Being a lumber manufacturer takes a lot more than milling wood. It involves sourcing logs, transporting the logs, manufacturing products, finding suitable markets, and transporting the products to the markets. All these roles require people to do the work.
A labor shortage has become a major concern for almost all industries in the United States and truck drivers are one of the positions most unfilled. According to the American Trucking Association the United States is projected to be short 175,000 truck drivers by 2026. Log truck driving companies are facing the same challenge. Driving a log truck takes experience and special skills beyond that of a common CDL licensed driver and there are limited venues for developing these skills around the country, with none currently nearby. Schools have typically been underused because they require a significant financial investment and a log truck certification is not generally required to work. It likely remains that there are people interested in learning about driving a log truck who don’t feel confident in making a commitment without some understanding of what the job entails.
In 2018 over 143,000 log trucks delivered logs to Idaho Forest Group’s (IFG) mills. Timely delivery to mill after the harvest of these logs is crucial to our operations. Logs that sit at forest sites too long lose value, are attractants for pests, hold up payments to landowners, and are potential fire hazards. As fire threat increases in the region, the recognition of this threat also grows, bringing with it more landowners wanting to manage their forests to reduce the risk of fire. This work will likely get more wood moving; calling for more log haulers. The increasing demand to haul logs paired with a shortage of log truck drivers is of significant concern to the industry.
Working with other stakeholders, including log hauling contractors and educational institutions, IFG has been in the search of a solution to this predicament, but nothing has been fruitful to date. The impact to IFG operations is looming. Holding true to the innovative nature of IFG, we are starting a program internally to augment the log hauling workforce in the region.
IFG is now looking to hire two experienced log truck drivers with excellent communication skills to haul for us and simultaneously train future log truck drivers that already hold a CDL. Hauling for IFG will cover the operational costs, allowing paid real-world experience and safety education for the trainees. Once the training period is successfully concluded, trainees can find work with local contractors with little additional training investment required on the contractor’s part.
IFG intends for this undertaking to bring in trainee log truck drivers to help satisfy the regional needs by offering a low-stakes opportunity to interested drivers. We hope that this resource will be supported by our partners and the forest products industry in the Inland Northwest.