Forest products such as logs and wood chips are high-volume, high-weight, and low-value; transportation represents as much as 50 percent of their final cost. As a result, even minor inefficiencies such as truck routing can severely cut profit margins. In addition, truckers face bottlenecks due to the specialized equipment needed for loading and unloading forest products.
To analyze the efficiency of current trucking practices, the Improving Log Transportation with Data Based Monitoring and Analysis in Northern Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula of Michigan (CFIRE 04-10) project aimed to use small GPS devices to track trucking routes in regions with large amounts of logging, including Michigan’s upper peninsula. This data was useful for both individual truckers and companies that wished to use data-driven research to reduce transportation costs. The study was led by CFIRE affiliate researcher Richard Stewart.
Trucks included in the study were outfitted with both GPS trackers and a logbook for documenting stops and other events. Eight trucks were studied in the fall, and six trucks were studied in the winter, although one of the GPS units in the latter group failed. Though the small number makes the research difficult to analyze statistically, it still provides a rough estimate of the current situation and provides a methodology for future research.
The results of this project showed that large amounts of time are being spent loading and unloading the trucks, which may be expedited by modern equipment and better scheduling. In addition, truck idling was identified as a significant cost factor. Future research will aim to incorporate more drivers and continue to present results in economic terms, as well as identify cooperative solutions such as pooling deliveries.
To learn more about this project and to read the final report, visit the CFIRE 04-10 project page.