ES Forestry acquires new timber forwarders and a wheeled excavator loader for long term timber extraction contract …
Needing to gear up for a long term timber extraction contract, Elvis Shabangu of ES Forestry turned to the equipment supplier that has had his back since the launch of his business in 2004. Now, 16 years later, this well-known Mpumalanga-based timber harvesting and haulage company is still relying on Bell Equipment for the bulk of its mechanised fleet.
After being awarded a long-term contract to extract timber from in-field and haul it to the Sappi Ngodwana mill near Mbombela (Nelspruit), the ES Forestry team decided to stick with the locally-based OEM supplier that they have partnered with since the beginning.
“Our company has grown up with Bell Equipment as its main supplier of timber handling and short haul equipment, and we felt confident that they would once again give us the right tools for this exciting new contract,” Elvis says. “We were specific when choosing a Kobelco SK210 Excavator chassis that we had converted to a wheeled machine fitted with a Matriarch MT800 grab that offers us a 0,8 cubic metre capacity.”
The conversion to a wheeled loader was done by the Matriarch division of Bell Equipment, based near Empangeni in Zululand.
“The reason for preferring a wheeled loader was manoeuvrability. We work in very hilly conditions and our roadside depots (where the Kobelco SK210 machine will be used), are generally about 2 to 3km apart, which is close enough for it to be driven there without the need for using a lowbed trailer. It will also be crossing some tar roads, and by running on tyres it won’t damage the road surface,” said Elvis.
Commented ES Forestry General Manager, Steven Muller, who has been with the company for eight years: “On the short-haul side of the business we have successfully run Bell T21D and T17D Timber Forwarders for a number of years, and even have a Bell B25D Articulated Dump Truck that we converted to a Timber Forwarder. We were understandably happy to hear of Bell Equipment’s new generation TF302E range when we started looking for short-haulage vehicles for this new contract, and confidently ordered two such trucks which were delivered in July and August 2020.”
The Bell TF302E Timber Forwarders are fitted with Waratah CF8 onboard cranes and Matriarch 42LX timber grabs with a capacity of 0,42 cubic metres.
The area where the two Bell TF302E Timber Forwarders have been deployed is challenging to say the least. Timber is extracted from compartments on steep hills and the roadside depots and access roads are narrow. The first thing that any forestry contractor would be concerned about would be how safe the haulage vehicles are in such an environment.
“There’s been no need to modify these Bell TF302E Timber Forwarders in any way as they have been designed with CE and ISO standards in place already,” Steven explains. “We and our clients have been reassured that this truck’s ‘best in class’ braking system with its fail-to-safe park-brake, HillAssist and anti-rollback and above all superb retarder system that assists braking, all make for a very safe timber forwarder.
“Our operators also report that the ergonomics of the cab and the swivelling seat are great, and we believe this should cause far less operator fatigue,” he adds. “What may seem like a small thing but innovative all the same, is the sealed switch module next to the steering column to keep dust out of sensitive electronic components.”
ES Forestry’s Bell TF302E operators have also taken to the inclinometer which offers early warnings to possible instability under full loads. The truck’s 30 cubic metre bin volume is something that the operators have become used to as the older Bell T21 and T17 Timber Forwarders carry much the same volumes of timber cut to 2,4 or 4,8 metres.
Fuel consumption, given the challenging terrain and the size of the loads, is deemed reasonable at 18 litres an hour.
Over and above the new equipment, ES Forestry utilises a long list of Bell supplied machines including the aforementioned Bell Timber trucks, a John Deere 1910E Timber Forwarder, a John Deere 648L Grapple Skidder, a John Deere 640L Cable Skidder and 25 Bell Loggers of which five are the latest F-series.
*Related article: Bell mulcher developed for SA conditions