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A Competitive Drive

Darío Valdés talks about passion for the forestry industry, growing and modernizing a company, and always aiming to win.

— Jorge Victoria

Transportes Valdés is one of the largest and oldest forestry contractors in the Chilean region of Maule. Hard-working businessman, Darío Gustavo Valdés Muñoz, is the owner and director. The company is headquartered in Constitución and has bases in Chillán and Arauco. A business that started with a single log truck has been transformed by Darío Valdés into a large company with hundreds of trucks, along with equipment dedicated to loading and transporting forestry products.

The company was founded in 1972 by Darío Omar Valdés, Darío’s father. Due to the scarce job opportunities in Constitución towards the end of the sixties, Darío Omar joined a group of locals, and accompanied by their representatives, they marched to demand that the Corporación de Fomento de la Producción (CORFO) establish its pulp mill in Constitución and thus generate more jobs in the town. We all know that history is written by the victors, and the inhabitants of Constitución achieved their goal. In 1969 Celulosa Constitución S.A. was born. A couple of years later, Darío Omar, with a single truck, started what would go on to become a prosperous transport company. The early years were not easy. Darío Omar transported pulp to Valparaíso and Puerto San Antonio, and each round trip took almost three days.

Then, in 1979, Celulosa Constitución S.A. and Celulosa Arauco S.A. (another CORFO-owned mill) merged, resulting in the creation of Sociedad Celulosa Arauco y Constitución S.A. – better known as ARAUCO – which is one of the largest forestry companies in Latin America. Over the years, Transportes Valdés has forged a strong, longlasting relationship with ARAUCO and Darío attributes much of his company’s growth to the Chilean forestry giant. “When ARAUCO was created, we also started working with them bit by bit.” Darío explains that up until 2000, his company operated with single shifts. “But after 2000, we switched to double shifts. For me, there is an excellent relationship with the people at ARAUCO,” says Darío.

To continue or not?

The death of Darío’s father in 2013 marked a turning point for the company, bringing the inevitable decision about whether to continue operating the business. The decision about what to do with the company fell to Darío and his mother, Gloria Ximena. In Darío’s words, “When my father passed away, I asked my mother: What should we do? Should we close or go on? If we go on, we have to turn the company around and professionalize it.”
Darío’s first move was to hire a manager focused on finding new contracts. He brought in Enrique Soto Valenzuela, who to this day has served as the company’s manager. After ten years, Transportes Valdés has experienced exponential growth. The company went from 50 employees in 2013 to almost 500 today. Darío adds, “We could have closed shop, sold the machinery and invested in other things. But the decision was made to continue, and in fact I think it was the best decision. After ten years, if you do the math, it’s all positive news.”

Today, Transportes Valdés has a workforce of almost 500 employees and a large fleet of around 200 forestry trucks and loaders, including self-loading trucks, log and pulp trucks, and truck-mounted loaders. Its impressive fleet of Tigercat loaders, including both 220D and 220E models, totals 26 units.

Darío tells us that the company’s rapid growth presented him with a particular challenge: personnel management. The solution involved delegating functions, surrounding himself with a professional team, and setting up different departments with specific areas of responsibility and various administrative levels. “When you’ve reached a certain number of employees and a certain number of machines, you may no longer know all your employees. It’s not so easy to get to know 500 people. So, you have to delegate. And from there, what should a businessman do? Manage. Make sure that the things you want to get done, get done. Because you can’t do it all yourself; in the end you need the help of your people. And for that you need to have a good team, one that’s hopefully as professional as possible, because that ensures you do much better,” explains Darío.

Darío stresses that the growth of the company is directly tied to quality. “It’s true that you go in and bid for the tender, but you also must do a good job. As you acquire contracts, you must try to do the best work possible, because that’s the only way you can present the company with good indicators, with good numbers. By doing our best, we’ve won many contracts and we’ve also grown a lot.”

