(Photo Port McNeil, B. C. Canada Aug. 1973)
When people ask what I do and I tell them that I drive truck they say, "Oh, those big highway rigs?" And I reply, "Yes and no."
By that I mean that `yes' I drive highway rigs, eighteen to thirty-two wheelers but `no' I don't consider them big.
Big trucks to me are the two hundred ton, tandem axel, ore buggies that you find in the mines. Not that I have driven them but I have driven the next size down.
The one hundred twenty ton, single axel ore buggies. Unit Rigs by Electra Haul. The one hundred twenty tons is the payload. Empty they weigh ninety tons and loaded they gross two hundred ten tons.
The tires stand over nine feet tall. The main engine is a V twelve GMC diesel which runs a generator and the main drive motors are electric. There is no transmission, the huge electric motors, one for each wheel, react directly to the pressure of the drivers foot on the (gas) pedal.
The foot pedals are fourteen feet above the ground and the driver gains access by a ladder on the front of the truck.
Beside the driver's cab is a huge grid, much like the heat sink on a computer component. When the truck is slowing down the motors become generators. The electricity generated passes through the grid and is dissipated as heat. On a rainy night the grid is a field of lightning as the electricity arcs back and forth between the grid plates.
One Halloween we stole one of the trucks as a prank. We backed it up to a ledge and drove a D 9 Caterpillar bulldozer into the back. It slid down the sloping metal floor and was completely out of view from the outside.
The box holds sixty cubic yards and is generally filled with four scoops of rock, or dirt, with a huge electric shovel using a sixteen yard bucket.
We took the truck out of the open pit and along a service road. With a pickup leading the way, to watch for traffic, we followed some back roads into the hills. Far out in the forest, on an old logging road which hadn't been used for some time, we parked it and drained the air from the reservoir.
Unlike most vehicles that have an electric starter these behemoths use air to turn the starter.
It was nearly two weeks later when the company was apprised, they had never noticed it was gone, of its location, by a logging company, and proceeded to return it to the mine. After a short inspection at the shop it was placed back into service.
When the loader operator started to fill the truck he noticed the bulldozer in the back and radioed a foreman. Had he not noticed it before he loaded it he probably would have wondered why he could fill the truck with only two or three scoops. If he still hadn't noticed, the bulldozer probably would have been dumped along the edge of the ocean.
Trucks were not allowed within thirty feet of the waters edge. D 9's would then push the dumped waste into the water. Imagine the surprise of the cat operator if he found himself pushing another cat.
In the interior of B. C. an off highway logging truck is just a highway tractor with an extra wide bunk. On the coast the whole truck is bigger, wider, thicker frame, larger tires.
After I left employment at the mine, not because of the Halloween prank, I drove off highway gravel trucks. These are similar to the trucks you see on the highway but they are much bigger.
The one I was driving was a 1952 Hayes HDX. It had a two hundred horsepower Cummins motor with two Spicer transmissions. A four speed main and a four speed auxiliary.
In the day time we built roads for Rayonier.
At the end of the day we would go to the South end of Nimpkish Lake, to an old mine site.
We would take the tailings from the mine to Port McNeil where M & B was building a dry sort.
They used the tailings to surface the area before they paved it.
My experience driving the gravel truck led to my job driving off highway logging trucks. The truck was identical except that it had a water tank, a trailer, and a log bunk, instead of a gravel box. The log bunks were twelve feet wide.
As well, I sometimes drove a 1951 Pacific with a V 8, 318 Horsepower, GMC motor.
Top speed in these trucks was forty-four miles per hour.
Empty, the trucks weighed thirty-five tons and could not go on the highway with the trailer up on the back of the truck. The trailer had to be down and the bunks had to be twisted lengthwise. It still needed an over width permit.
These were the smallest trucks the company had. Most of the newer trucks were wider Kenworths, with V twelve GMC motors and fourteen foot bunks. They had eight speed Clark automatic transmissions and weighed seventy-five tons empty.
I don't know the weight of the largest load I hauled. I didn't generally concern myself with the weights of my loads. I do recall one that weighed eighty-nine tons.
When I talk about large loads they are virtually unimaginable to someone who hasn't seen them. Even pictures don't really do them justice and unfortunately I took very few pictures.
I do have a picture of a stamper on top of one load. The top logs, those above the cab of the truck, were much longer than the rest of the load and stuck out past the cab in the front and far out over the back. I'm not sure how he got up there or how he got down but the man looks pretty small up there. I had to stand a long way back to get the entire load in the picture and the truck looks pretty small too.
The picture shows the man walking on top of the load and it looks like he is stamping his foot. I show this picture to people and they ask why he has to stamp on the logs. I tell them the load is too high and he has to get the logs to settle down so the load will fit under the A frame.
When logs come out of the bush they have to be identified as to who cut them. The stampers job is to put a mark on the ends of the logs with a branding hammer. The hammer has raised figures and when it is used to stamp the end of a log the figures are driven into the wood for a depth of several inches and looks similar to the brand on a cow.
