Moving Forward

Tracked forwarder keeps pressure off the ground, rain or shine.

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Howard Godfrey has grown tired of letting the weather dictate when he could work. With more than 40 years of experience in the logging industry, there were countless rainy days that he could only look into a forest from his truck rather than drive through in a wheeled log forwarder.

"I got to thinking there had to be a better way to get this job done, that would keep it a good livelihood and not destroy the ground."

The timber ground in Godfrey's area of northeastern Ohio is typically poorly drained, meaning water can stay in the woods for a long time.

"When you make a lot of trips over a wet area with a wheeled machine, it doesn't take long before it is right down to its belly and you are leaving ruts," says Godfrey, who founded EnviroMAX LLC, Andover, OH. "It is tough on the machinery, and it doesn't take long before you either have to stop working or make a new set of tracks. That isn't popular with property owners, and it doesn't do any good for the logging industry to make a mess like that."

Ten years ago, Godfrey started looking into using low-ground pressure machines to move logs out of the woods. His first tracked machines were on used Morooka platforms, which proved his concept while revealing the shortcomings of adapting an existing machine for the application, one being parts availability.

"As the concept evolved, I knew I needed to design my own machine," says Godfrey. He decided to switch to a new chassis after attending ICUEE (Intl. Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition) show in Louisville, KY. "There were all kinds of soft-track vehicles there for a number of applications."

Godfrey worked with a number of specialists to build his latest forwarder. The undercarriage was built to Godfrey's specifications by Soft Track Supply Inc., Cartersville, GA. A new Serco 8000 crane came from Two Harbors Machine, Two Harbors, MN. And the EROPS cab (enclosed roll-over protective structure) was made by Cabs-ROPS & Attachments Inc., Iron River, WI.

The EnviroMAX machine traveled to its suppliers. The finished cab was hauled to Two Harbors, where it was mounted on the crane. The assembly was then trucked to Cartersville where controls and gauges were installed and the cab assembly was bolted on the chassis. In May, with the machine in Godfrey's neighborhood for the first time, the 13-ft. log deck was added, final connections were made, and paint and decals were applied.

The EnviroMAX all-terrain log forwarder made its debut at forestry shows this summer. Weighing 13.5-tons, it uses a 177 hp Deutz engine and hydrostatic drive.

Starting from scratch gave Godfrey the opportunity to control the quality of the components he was using. "I could make the design match the purpose a lot easier" he says. "Converting those other machines proved the principal of using a tracked machine to haul logs out of the woods. The people using them are happy with the machine and the land owners are, too."

Thanks to a ground pressure of 4.5 lbs. when loaded with 10,000 lbs. of wood, haulers benefit because they can work every day, but just as important for future work is the fact that it doesn't hurt the trees that are not being harvested. "We need to save the crop so we'll have healthy trees to harvest in 15 years," says Godfrey.

Safety in design

Blank-sheet machine design meant safety features could be put in place that were specific to the job. "When I converted the Morooka machines, I used the existing cab but had to enclose the cab quite a bit with mesh. With the new version, I went with a full EROPS cab, so the operator is fully protected."

Visibility was also increased by mounting the cab on the crane, eliminating the need for the operator to strain his neck and back when loading or unloading logs. "Visibility is far superior in this machine, which makes it safer to operate. If you can't see what you are doing, sometimes you are guessing and might do something you shouldn't."

Although Godfrey's day job is still hauling logs, the prototype hasn't been put to work while it is doing the show circuit. With patents pending, Godfrey's ultimate goal is to move into full production. He believes the EnviroMAX forwarder is the right machine for the environment and the current economic conditions. "Waiting for the woods to drain is a tough economic hardship when a young guy has a family to support," he says.