In logging, they say it takes iron to move
wood. Eric Robinson’s job is to keep the
iron moving. He’s part of the mobile service
unit at CJ Logging Equipment, a Booneville,
New York-based company that operates
throughout the Northeast. Every day he’s on
the road, and in the woods, helping loggers
keep their big equipment running – skidders,
feller-bunchers, loaders, delimbers, chippers,
forwarders, you name it.
For Robinson, it’s as much a calling as it is
a job. “I was born and raised in an area that
was full of logging equipment, and from a
young age, I was always in the woods. I just
took an interest in tearing things apart and
putting them back together,” he said. What
started as a hobby became a career when
he was offered a job as a forest industry
mechanic right out of high school. He started
working at CJ Logging Equipment almost six
Robinson was already trained and certified
in various electronic and hydraulic systems when he arrived at
CJ, but there was still a learning curve because the company deals
with brands he hadn’t worked with before. He now specializes
in servicing the CJ equipment lineup: Tigercat, TimberPro, and
Komatsu, among other manufacturers. “They’re all basically the
same as far as hydraulics and electronics go, but they all have
their own twist as far as how they do things,” he said of various
logging equipment brands. “Just like with an Apple computer
and a Windows-based computer; they do the same things, they
just have different operating systems.”
And even within brands, things are always changing as
technology advances. The manufacturers keep Robinson and
the other service pros up to date with these changes, with online
training programs and classes at their facilities. “And we have
good relationships with our manufacturers, so if we run into a
problem that we can’t fix on our own, we can call them directly,
and they help us work through it,” he said.
The engines in today’s equipment are becoming incredibly
sophisticated, especially with recent Tier 4 diesel emissions
rules, Robinson explained. “It’s not like an old 230 Timberjack
skidder, where you could fix just about anything with a pair
of water-pump pliers, a hammer, and a Crescent wrench.”
Servicing modern logging equipment is a complex business.
In many cases, when he’s called in, Robinson’s work begins not
with a wrench and a flashlight but by connecting the machine
to his laptop.
By Patrick White
At Work Making Things Run Right
with Eric Robinson
Adding to the challenge is the fact that Robinson rarely
gets a chance to work in the controlled environment of a shop.
“About 90 percent of what I do is out in the field,” he said. So he
brings his shop with him, traveling in a Freightliner truck with a
Summit body, complete with a 12,000-pound crane, a welder, a
generator, an air compressor, and as many parts as he can carry.
“It’s a mobile garage,” he said.
Robinson can usually get his truck in as far as a log truck is
venturing to pick up wood. If the equipment is at that landing,
or can be towed there, the job becomes easier. But often, the
machine is up in the woods in an inaccessible spot – on steep
or wet terrain, for example. “I’ve had to walk a mile and a half
before,” he said. And those treks usually are repeated several
times to get the right tool or part. The goal in such cases is to get
the equipment running just well enough to get it near his truck,
where more comprehensive repairs can be made.
Of course, when you’re dealing with a skidder or feller-buncher
that might weigh upwards of 50,000 pounds sitting lifeless in
the woods, it may be impossible to tow the unit out. In some
cases, access roads need to be built out to wherever the machine
is sitting to get his truck there. In those cases, repair work
requires not just tools and a laptop, but perhaps a bulldozer.
Adding to these logistical challenges is the fact that a lot of
Have truck, will travel. Eric Robinson covers a large swath of the northeastern U.S. as
part of CJ Logging Equipment’s mobile service unit.