Being around the logging industry while growing up is what caused Brian Mullins to choose it as his own career. And diversification is what has kept him in business during the industry’s ups and downs.
Mullins, 47, a Nacogdoches, Texas, native who moved to Castor in 1972, is owner of Loggy Bayou Timber Co., LLC, based in Ringgold. But his geographic work area extends from north Louisiana at the Arkansas line south to Alexandria.
He and his four-member staff focus on procuring timber and working with independent contractors for harvesting. The company also manages private landowners’ timber.
Loggy Bayou Timber employs five independent contractors: Double C Logging in Montgomery, H&H Logging in Castor, Bedgood Logging in Goldonna, Broomfield Logging of Dodson and Lavon Hanson Logging in Atlanta.
Mullins is majority owner with partner Kenneth Cameron in Double C Logging, which is a family-operated business with Cameron’s brother, son and nephew filling out the crew. The family connections are what make the business work, Mullins said, given the difficulties imposed on the industry by the economy. Hard working environments, low to moderate wages, no or low benefits and competition with the oil and gas industry for the same employment pool are challenges sometimes difficult to overcome.
“We had to go into the logging business because there are so few out there. … Most of what you find these days are family operations,” said Mullins, whose own family includes wife Lori and daughters Kirstie, 20, Kendal, 16, and Madison, 13.
His introduction to the timber industry came from his father, Smith Mullins, a graduate forester who worked mostly in Arkansas. He’s since retired from Martin Timber Co.
“Being around it, it was familiar to me so I was comfortable with it,” Brian Mullins said of his career choice.
His first job out of college – he obtained a degree in wildlife biology from La. Tech in 1986 – was to cruise timber as a contractor for Martin Timber Co.
He took a position in 1989 as a timber buyer with Hood Industries after it purchased International Paper Company’s mill in Coushatta. He stayed there two years.
After the mill shut down, Mullins tried his hand for five months at selling logging equipment for Bell Equipment in Arkansas before deciding “that wasn’t my bag.”
He then remembered a conversation with Edgar Cason of Coushatta who had a standing invitation to help him get back into timber buying. So he took Cason up on the offer and worked with him a year before another opportunity knocked.
Mullins partnered in 1992 with Tony Jacobs to start Diversified Timber Services in Winnfield. He stayed there until 1996, which is when he and Phil Gould started Loggy Bayou Timber Co. Gould left in 2004, leaving Mullins with sole ownership.
He and Cameron began Double C Logging in 2007. Their inventory includes:
• 2007 Tigercat 720E feller buncher
• 2010 Tigercat 720E feller buncher
• 2008 Tigercat 620C skidder
• 2007 John Deere 748 skidder
• 2007 Tigercat 234 loader
• 2006 Prentice 384 loader
• two 2011 Kenworth trucks
• 2001 Mac truck
• 1999 Mac truck.
Loggy Bayou Timber hauls to a number of area mills, including Rock-Tenn Co., which purchased the Smurfit-Stone containerboard mill in Hodge, International Paper’s Mansfield Mill, Graphic Packaging in West Monroe, Martin Timber in Chopin, PBS Planer Mill in Winnfield and West Fraser in Joyce and Huttig, Ark.
Loggy Bayou employs three timber buyers – Jerry Warren, Billy Pipes and Greg Johnson – who strictly deal with private landowners. They find less competition because of the slowdown in logging.
However, it’s still tough to get landowners to sell since the lagging economy has pushed down prices and consequently fewer sawlogs are being produced.
“It’s a tough environment out there,” Mullins said. “We know it will get better once the housing market corrects itself.”
Brian Mullins puts the timber industry peak in the 1990s, and it’s been going backward since about 2005. The housing downturn prompted the closure of at least five solid wood mills in the area. “There’s an oversupply of logs right now because of the lack of facilities receiving them,” he said.
He added: “It’s also tough for loggers to make ends meet. It’s hard work. The median age is about 50. The industry is going to suffer without young people coming into it as loggers.”
And few options are available. But Mullins has no plans to give up.
“Now, you can’t look at past trends and conduct your business because the facilities are no longer there. … It’s going to take time to get through it. Through determination and perseverance we’ll continue and stay in business.”
(Vickie Welborn is the region bureau chief for The Times in Shreveport)
Biomass has been talked about for years in logging circles but several Louisiana projects are moving to the front burner.
CLECO will begin burning biomass this year as an alternative fuel source and Sundrop Fuels will build a “green gasoline” plant in Central Louisiana. Point Bioenergy at the Port of Baton Rouge finally has a construction contract to make pellets for the European market (see page 7) and Alabama Renewable Energy has a six-month option for a facility also at the B.R. port.
