Abundant markets and a strong economy are keeping Georgia logger super busy in plantation pine forests.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 2/5/2019
NICHOLLS, Georgia – Joel Adams has a name for his logging company that befits the kind of work it does: harvesting pine, pine, and more pine.
His company, Pinetree Trail Enterprises, is in his home of Nicholls, Georgia, which is located in the southeast corner of the state, about 80 miles northwest of Brunswick.
About 95 percent of the work that Joel’s company does is for Weyerhaeuser, which owns extensive timberlands in Georgia. The company works almost exclusively in Weyerhaeuser plantation pine forests, performing first thins, second thins, and final harvests.
It is a small business – Joel and three other employees and a handful of forestry machines, all of them Cat brand. “We’re Caterpillar people,” said Joel, 66. “We’ve been Caterpillar people. I plan on staying that way right now.”
Joel’s father, Homer Adams Sr., began trucking pulpwood in the 1960s and later added logging operations. Joel went to work for him, starting off as a loader operator in 1972. When he began working with his father, they felled timber by hand with chainsaws.
Eventually Homer formed a partnership with Joel and Joel’s brother, Homer “Sonny” Adams Jr. When their father died in 2005, the two brothers amicably dissolved the partnership and went their own ways. “We just had different ideas,” said Joel. Sonny still works for Joel from time to time.
When he started his own company in 2005, Joel had a mixed fleet of equipment that included a Cat skidder. Today Joel’s company is equipped with an all-Cat lineup of logging equipment. The list includes a Cat 579C knuckleboom loader, a Cat 545C skidder, a Cat 545D skidder, and a Cat 563D wheel feller buncher. The D series skidder and feller buncher are the newest in the Cat forestry equipment portfolio. The company also is equipped with a Prentice 2384B knuckleboom loader and a Cat D5K2 bulldozer.
Pinetree Trail Enterprises has four employees. They include Joel; his son, Joey, 40; a nephew, Daniel Roberts; and Johnny Norris. The crew does all regular maintenance and some repairs on the machines.
The pine forest products the company harvests are delivered to one of a number of mills in the region. “We try to do 75 loads a week,” said Joel. Chip and saw logs are delivered to a West Frasier chip and saw mill in Blackshear and to a Georgia-Pacific pulp mill in Brunswick. Saw logs go to a Georgia-Pacific sawmill in Sterling and to Langdale Forest Products in Valdosta. Pole logs are taken to Beach Timber Co. in Alma.
The abundant markets and a good economy are providing “plenty of work,” said Joel. Prices are favorable, he indicated, although he added, “We always need more.”
Most jobs range from 50 to 300 acres. At the time he was interviewed for this article, the company was performing a final cut. The job site was about 65 miles from Joel’s home.
Joel contracts for all trucking. The longest haul is about 25-30 miles.
The terrain in southwest Georgia is flat, noted Joel. “And wet, most of the time.” When he was interviewed for the article, all the logging machines were running dual tires for improved traction and floatation. “We had a really wet fall,” said Joel. “Extremely wet.”
He’s enjoyed the benefit of strong service and support from his Cat dealership, Yancey Brothers. “They work with us,” said Joel. “You can’t knock that…Caterpillar support has been tremendous.”
Yancey Brothers, the oldest Caterpillar dealer in the U.S., has 15 locations throughout Georgia, covering the state north and south and east to west.
Cat logging machines have proven effective, durable, and reliable, indicated Joel. “You don’t find that very often.”
When asked what he liked about doing business with Caterpillar, Joel said, “The service and the people we deal with. I get real good service out of Caterpillar.”
“Any times I’ve had trouble, Caterpillar’s come to bat for me,” he added.
And he’s been pleased with the performance, ease of operation, and comfort of Cat logging machines.
The most recent addition to the company’s fleet was the Cat 563D wheel feller buncher. It is the newest model in the Cat line of wheel feller bunchers and is equipped with one of the company’s newest accumulating felling heads.