Aiming for first place, every time

Darío Ignacio, Darío’s eldest son, has been involved in the company from an early age and currently works as head of pickup truck management. At age twenty, he is responsible for around 50 of the company’s pickup trucks. He’s passionate about the forestry sector, but also about car racing. “It’s more or less the same passion,” Darío says. “Just as there is the passion for forestry, there is the passion for racing cars.” Darío Ignacio convinced his father to help him race Fiat cars in the Fiat 600 category. So Darío Valdés, together with Arturo Veas Araya of Mecánica Araya, formed the Transportes Valdés team. The Fiat 600s in this category are vintage cars from the sixties reconditioned for the track. They reach speeds over 125 km/h (about 80 mph).
Darío Ignacio, or ‘Tato’ as he is known on the track, has already achieved several victories. He was selected best new driver in his category by the Club de Automovilismo Deportivo (CAD) Cartagena in 2023. Without doubt, he has inherited his competitive character from his father. Whether on the track or in business, Darío Valdés is always aiming for first place. He has more Tigercat 220 loaders than any other contractor in the world. “The only problem I have is that I’m very competitive and like to take a gamble. When I’m passionate about something, I always try to fight for first place,” says Darío.

Versatility in roadside loading

Truck-mounted loaders are crucial to the Chilean forestry industry. Due to Chile’s rugged geography, this type of loader has proven to be a very efficient and appropriate solution, combining excellent mobility with small overall size – ideal for tight roadside landings on narrow, switch backed mountain roads. Darío emphasizes that the units have no problem accessing steep terrain. He also stresses that it is a more efficient and mobile solution compared to a wheeled excavator. “The truth is that this truck-mounted loader allows you to move to more places and a lot faster. We had an excavator on tires, but it turns out that they move at fifteen to twenty kilometres per hour (9-12 mph) on the job. A truck moves at 35 or 40 kilometres per hour (22 or 25 mph). I think that versatility is what has led to the boom in these truck-mounted loaders here.”

Transportes Valdés works mostly on ARAUCO company properties in the Constitución, Chillán and Arauco areas. The Tigercat fleet loads around 160 000 cubic metres per month but has the capacity to load 200 000 cubic metres during peak months. Each machine loads between twelve and fourteen trucks daily. Excepting routine maintenance, the entire fleet of 26 Tigercat loaders operates daily.

Darío claims that his Tigercat 220E loaders have lower fuel consumption than other brands, a direct result of model evolution, efficient hydraulics and the integration of FPT engines. He also says they are faster. Plus, they are quite comfortable – the machines of choice for his operators. “I like this machine. I feel there’s no need to switch to another brand because it does the job well.”

Latin Equipment, a key partner

The desire to win and move his company forward has led Darío to look for key partners to help him achieve his goals and objectives. Latin Equipment is clearly one of them.

Transportes Valdés’ experience working with Tigercat and Latin Equipment was satisfying from the start. Having seen Tigercat 220D loaders at work on other logging operations, Darío decided to talk to Latin Equipment representatives Cristian González and Rodrigo de la Sotta to take a closer look at the performance of Tigercat loaders. Satisfied with what he observed, in 2017 Transportes Valdés initiated its relationship with Latin Equipment by purchasing eight 220D loaders.
Darío emphasizes that Latin Equipment’s agile structure was a determining factor in continuing to do business with them. He stresses that having Latin Equipment present in Constitución is a plus. The quick, efficient response and ongoing support has made Latin Equipment the ideal partner to meet the high demands and expectations of a company of Transportes Valdés’ stature. “I asked myself several questions after first doing business with Latin: How did Latin behave? Did they support us? Did they provide help? It is Latin’s simpler corporate structure. The competition – let’s call it that – is a bigger company. So, the communication and paperwork are very cumbersome. In general, I don’t like that, because it wastes a lot of time. So, the fact is that the experience with Latin was good. If it hadn’t been good, we wouldn’t have gone back again for twice as many loaders.”

In the future, Darío hopes to continue the trajectory of growth and expand not only to other geographical areas but also to other markets. “We have a vision of continuing to grow. The pandemic affected us a lot in various ways. It put us on a kind of standby. And now, as we are getting back to normal, we’re trying to continue to grow.” Darío adds the support provided by Pedro Venegas and Juan Velásquez, Tigercat’s factory representatives, has been crucial to the success of Transportes Valdés. “There are many factors to take into account. Having good service, having the parts when needed, having the support of the brand when needed; it all helps. And look, we have so many Tigercats because we really believe in the brand and we believe in the company that represents it, which is Latin. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be working with them.”

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