Climbing up the end of a load was not only dangerous it was unproductive as the stamper could not reach the ends of all logs. When the company began losing logs they decided to dump the logs first and then the stamper could reach the end of every log.
In those days there was a program on TV called Beach Combers and one of the main characters, named Relic, had a jet powered, concrete hulled, boat that he used for pulling logs off of beaches.
There was, in our area, a beach comber who had an identical boat. He would scour the shores for drift logs that were of marketable value and sell them to our company.
After we changed stamping methods and only logs with broken ends were being left without brands the beach comber seemed to be bring us fewer logs, and they all seemed to have broken ends.
Later his salvage operations picked up and the logs he was selling us seemed to have freshly cut ends. Fishermen reported ends of logs with stamp marks on them floating about the inlet.
Shortly after this the beach comber's boat exploded when he tried to start it. They say he had forgotten to purge the fumes from the motor compartment before starting the motor.
When the stamper had stamped the logs while they were on the truck we put bundle straps around the load of logs and when they were dumped in the ocean they went as bundles but when the stamper was running the booms, walking on the logs while they floated, we didn't bundle them so that he could reach each log.
he company reverted to bundling the logs and we had to put steel cable straps around the loads after we drove under the A Frame. Then we would put even bigger steel cables under the load.
This second pair of cables was connected to a spreader bar that was suspended from the A frame. When the driver and the landing man stepped back out of the way the spreader bar would be lifted by the A frame.
A scale built into the system would weigh the load as it was swung out over the water. The lack of weight on the cables as the logs entered the water would release the catches. The bundle would then be pushed into a boom with a dozer boat or sidewinder.
I have a picture of the landing man connecting the lifting cables. He is completely dwarfed by the huge load above him. Some loads were so huge that the A frame could barely lift them. One of the reasons the company went back to bundling was because some of the bigger logs that came from the swamp were so waterlogged that they would sink in the ocean and be lost. By bundling the load the dryer logs kept the wet logs from sinking.
At the end of the lake was a huge area of swamp where Spruce trees grew to an enormous size. The fellers would have to cut the trees into logs that were only half as long as normal. Even then some of the logs were so heavy the tower (spar tree) could not drag them into the landing. The fellers would have to drill holes in them and split the logs with dynamite.
One sunny day four of us drivers lay on a stump, our arms and legs outspread, not touching each other. We were sorry afterwards that we had done this because our clothes were all covered with sticky sap. The stump was still fresh.
The weight of the top logs would squeeze the watery sap out of the lower logs. If the top part of the load was long the sap would run down on the windshield.
To move the really big logs the loader would cradle them. This was done by loading the truck until it was almost full on the sides, leaving a hollow in the center of the load. A large diameter log would be put in this hollow, the log sticking high into the air and far out past the sides of the truck.
Sometimes they would cradle logs that were so large the loader couldn't lift them. They would use the tower to lift the log by one end and the truck would have to back in under it as the tower slowly lowered into the cradle.
Once one of them was so heavy that when the tower had one end lifted it sat on the other end. It was too heavy for the tower to lift and as towers don't turn it couldn't tip it. The loader had to move in and tip it over. Then they got the fellers to drill it and blast it.
I would drive very slowly with these loads as they were very top heavy. I never got a picture of one of these loads.
Another time they were cherry picking right of way. When moving into a new area the road crew fall trees in the right of way and bulldozers push them out of the way. After the road is built trucks back up with a loader moving behind them and `cherry pick' the logs lying along side the road. For this they use a loader with an extended boom so he can cast his grapple further.
I was driving the Hayes with twelve foot bunks and a trailer that wouldn't shorten up. They had one log that was a little longer than the others so they wanted to put it on me. It was so heavy that two loaders couldn't lift it.
Finally the heel boom that was cherry picking lifted my trailer and set it in the ditch. Then we dropped one of my front stakes and with the front end loader pushing and the heel boom lifting and dragging they got the small end of the log onto my tractor by sliding it up the stake. We then lifted and latched the stake into place. The top end of the log was exactly twelve feet, minus the thickness of the two stakes, across.
The loader put my trailer back behind my truck and we again dropped a stake. Repeating the performance of pushing and pulling, the butt end of the log was dragged onto the stake which caused the trailer to overturn. By continuing to push and pull the log centered into the trailer and the trailer righted itself. The stake was then lifted but we were unable to latch it as the butt of the tree was over twelve feet. We chained the stake and log onto the trailer.
As this tree came from the back end of the swamp it was so water logged that when it was lifted off my trailer at the beach, and dropped into the ocean, it sank out of sight and was never seen again.
Logging trucks are built with a reach or pole that runs between the back of the tractor and the trailer. Inside the reach is a compensator or smaller pole which slides in and out of the reach as the truck goes around corners.
On the truck I was driving the compensator worked inside the primary reach, a short reach built into the back of the tractor.
When the truck was empty the trailer would be loaded onto the back of the truck. The reach would sit over top of the cab in a saddle on top of the bull board. The bull board on these trucks was in actuality a large partitioned tank. The smaller partition held fuel and the larger section contained water.