The 563D, which meets U.S. EPA Tier 4 Final emission standards, provides increased reliability and durability along with greater customer value in performance, comfort, and serviceability. The D Series wheel feller bunchers enable more productivity while at the same time reducing operating costs. Caterpillar made key improvements to the electrical and hydraulic systems and drivetrain for greater durability and reliability.
The patented transverse-mounted engine and low center of gravity provide rock-solid stability for industry-leading cut and carry capability. Combined with the industry’s shortest wheelbase, the Cat D Series Wheel Feller Buncher offers superior application versatility.
Joel operates the Cat 563D himself. “That’s what I run most of the time,” he said. Despite the wet conditions, the Cat 563D gets around well, he indicated.
“It rides good,” he added.
Craig Foreman, a representative of Yancey Brothers, sold the new feller buncher to Joel last year. Craig, whose sales territory is southeast Georgia, has received similar feedback from Joel and other contractors about the Cat 563D. They like the comfort and ride and improved visibility.
The Cat D Series wheel feller bunchers feature upgrades to the operator work station that include a wider seat with more legroom for greater comfort. Adjustments to controls that can be made by the operator, such as steer speed and lift and tilt speed, are simplified to make them easier and more intuitive. Adjustments can be pre-set for operator preference, too.
A rearview video camera now is standard. The camera is activated automatically when the operator presses the reverse pedal, and the video is shown on the new display monitor. The benefits of the camera are greater operator efficiency and comfort. It eliminates the strain and fatigue of twisting and turning to look in the rear, keeping the operator working more productively.
Joel also has been pleased with the easy serviceability of the new feller buncher, reported Craig. Service can be performed at ground level, a plus for Joel and his employees, who do routine service themselves. “All the filters, you can easily get to them from the ground, and fuel it from the ground,” noted Craig.
With Joel in his 60s, “Anything he can do that’s easier, that’s a big factor,” said Craig.
Joel’s Cat 563D is equipped with the HFW232 High Capacity Bunching Saw, the newest Cat head for wheel feller bunchers. The design allows greater visibility through the head, noted Craig — another feature that was attractive to Joel. The HFW232 excels at cutting and handling high volumes of small stems, mixed stems, and large single stems up to 22.6 inches in diameter and with bunching capacity of 8.6 square feet.
The Cat 563D is powered by a 203 hp C7.1 ACERT™ engine while the Cat 573D features a 241 hp version and a longer wheelbase. The engine, which also meets EU Stage IV emissions standards, leverages the same emissions technology as numerous other Cat machines, including the use of diesel exhaust fluid. The Cat C7.1 engine provides maximum power and response while minimizing total fluid consumption.
The Cat D Series Wheel Feller Buncher features the second generation of the patented PowerDirect Plus system, which optimizes machine efficiency, performance and productivity. It monitors operator and attachment demand and delivers power where and when it is needed, allowing the operator to focus on performing timber harvesting tasks and controlling the machine. The D Series models cut and carry more wood than ever so they can build larger, easy to reach bundles, which improves skidder efficiency.
(Note: For more information on Cat forestry equipment, visit www.cat.com/forestry or call your nearest dealer.)
“Joel has done business with me for a number of years, and he’s a great partner with Yancey Brothers,” said Craig. The service and support of the dealership “go a long way with him,” he added.
Joey operates the company’s loader. He drove a logging truck for a few years after graduating from high school, then served in the Army for five years as an Airborne Ranger, returning home after his enlistment and discharge to resume working for his father.
Joel, a member of the Southeastern Wood Producers Association, maintains an office in his home and handles most of the paperwork, although he uses an accountant for payroll and other tasks. Joel and his son do safety training for all employees.
Joey has two daughters and helps coach their softball team. Joel, who also has a daughter, Jamie, has little time for hobbies, working about 60 hours a week.
“I come home and do book work,” said Joel, who has no immediate plans to retire.