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Managing timber transport - good practice guide

Advice on resolving timber transport issues for local authorities, timber haulage companies and forest owners in Ireland.

To realise the benefits of the timber industry, the round timber harvested in the forests must be transported to the processing plant in an economic and environmentally sustainable manner.

Round timber is a relatively low value high volume product and transport costs are relatively high. The cost of transport can be a significant proportion of the delivered in cost of the timber, varying from 25% to 40%.

Because of the relatively high transport costs and low value of timber at the forest gate, it is necessary that round timber is moved as efficiently as possible to ensure that the value of the forests is realised. In Ireland, a small percentage of timber is moved by rail. Efficiency in transport normally means maximising payload while operating within the maximum legal limits. This means transporting timber at the maximum permissible gross vehicle weight limit.

Forests tend to be located at the end of the road network.
Over 80% of the private forest estate is accessed by local roads only. This is not surprising due to the type of land which attracts forestry. However, it poses significant challenges in order to transport round timber at maximum gross vehicle weights over the poorest part of the road network. This is further complicated by the fact that Ireland has a very extensive road network which is over twice the European average per capita and places a significant strain on the funds for road maintenance and repair. Some of the road network may not be suitable for standard vehicles operating at the maximum weights.

A further challenge is that the vehicle must also operate on forest roads that can be more demanding than public roads.

The guide below has been prepared by the Forest Industry Transport Group which includes representatives from all the stakeholders in timber transport including the Local Authorities. Its purpose is to provide a common framework in relation to good practice that is accepted and practiced by all stakeholders. The guide proposes a preventative approach to any issues of concern and adherence to the guide will generate solutions based on:

  • Good communications, planning and management
  • Optimum vehicle selection/procurement
  • Compliance with legislation and guidelines

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