A piece of cable ran from the tank around the reach to keep it from bouncing up while we bounced along the rough roads. On the steep hills we were climbing, if it was to bounce too much, the trailer could flip off the back of the truck.
A duck board was built perpendicular to the bull board, extending over the cab of the truck. This is to protect the cab from falling debris and is called a duck board because in the old days the truck driver would stand there to tell the loader operator where to put the logs. Often he would have to duck to avoid a wide swinging log.
One of my first jobs in the bush was as a landing man. In those days the scaler would stand beside the driver on the duck board and, reaching out with his stick, measure the ends of the logs. He would then guess the length, and the diameter of the opposite end, of the log and write it down on a paper on his clipboard.
One day I was watching a scaler who was very nervous and would duck each time the heel boom would swing a log towards him. Finally, he stepped too far to the side and fell off the duckboard. The driver tried to catch him and was dragged over too.
From where I was watching it was very comical. They didn't see anything funny in the situation. Luckily, though badly shaken, neither of them was seriously hurt.
Because of the steep hills, and the large loads that we were running, our brakes were cooled with water. The water tanks were pressurized and lines led from the tank to each wheel. We controlled the water flow by valves within the tractor.
One day I was backed in under the loader. The heel boom swung his tongs over my trailer. The landing man climbed up on my truck and held up the strap, a short piece of thick cable bolted in a loop to the trailer so a loader can lift the trailer. The loader put the tip of his tong through the loop and took up the slack. The landing man then turned to undo the tie down cable that held my reach but the loader operator started to lift.
I wasn't aware that this was happening but I saw the landing man jump off my truck and run away. The next thing I know my truck was bouncing all over and the roof was coming down on me.
Unbeknownst to me the trailer reach was pivoting on the tie down cable. As the loader lifted the trailer the reach was pushing down on the duckboard and bending the roof of the cab. It was also lifting the truck off the ground. Finally the tie down broke and the truck went crashing back to the ground. The trailer bounced up into the air, the lifting strap came off the tong and the trailer crashed back onto the truck.
When I was finally able to pull myself off the floor, and out of the truck, the landing man explained to me what happened.
A while later the bush foreman arrived in his pickup and tried to calm me down. I was standing beneath the loader with a piece of pipe in my hand, swearing at the loader operator.
Heel booms are basically large shovels or cranes. The base sits on tracks or rubber tires. The cab is able to rotate 360 degrees while the base sits stable. The loader operator was keeping his cab rotating so it was impossible for me to grab hold of the ladder and climb into the cab.
When the foreman had managed to get the pipe away from me, and make me promise not to kill the loader operator, the trailer was finally positioned behind the truck and the truck was loaded with logs. But not just any logs.
On the coast most wood is moved by water. Logs are generally hauled only a short distance by truck and then dumped into the ocean. Because of the size of the trucks, and the cost of building road for them, more than ten miles from the ocean is deemed too great a distance.
In the water the logs are moved in booms or bags. Either flat where the logs are spread one deep or in bundles where the logs are strapped in groups.
Boom sticks are much longer than other logs. A hole is drilled in each end of the boom stick. A chain is passed through the holes to join the sticks together.
A bag is a length of boom sticks with both ends tied to the back of a boom, or tug, boat and the logs or bundles, of logs, float, helter skelter, within.
A boom is two lengths of boom sticks, parallel to each other, with the logs, or bundles neatly organized, between, and parallel to the boom sticks.
For long distance towing, with more chance of encountering rough waters, two rows of boom sticks are formed and chained together with cross logs at each end and sometimes through the middle. The logs or bundles are placed between theses side logs and then logs are placed over top and chained to the outside logs, to prevent logs from washing out of the boom.
Loaders are always on the lookout for long logs that are straight and of fairly equal thickness from end to end. These are usually set aside and sent to the water on the top of a load because they are too long to put on the bottom. At the beach, or water, they will be drilled and put to use as boom sticks.
The loader operator gave me a half a load. By that I mean he only filled my truck half way up the stakes. But he didn't put on logs, he put on boom sticks. They stuck way out over the end of my trailer which meant that all of the weight was on the trailer.
With every little bump in the road, the front end of the logs would lift off the bunk on the tractor and the back end would drag on the road.
I kept both transmissions in low gear, put the Jacob brakes on low power, turned off the water to the tractor brakes, and increased the water to the trailer brakes.
If I touched the tractor brake pedal the compensator would slide through the primary reach and slam into the back of the tractor so I controlled the truck with just the trailer brake lever.
It was a long, slow, hair rising, trip to the bottom of the hill.
At the bottom of the hill, which was very steep, was a fairly sharp corner which I took ever so slowly. Just as I had the rig straightened out on the level, one side of the trailer collapsed and the whole rig came to a screeching halt.
I couldn't see, under the mess, exactly what had happened, I imagine the axels broke. I know all four tires on the right side were flat.
The newest truck we had was a Hayes with a V 16 Cummins that put out an unheard of 600 Hp. The bunks were sixteen feet across and the transmission was a five speed Alison.
After nearly five years of employment running the old Hayes one of the senior truck drivers was promoted to loader operator and I got his Kenworth.
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