These projects are calling for delivered chips that would include forest waste and slash.
CLECO Power LLC has issued a Request for Proposals to supply chips to the Madison 3 Unit at Boyce. The biomass would be used for fuel to co-fire the unit that employs petcoke as the primary energy source.
CLECO estimates that it will buy about 350,000 green tons during a 10-month period per year. (Two monthly outages for maintenance will be scheduled in spring and fall.)
CLECO is looking for 10-20 year contracts and proposals are needed by April 5, 2012. Bidders must propose a base price and a base moisture content. Deliveries that exceed 2% ash content will have a corresponding price reduction.
No fuel price adjustments can be built into proposals but the RFP states that bids “may be tied to a producer price index (PPI) or a consumer price index (CPI).” Adjustments to the bid price on PPI or CPI may not be made more frequently than on a yearly basis.
CLECO is encouraging bidders to submit an alternate bid, for informational purposes for the Public Service Commission, that could include 1) a price per ton; 2) a contract of at least one year; and 3) a mechanism to adjust the price based upon a fuel index. The alternate bid should be in addition to, and not instead of, the required bid without the fuel price index.
The second big announcement was from Sundrop Fuels, Inc. which will build a plant off I-49 near Alexandria. The plant will use woody biomass and natural gas to produce "green gasoline." The company has received an investment from Chesapeake Energy for its project..
Production is expected to start in 2014 and financing is already in place. Sundrop would use 600,000 tons of chipped green wood each year.
Patrick Gilbert will be the director of biomass feedstock supply. Gilbert, who is with the company in Colorado, said he is working in Louisiana each month on the project. He has 30 years experience as a wood procurement manager.
“We will have two truck dumps at the facility,” he said. “Our goal is to get chips in and out without delay,” he said.
The Alabama Renewable Energy project is another possibiity for biomass use. The company asked the Port of Greater Baton Rouge for a six-month option on a vacant facility on 3.5 acres once used for a chemical plant.
The project would be a $30 million biodiesel refinery capable of producing 30 million gallons of fuel per year. Port director Jay Hardaman said he does not know if Alabama Renewable has the financing in place. The plant would employ 40 people and have an annual payroll of $3.9 million.
A federal mandate that requires 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be mixed into the U.S. gasoline supply is the catalyst for the interest in biodiesel production.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has gone beyond banning texting to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones by truck drivers. A joint rule, effective January 3, 2012, was recently announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) that will fine offending drivers $2,750 and disqualify them from driving large trucks or buses after multiple transgressions.
Following are some issues about the ban:
1. What does the rule ban?
The rule restricts a covered CMV driver from: 1) holding a mobile telephone to conduct a voice communication, 2) dialing a mobile telephone by pressing more than a single button, or 3) reaching for a mobile phone in an unacceptable and unsafe manner (e.g. reaching for any mobile telephone on the passenger seat, under the driver’s seat, or into the sleeper berth).
A driver may not use the “push-to-talk” feature of a mobile phone because it requires the user to hold the device.
2. What use of cellular phones does the rule allow?
The rule allows the use of a “compliant” mobile telephone – one that allows the driver to avoid the three specific activities prohibited: holding, dialing, and reaching.
To avoid holding the mobile phone, a driver may use either a hands-free earpiece or the speaker function of a mobile telephone.
To avoid dialing, a driver may initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button on a mobile telephone or on a headset. The driver may also initiate and terminate by utilizing voice command features.
To avoid reaching, the phone must be readily accessible so that the driver does not have to reach for it in an unsafe manner.
Therefore, in order to comply with this rule: a driver must have his or her compliant mobile telephone located where the driver is able to initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button, for example, on the compliant mobile telephone or on a headset, when the driver is in the seated driving position and properly restrained by a seat belt. The CMV driver must be ready to conduct a voice communication on a compliant mobile telephone, before driving the vehicle. Ease of “reach” or accessibility of the phone is relevant only when a driver chooses to have access to a mobile telephone while driving.
Covered drivers may use their hand-held mobile telephones if necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.
The rule is also limited to driving, so if the driver pulls off the road, he or she does not have to shut down the vehicle or get out of the vehicle. “Driving, for the purpose of this disqualification, means operating a commercial motor vehicle on a highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. Driving does not include operating a commercial motor vehicle when the driver has moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway and has halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.”
3. What drivers are covered?
The rule applies to drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) involved in interstate commerce.
Under the applicable 49 CFR Part 390, a CMV is defined to include:“any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle: 1) has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 10,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater.” The rule also applies to CDL holders driving a CMV in either interstate or intrastate commerce.
