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Weighing in log by log

April 10, 2018
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Operating in the timber industry is not for the faint-hearted. GAVIN MYERS chats to T3 Timber and Transport and one of its suppliers, Loadtech, to find out how they approach the task.

Transportation within the timber industry is a highly specialised field that requires vehicles and equipment suited to the task. Large amounts of off-road and on-highway work is required – so trucks and trailers need to be suited to both environments, drivers need to be adept in all manner of scenarios and operators need to ensure they have all their bases covered in terms of legislation and industry-specific requirements.

It’s therefore unsurprising to learn that the local sector is dominated by a few key players, although there are numerous smaller companies that have risen to the challenge. One such company is T3 Timber and Transport. Owned by Morne Els, T3 operates within three areas; the first is long-haul, and the other two are within timber itself.

“We run timber in the lowveld area, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. We’ve got seven of our own trucks and 20 subcontractors,” Els explains.

The core of the company’s timber business is trading. “We buy timber from farmers and resell it to customers such as Sappi and Mondi,” Els explains.

The other facet is that of timber transport. The company moves the commodity for both large companies and private partners. (The long-haul division specialises in moving commodities, too, including cement, sugar and steel.)

T3 runs a fleet of UD trucks – it’s just added another two – and a lone Hino. They pull a combination of super links, flat decks and a single skeleton trailer (paired with the Hino). However, for Els, running suitable vehicles is only one piece of running a successful timber transport company.

“There are numerous aspects in all areas of the business that need to be considered when aiming for best practice in this industry. We need to have focused drivers and trucks that are good on the road. Safety must be put first, with timely maintenance. We need to achieve maximum payload per trip and cost per kilometre (CPK) must be as low as possible … to achieve maximum return the company needs to be run as economically as possible,” he says.

Running economically doesn’t mean running cheaply. On the contrary, it means investing in the right equipment to enable the company to do things properly.

Among the equipment fitted to the vehicles is the Loadtech Onboard Weighing system.

“This computerised weight-measuring system is fitted to the timber truck, allowing the driver to control the weight being added during the loading process. This ensures that the truck is loaded correctly the first time – every time.

“Once the truck has moved off the loading zone, it is unlikely to return for load adjustment, meaning that there is a small window of opportunity while the truck is being loaded to ensure that the load is correct,” explains Neels Botes, Onboard Weighing brand executive at Loadtech.

“This means that suppliers can be sure that the truck is not overloaded, (which would lead to penalties for the transporter), and that the mill receives the correct load,” he adds.

At T3 this is exactly the case.

“The Loadtech systems are fitted to our flat-deck trailers, and they help in numerous ways. First we can derive maximum payload from the rig, so, if the customer hasn’t got enough timber on site for a full load, we can still demand the full price

“The scales also help us stay within specifications of the National Road Traffic Act. We can ensure that each axle is loaded correctly and that the rig is not overloaded.

“As the system is an onboard scale, the driver can monitor the loading via a screen in the cab and then run a printout. He can see exactly what is loaded on each axle and the total weight of the truck,” Els says.

Naturally, the results go right down to the bottom line and using the system has even saved money for T3. Els notes: “If we have to weigh our trucks on weighbridges each time, to check they are within spec, it can get very expensive… We are charged an arm and a leg and can end up with quite a bill, per truck, each month. These are running costs we’ve been able to avoid.”

It’s clear, then, that investing in the right equipment can give any company a leg up in the competitive timber transport marketplace, which is being proved by the partnership between T3 Timber and Transport and Loadtech.

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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