At FRA’s Annual Meeting, each region shares information on the key wood supply chain issues facing the forest industry. The following is the combined report for the Southcentral and Southeastern Regions.
Issues and Trends
Numerous Challenges Around Trucking
- It is estimated that the truck driver shortage is resulting in a 10 to 15% loss of logging production currently. Multiple industries compete for drivers, and good, reliable trucking is very expensive.
- Trucking insurance rates have escalated, and fewer companies are willing to write commercial vehicle insurance policies. Insurance carriers have tightened age, experience, and clean Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) requirements for drivers.
- Many trucking contractors are now installing GPS tracking systems and dash cameras to better manage trucking efficiency and safety, and to fight off unwarranted truck crash lawsuits and insurance claims.
- In addition to state efforts to address various trucking issues (see this South Carolina example), forest products companies, wood suppliers, and state associations are encouraged to support the TEAM Safe Trucking program financially and host TEAM trucking safety training sessions for trucking managers and drivers. See FRA’s recent TEAM Safe trucking webinar and this blog for more information.
- Inadequate infrastructure; posting of lower weights on rural roads and bridges; local harvesting and road ordinances; federal infrastructure funds going to the state are typically applied to cities instead of rural areas. (Note: A few southern states are now increasing the state fuel tax.)
- Lots of roads are chip-and-seal surfaces over former gravel roads, which keeps them in a substandard condition subject to damage from trucks.
- The lack of gross vehicle weight (GVW) variance for log trucks on Interstates in the South compels trucks hauling to some mills to drive through congested cities and towns rather than on safer Interstates.
- There are labor challenges across all sectors of our industry.
- Extreme wet weather in parts of the Southcentral Region this year has hindered logging production and wood supply.
- Hurricane Michael destroyed millions of tons of timber in the Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama, and southwestern Georgia last fall. Not all the timber could be salvaged, and reforestation efforts are ongoing. The timber supply in this portion of the region will be impacted for years.
Both southern regions conduct an Annual Region Meeting (with a General Session, Awards Dinner, and sometimes with a Field Trip) in the spring and a Policy Committee meeting in the fall. This spring’s Southcentral Region (SCR) meeting General Session primarily focused on the TEAM Safe Trucking program and the Alabama Forestry Association’s excellent workforce development initiative (see www.ForestryWorks.com). The Southeastern Region (SER) 2019 spring meeting was combined with the FRA national Annual Meeting in Amelia Island, Florida.
Recent SCR and SER fall Policy Committee meetings have been held in college towns (Starkville, MS in the SCR and Athens, GA in the SER) and included faculty presentations on the University’s forestry programs and current research (Mississippi State and Univ. of Georgia, respectively). In recent years, we have combined these fall Policy Committee meetings with our annual Southwide Timber Security Group meetings. The Security Group meetings are open to all FRA members and include presentations from timber security consultants, corporate security managers from FRA-member companies, load-tracking and scalehouse software vendors, and state forestry agency law enforcement personnel. The speakers’ case studies are especially interesting!
This fall the SCR and SER Policy Committee and the Southwide Timber Security Group will meet in Auburn, AL on Oct. 22-24. The meeting Advance Notice can be found here.
The Spring 2020 SCR Annual Meeting (date TBA) will be conducted in Alexandria, LA, and it will include tours of FRA members’ wood products facilities in the region.