Under applicable 49 CFR Part 383, the rules and penalties established for the Commercial Driver’s License, a CMV is defined to include:“as a motor vehicle used in commerce to transport property if it 1) Has a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds; or 2) Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more.”
Under 49 CFR Section 383.3, the CDL rules applies to “every person who operates a CMV in interstate or intrastate commerce. Because the CDL is a state-issued license, there may be state-specific requirements or exemptions.
A Benton man was arrested Oct. 6 on one count of timber theft and two counts of criminal damage to property.
Randall Lee Harvill, 66, 1854 Linton Road, was arrested for allegedly ordering the removal of 1,600 feet of boundary trees without permission from his neighbor’s property. Boundary trees are trees marked with paint to delineate the line between properties in lieu of a fence.
Harvill also allegedly ordered the removal of 32 large pine and hardwood trees a quarter-mile within his neighbor’s property. The trees were valued at more than $500.
Harvill was charged with criminal damage for the unauthorized removal of the boundary trees and building of a logging road on part of the neighbor’s property.
The timber theft charge was a result of the unauthorized removal of the 32 trees on the neighbor’s property.
Harvill was booked into the Bossier Parish Jail Oct. 6 and posted a $20,000 bond.
Forestry investigators arrested two DeSoto Parish brothers on felony timber theft charges in unrelated cases.
Jerry Whitaker, 53, 1409 Sample Street, Mansfield was arrested Dec. 2 for allegedly failing to pay a landowner for over 100 loads of timber valued at $112,766.
Whitaker was hired to log a large tract of timber near Frierson in DeSoto Parish from Jan. to Dec. 2009.
Ricky Whitaker, 44, 6212 Quinlen Blvd., Shreveport was arrested Nov. 28 and charged with timber theft for allegedly failing to pay a landowner for 19 loads of timber valued at $12,038.
Ricky Whitaker was hired to log a 100-acre tract of timber near Fierson in DeSoto Parish from Jan. to Oct. 2009.
Jerry Whitaker’s bond was set at $100,000 and Ricky Whitaker’s bond was set at $30,000.
Lowell Hubbard column
As we end a year and enter a new one, here are just a few things to think about. Hope it was a safe year, maybe a profitable one. You need to be optimistic about the future.
We as loggers have all heard about the value chain and tools of stewardship. Did you know we are one of the most important parts of both of these? From seedling to mill, who protects the value chain and stewardship more than the logger? We are producing megatons of wood throughout the U.S., cutting the highest yield product from the timber we are cutting, leaving that dominant tree during a thinning process and reducing the environmental impact during a harvest. Wow! We should be classed as Superman!
We are tools of stewardship as independent contractors. The foundation has been solid for years for independent contractors to follow rules, regulations and maintain the value chain. In changing times, this seems to be more of a mystery to loggers. We often wonder where we stand in this value chain to our industry.
In the past decade, technology and higher productivity improvements were a driving force. Today environmental factors and extreme logging costs will be the front line driving force. People need wood and paper products yet it has to be produced by loggers.
A standard rule of most loggers has always been more production to overcome the rising cost. Whether we want to admit it or not, our cost has passed production levels. There are select areas in our state and in the U.S. where high production levels are combined with better logging conditions.
Maybe we need to rethink the “Ole Rule of Thumb.” A ton of wood is a ton of wood and cost per ton from stump to mill should be our focus. Whether it be first thinning, second thinning or final harvest, it costs a certain amount to produce that ton.
What is the tipping point? Could we get one, two, three or even 10 loads a day less? Could we sell a piece of equipment, run with one less employee or even operate machines at lower rpms to save diesel. Shut that machine down if there is an oil leak. Save that bucket of oil. We are keeping the oil companies in business! It’s not about being premium loggers, having the most loads, or how many jobs we have running or how many pieces of equipment we own (or should I say we owe on). It is about a living and making a profit at the end of the week when all the bills are paid.
Remember the value chain concept and who we are. Industry may frown on lower productivity during peak times but this is the concept– supply and demand. Great demand, less suppliers and less production–– what may this bring to the loggers?
The meeting with La. State Police last month was very informative with both the LLC and State Police voicing their concerns. Loggers do have a voice with the LLC directly to the State Police. If there is a problem area, don’t hesitate to call me or the LLC office and we will address them. As loggers, we have to haul on our roads and be safe. The police have to conduct a certain number of inspections to maintain their function.
We feel our industry is stable, but not strong in the state. Our private landowners are suffering greatly from low stumpage prices. Many are reluctantly selling and others are waiting on a turnaround. We, as loggers, need the private landowners to help voice our concerns.
Copyright 2010 Louisiana Forestry Association