Custom-built Volvo excavators are helping drive a vital part of the New Zealand economy
Canterbury, a large central-eastern region of New Zealand’s South Island offers the best of both worlds – the silver beaches and the Southern Alps. But the picturesque peaks are not for the fainthearted – particularly during the winter months when mercury can drop to sub-zero temperatures. The rugged landscape is an ideal setting for plantation forests that grow pine trees for export – a process that has proven difficult for loggers.
The key to harvesting the crop is the right equipment, and Volvo Construction Equipment is meeting customer demand by supplying excavators – the EC250DL and the heavier EC300DL – that have been specially-modified for New Zealand’s forestry industry.
A cut above the rest
Working on hundreds of hectares in Canterbury’s Malvern Hills, Button Logging’s Rory Button operates one of the new EC300DL forestry carriers. “Forestry is not the kindest industry in New Zealand. The gear has to be pretty tough for our environment,” Button explains. “Logging is a lot different here than, say, in Europe. The wood is much bigger, so there is a real demand for tracked machines.”
The equipment was brought to market by Volvo CE’s Special Application Solutions team, led by commercial projects manager Peter Lam. New Zealand’s Volvo CE distributor TransDiesel was delighted about the purpose-built excavators. “We are just a small market down here, but Volvo listened to our needs and sent its team,” says Mark Keatley, marketing manager for TransDiesel.
The Volvo team visited a variety of logging operations to be able to develop the purpose-built forestry machine designed for New Zealand’s demanding conditions.
Made to measure
The backcountry terrain is muddy and has an abundance of boulders that pose a risk to equipment. To safely traverse across the mountains, the forestry carriers are equipped with a high and wide undercarriage that features a special heavy-duty underbelly guard and full-length track guards. The machines are fitted with a stronger engine hood and side panels, as well as reinforced fuel and hydraulic tanks. To enhance operator safety, the Volvo cab has been specially-designed to include three emergency exits – the rear window, the side door, and the roof hatch. A Volvo quick hitch enables the EC250DL and the EC300DL to work with a range of attachments, such as buckets or grapples. “They can harvest, process, load, stump harvest, trench, plant, and build roads,” says Keatley.
Durability, versatility and performance are important for the company that has three logging crews and a road crew working on different sites in Canterbury. “The Volvo is one of the best I’ve driven,” he says. “It’s nice to operate and has a fast boom action, which means it’s much more efficient.”
The excavator also comes with the CareTrack telematics system, which provides the company with information about the machine’s geographical location, and allows them to monitor operator behavior, fuel consumption and operator hours. The system also alerts the operator and sends messages back to TransDiesel when the excavator is due for a service.
Dave Button, Rory’s father and co-owner of the family business loves his company’s Volvo EC300DL and was keen to get behind the controls as soon as it arrived. “It’s going very well,” he says. “It works fast and is fuel efficient.”
To its new owner’s delight, the machine did not require any modifications to its hydraulics, tracks or cab – the latter is virtually destruction-proof. The safety features of the Volvo EC300DL, including the specially-designed ROPS-certified cab with 31mm reinforced glass, are welcomed by New Zealand’s forestry industry.
Stepping out of the shade
The country’s third largest industry after agriculture and tourism, forestry is a vital part of the New Zealand economy, bringing in more than NZ$1.6 billion a year (US$1.1 billion; €987 million).
Native species such as totara and kauri, some of which are hundreds of years old and tourist attractions, are generally off-limit to harvesters. However, almost 1.8 million hectares – much of which is Monterey pine or New Zealand pine – are available to loggers. Douglas fir and various cypress and eucalyptus species are also grown for domestic and export markets.
Just under half of the harvested logs and processed timber heads overseas, mainly to Australia, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Indonesia and India. As well as logs, the exports include sawn timber, panels, wood chips, pulp and paper, and other products.
As forestry continues to grow in New Zealand, so too does the support of Volvo Construction Equipment.