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Bird’s Eye View Roadside in NZ

BTB catches up with Ron Thomassen, owner of Thomassen Logging to talk about the new 865 logger.

Thomassen Logging is based in Taupo, close to the centre of New Zealand’s north island. Nine logging crews work a triangular area roughly bound by Tokoroa in the north, Rotorua to the northeast and Turangi to the south of Taupo. The crews are similarly configured and the Tigercat brand features prominently in the mix; company owner Ron Thomassen has over twenty Tigercat machines.

Each crew has a track-based felling machine. In most cases, it is a Tigercat 855 series leveling carrier equipped with either the 5195 directional felling saw or the 5185 fixed felling saw. The full-length trees are skidded to roadside. Due to terrain conditions and tree size, 75% of Ron’s skidder fleet consists of six-wheel machines. Ron has several 625 and 635 series six- wheel skidders, as well as a new 632H four-wheel drive model.
Processing is performed at roadside with the equipment choice dependent on piece size and products that the crews are producing. Ron has several Tigercat loggers including 875, 880 and 890 models matched with large processing heads. The fourth machine on the crew is a loader used for sorting and organizing at the deck area, and loading trucks. Ron’s operations can have as many as ten sorts. “When the wood comes out of the processor, it is sorted but the ends are not flush. The loader operator re-fleets in an area where the trucks can move the logs out,” he explains.

Traditionally in New Zealand, the loading function has fallen to 25 or 30 tonne class excavators converted for forestry use with guarding and other modifications. Weighing in at around 32 tonne, Tigercat’s new 865 logger aims to fulfill the requirements for this important function, offering a premium build forestry machine that many New Zealand contractors have long envisioned. “We’ve been talking to Tigercat about it for a long time,” says Ron. As such, he was excited to try one out, purchasing the second 865 to enter the country. (Whisker Harvesting, also based on the north island, took the first machine. Owners, Colin Wroe and Nick Whisker are extremely impressed by its performance.)


AND THEY DO LIKE THE HIGH CABS. THE BEAUTY OF THE BIG, HIGH CAB IS BEING ABLE TO LOOK DOWN AT THE TRUCKS WHEN YOU ARE LOADING THEM.



On Tigercat’s side, it was a challenging project to get the right features and build quality while staying within an acceptable price point, all the while competing against high volume excavators.

Ron explains that he has placed the 865 in a road lining crew. “They go ahead of the main logging crews and they open the roads up and make them wider. Sometimes they will form the basis of a new logging road. The 865 is doing all the fleeting and stacking of the logs and the loading of the trucks,” says Ron. “So once the logs are processed, the 865 will fleet them and load them."

In terms of reach, lift and stability Ron says that as a log loader and fleeting machine, the 865 is sized to handle all types of logs and products that the company normally encounters. “It is lifting the big six tonne trailers off easily enough.
The operators like the long reach. The reach is important to put the stack over that little bit further,” Ron explains. “And they do like the high cabs. The beauty of the big, high cab is being able to look down at the trucks when you are loading them.”

Care was taken in the design process to ensure clear operator sightlines in all directions, especially beneficial for site safety when workers are on the ground manually hooking up the trailers. The cab height, window size and placement, and the hooked profile of the main boom all contribute, allowing the operator to see everything that is happening in the decking and loading area.
Safety and operator ergonomics are important factors for Ron. “The rear entry for the cab is another good feature that the operators like. Climbing up the side of a loader in dark and slippery conditions is not ideal, so we are going away from that type of machine. The rear entry cab is a lot safer. And for us, it is just a lot easier to have a finished product from the factory. The compliance has been ticked off. The cabs are safe.”

Thomassen Logging has over 55 employees and is quite self-sufficient. “We do a lot of our own maintenance. We have good mechanics and some of our boys have had some AB training. We don’t have too many problems because the boys are out servicing daily and staying on top of problems. They have found the 865 to be easy to work on and very user friendly. And the operator is like a dog with two tails. He absolutely loves it. There has only been the one person on the machine for the 750 hours. It is his home. And it looks like the day we got it.

With so many Tigercat machines in his stable, Ron has a clear perspective and a good basis for comparison. “I go back and look at my first 875 and it works hard in big trees. Structurally nothing went wrong with it. You would like to think as a log loader, the 865 should be really good."