Logging has long been about the harvesting of timber and moving the timber to the mills. Logging is typically a multi generational business, hard work, outdoors, and the development of strong family like relationships between the owners and their crews; all indispensible to the other. Logging has an attraction that can be missed until experienced. It is no wonder why future generations are attracted to the industry. The typical management structure is often owners are in the woods and a family member manages the office. A logging company is often the best example of a flat management structure. A flat management structure is a great way to communicate the mission directly to employees. It comes with another side that can make managing other aspects of the business a challenge.
The fleet of trucks is indispensable to the business of logging. The fleet is often the most difficult part of the business for owners to get their hands around. Regulations have mounted over the years from OSHA and the Department of Transportation. Finding drivers is a challenge for any trucking company and logging is no exception. So in a flat management structure the question is how to keep up with the demands of the various groups ownership must if the company is to be successful. The demands of each group:
- Timber buyers/owners
- Logging Insurance Companies
- Equipment maintenance and insurance
- Regulators and regulation changes
All of these groups make managing a logging company a big job with a flat management structure full time challenging work.
The state logging association is a clear source of keeping updated on the changes in regulation taking place. The association is also the best place to network. What are others doing and who is doing it the best. Networking remains a great source of improving operations not by theory by peers who are doing walking the talk. The SFI Best Practices represent industry established guidelines that demonstrates the commitment of individual companies to the future of their industry.
The loggers insurance agency you work with should also be an ongoing resource of how to take action on changes that are necessary. Fleet risk management practices can be a particular area where the agent can shine, should shine. The specific areas a logger can to reach out for assistance include:
- Driver files-organized to include applications, pre employment physicals, MVR review
- Drug testing-random drug testing can often be best accomplished through a consortium
- Does the interview include a “drive along session” to test skills
- Employee handbook-setting out the job expectations of the owners
- Negotiating a best price for installation of a GPS system in all tractors
- Setting up the criterion for the GPS system the drivers are to follow
- Driver training sessions the frequency needed to assure safety awareness
The insurance agent is a reliable resource because they always have their clients interest a heart. The logger can work with the agent secure that the changes they are making can be discussed without a red flag going up on current operations or a rush to judgment is being made. The agent will also be an advocate for the changes expected impact when marketing the renewal of the auto liability and physical damage coverages.
Fleet management practices cannot be over emphasized. The logger has their name on the cab doors along with the DOT number. The public sees the tractor hauling timber many more times than seeing the operations in the woods. The responsibility of a driver is a challenge every time the unit is in motion. They deal with all of the human issues we all deal with and have the challenge of anticipating the decisions other drivers on the road are going to make. Help them help you and provide the resources that can make the job a profit source for your business.