caused by fuel and inflation. Mills disregard requests for a fuel adjustment. Many mills have provided partial fuel adjustments, according to the ALC, “but not to the degree necessary to offset the additional expense.”

As a result, logging companies in Maine and Michigan have “parked” their equipment because they cannot afford to operate under the current price structure, and mills reportedly are nearly out of wood.

“Got down to three truck drivers out of seven trucks. Was fairly close to the mill, now they want me to move 70 miles from home and haul to two different mills that the truck drivers had to wait three hours minimum to get unloaded,” said Tim Rodrigues of Rodrigues & Sons Logging in Texas. “So, I just carried my stuff home. I’ve sold most of it. No need to lose what little money I have.”

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“There are a lot of things hurting the logging industry,” said Rebecca Pipkin of Mark Pipkin Logging in Arkansas. “Insurance, parts, fuel, and equipment have increased to the point that you can’t make any profit. We had logged for over 20 years but can’t continue to lose money in this industry. We are no longer logging due to everything going up but our pay.”

After a period of major forest products companies posting record profits, it is an “insult to injury” for loggers and truckers to be losing money while supplying many of these mills, said the ALC. “It is like rubbing salt in a wound. Particularly when much of the forest products industry touts sustainability and business practices based on certifying criteria.”

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) references responsible fiber sourcing to include economically responsible use and an emphasis on sustainable supply chains, noted the ALC. “The current procurement practices of many SFI certified mills are neither economically responsible nor sustainable supply chain practices from the loggers and truckers’ perspective.”

In publicly announcing his decision to shut down his logging business after 40 years, Bobby Goodson asked: “We are the people that hold up a $300 billion dollar industry. Why are we having to fight tooth and nail for every nickel we get?”

“This is the worst time I’ve seen in my 45 years around the industry. It’s probably going to get worse before it begins to look just a little better,” said Crad Jaynes, executive director, South Carolina Timber Producers Association.

“Unfortunately, the response from many forest products mills, Congress, and the White House/Administration have been minimal at best. Without action – any action – the consequences are going to be more logging and trucking companies shutting down, wood products will be more expensive, and scarce, and forest management will not meet best management practice standards required to ensure healthy U.S. forests.”