Feb 18, 2011 - 8 years ago
By Supply Post
An experienced “equipment guy” finds that light weight and a strong body are the right combination on and off the road.
With successful operations already running in excavation and logging, Jim Carey was in no hurry to add new chip trailers to the fleet for his growing biomass business. He took his time to decide where he could expect to get the best return on his latest investments.
“When we got into the chipping business four years ago, we bought reconditioned multi-axle trailers to get started. We had frames put on them but there was always some sort of issue. They had poor tires, bad brakes, the structure was poor – we had to weld on quite a bit of material!”
Over time, Carey spoke to several operators who run wood chip businesses in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He attended the logging conferences in the region each year, and always made a point of checking out the trailers on display. “A guy I know had some trailers just a couple of years old, but they looked like our old trailers. Then I see the Titan trailers coming up the road – I think they are 20 years old but they look like the day they were bought. I asked three or four Titan owners and they told me they just never have problems. The Titans just work!”
With his interest zeroing in on Titan, Carey contacted Dale Handrich, the owner of Handrich Trucking and a second-generation chip hauler in Mio, MI. As Carey recalls, “Dale bought out a company that had a bunch of trailers in the late ‘90s, and he got a few Titans in there and had added some. He’s just Titan’s biggest advocate. You can talk to lots of people and they’ll brag up their equipment even if what they had was junk. But Dale’s the kind of man that, if he told me something, I’d believe it. Since he got those first units, he slowly switched over his whole fleet to Titan.” Now, with a fleet of 6 chip vans and 7 trucks, Carey is on the same track.
From Logging to Trucking
J. Carey Logging and Excavation has been part of the Michigan logging business for about 30 years. Jim Carey started out working with slashers, feller-bunchers and chainsaws and eventually got into cut-to-length contracts in the 1990s. By expanding his equipment fleet, he developed the business into a full-service operation that offers everything from woodlot management to roadbuilding. Finally, the chip business presented itself as an opportunity for him to make better use of his equipment.
“We always had a harvester and a forwarder on the job and the forwarder was never busy enough. So we started picking up the wood waste and debris for some specific jobs, then a guy came and picked it up. He didn’t pay us for it but he removed it and we were able to buy the wood a little bit cheaper. Then there were more people that wanted that done and we provided more for this contractor and he started paying us a little bit for it.”
When a mill approached us for more of this material, we ended up buying a grinder; more skidders to skid it. We started buying chip trailers four years ago, open tops mostly as we expanded the operation to supply chips to the mill. That led to a contract to haul waste from an OSB plant into the mill haul fuel briquets out to the power plant.”
“A Completely Different Trailer”
Today, Carey has built up his operation to utilize his capacity. His new Titan trailers are a valuable part of his growth strategy. “These trailers go right into the woods, as far as the Michigan log trucks go, we go right in behind them and pick up the residue. If you follow one of the trailers out to the road, you see our FRP boxes and our other trailer tilting side to side - the whole thing is moving and you think parts are going to fall off it! But the Titans are just like a solid chunk of aluminum rolling down the road. That’s a completely different trailer.”
The Carey chip trucks average about 80 miles per haul. All of the trailers are fitted with moving floors, because his customers don’t have tippers on their site. When he converted three old trailers to moving floors, Carey took the advice of his Titan dealer, Jeff Root at Hudsonville Trailer. ”We talked to Jeff in the past about used trailers, then this deal came about and he was a very good guy to work with. So many people in business today just want to make a buck on you. These people at Hudsonville Trailer, they’re just good people. When they told us that Titan won’t put in anything but a KEITH® WALKING FLOOR® system, that was good enough for me.”
Investing in Biomass Futures
Now, Carey sees biofuel as his greatest growth prospect. With a pair of brand new Titan trailers in his fleet, Carey sees several ways that the investment is paying him back. According to Jeff Root, the Titan trailers will pay off in the long term by outlasting traditional equipment, with less downtime and lower maintenance costs. Hudsonville Trailer also helped to accelerate the return on investment by arranging terms for financing that were more favorable than Carey’s bank could offer. But Carey sees a bottom-line advantage in his Titan trailers every working day.
“We can carry a heavier load in the Titan’s because the trailer’s lighter – 5,000 lbs. more on average. Day after day that makes a big difference. Some of the other problems we’ve had with other trailers – frame rust, chassis rust, things like that -- we just won’t have with these Titans because of the aluminum structure.”
Carey notes that even small details in manufacturing and design turn into maintenance savings. “The lift axles have a chart right there to tell you how much weight to put on each axle to spread your load out. All the gauges are easy to read and the adjustments are easy to make. The quality of the trailer extends to even the wiring for the lift axles. A separate high quality cord is used in addition to the light cord to operate the lift axles. This is a much better set up than we have seen on any other trailer. It’s costs a little more, but then you’re done with it!”
The distinctive Titan trailers, with their end-to-end extruded aluminum panel construction, have been attracting attention everywhere Carey Logging goes. “People that know nothing about trailers say, ‘those are the nicest looking trailers we’ve seen.’ We get comments every day. Even the people we sell to. When they see our trailer coming in, they realize that we’ve made a commitment to their business.”
As the biomass and biofuel business grows, trucking is becoming a bigger part of Carey’s operation. Recently, Carey Logging received a letter of intent for another mill contract calling for 50,000 tons of biomass for its power plant. Carey has just commissioned a new Bandit 2680 grinder to produce the material, and he plans to upgrade an older grinder before long.
“My son Ryan will be taking over; he’s more of a truck & trailer guy where I was always more of an equipment guy. A year from now, I think this business is going to really expand. In the last year we have hired almost 10 people here. And we’ll probably need a couple more Titans.”