Logging Workers

There are approximately 67,000 logging workers in United States, with half of them employed by the logging industry itself. Job growth over the next decade is projected at 6%, which is a little slower than average, but has frequent job openings due to high turnover.


Logging crews reap timber from forests to be hauled out by trucks. A core crew typically contains a tree faller or two, a bucker, two skidder operators, and an equipment operator. A tree harvesting machine operator may replace the tree fallers, who use chain saws or portable felling machinery. The bucker’s job is to trim and cut logs to size, skidder operators move logs for loading, and the equipment operator loads them onto trucks. Steel cables are chained around logs so they can be pulled to the loading deck. Once there, they must be sorted by type (for example, pulpwood, saw, or veneer logs) and loaded. Logging equipment operators control tree harvesters used to fell trees, cut limbs, and saw logs. Equipment operators also run grapple loaders to load logs for transport. Logging workers at a mill often use a forklift-like machine to unload logs and pulpwood off of trucks. State-of-the-art computer technology is found in new equipment, which must be operated by trained workers. Logs are examined for flaws by graders, who also estimate their market value with hand-held data collectors that later download the information to a central computer.

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In addition to these jobs, logging workers might clear brush or hike woods to monitor logging conditions. Crews most often work for logging contractors, some of whom supervise crews or operate machinery.
Logging can be dangerous and physically demanding, although technological improvements have increased the level of safety for workers. This is outdoor work regardless of weather. Locations are sometimes isolated; therefore, medical help may not be easily available if injury occurs. Although some logging camps, primarily in Maine and Alaska, provide workers with housing, others must commute, sometimes considerable distances. Lifting, climbing, pushing, pulling, dragging, and stretching might result in sprains, or tears in muscles or ligaments. Logging workers must be especially careful of falling trees, as well as of chainsaws and other machinery. Strong winds present especially dangerous conditions. Falling accidents can occur due to uneven terrain that hides rocks, roots, or holes, or that has slippery mud, moss, or grass. Heat stroke, snake bite, and exposure to poisonous plants are further dangers.
Because logging machinery produces damaging noise, loggers must wear protective devices to deter hearing loss. In addition, logging workers use hardhats, eye guards, safety clothing, and protective boots to lessen risk.
Logging work is typically learned on the job by working with experienced loggers, but some states require more formal instruction. A high school diploma or GED may be required by some employers. Workers are given safety training through logging associations, state forestry instructors, or in the field under supervision. Instruction might include best practices, environmental compliance, wetlands, endangered species, and reforestation. In some cases, loggers who take classes earn a certificate. The Northeastern Loggers Association, the American Loggers Council, and the Forest Resources Association, Inc. provide training for specialized workers operating complex equipment. Some vocational schools and community colleges offer classes in woodlands harvesting or equipment operations. Employers require employees to have strength, resilience, the ability to remain calm and clear-headed in emergencies, coordination, and a willingness to work as a team member. Mechanical aptitude and CPR training are pluses.
Advancement is possible with experience. Logging workers enter the field by taking jobs with considerable manual labor. Promotions to supervisory or managerial positions are possible by demonstrating knowledge, a good work ethic, and the ability to make decisions quickly. Learning to operate complex machines is helpful.
Salary is dependent upon location, type of work, and the size of the company or organization. Those working in forests located in Alaska and the Northwest are higher paid than those working in forests in the South. However, cost of living is higher in the North. The median hourly pay for log graders and scalers is around $17. Logging equipment operators earn roughly $16. Fallers are paid a little less than $16 per hour. Smaller companies of