LAURENS, S.C. – In the small town of Laurens, South Carolina – population less than 10,000 – business has been good for Walker and Walker Logging during the past several years.
“Actually, it was better than usual for us,” said Tyler Walker, co-owner of Walker and Walker Logging, along with his dad Robert, his Uncle Billy, and his son Ryan. “We stayed healthy, and our logging and chip business has grown. We didn’t miss a beat. The combination of more demand for wood products and the opportunity to log areas formerly closed due to a lot of rain has kept us busy.”
In operation since 1978, the logging company, started by Robert and Billy, expanded its operation in 1998 by investing in a chipping business, hauling chips from the woods to area paper mills. Along with the logging operation, the company runs 17 trucks – all Kenworths. The latest models are eight Kenworth W990s purchased through Worldwide Equipment in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Walker and Walker’s logging operation is turnkey. It contracts with private landowners and harvests about 70% hardwood and 30% pine trees, and then transports the logs to area mills for processing. “Typically, the land is within a 50-mile radius of our operation,” said Tyler. “The mills can be up to 100 miles for transport. We’ll normally make two or three runs with each truck to the mills, so we put on a lot of miles – around 130,000 miles annually per truck. For the chipping side of our business, we chip mainly hardwood in the woods, and then take those to a paper mill located in Eastover – about 110 miles from our shop. We also take pine chips to Catawba, which is 75 miles away, and then residue chips for pellets, to a mill in Greenwood.”
The company has been running Kenworths since 2004. “We were having some reliability and service problems with our other trucks, so we decided to buy four Kenworth T800s,” recalled Tyler. “I was graduating from high school when we bought them, so I’ve grown up having Kenworths in our fleet. We just sold off three of those original trucks, and we still have one in operation – so that tells you how good they’ve been.”
According to Tyler, one of the company’s keys to success is reliability. “And that goes all the way to our trucks,” he said. “We can’t afford to be down in the woods, so we need great parts and service support, which we’ve received that from Worldwide Equipment.”
When the company decided to order new trucks, it decided on the Kenworth W990. “We have a couple of W900s in our fleet and those have been great. I really like the looks of the traditional truck. The new W990 has more comfort features, along with a longer frame, and our drivers and mechanics really like that. It’s not like driving an old school truck – it drives more like a car. It’s so quiet, and the ride is smooth. It’s spacious and comfortable. Our drivers like them.”
Since the trucks operate in the woods with lots of differing terrain, altitude gains and mud, the W990s are equipped with 550 hp engines and 13-speed manual transmissions. A wide track front axle was also spec’d to provide a tighter wheel cut.
Tyler said the new W990s are rolling billboards for the company. “We had the W990 painted all the same color and put our name on the door in reflective vinyl to be noticeable and stand out over the average truck,” he said. “The trucks are the face of our business – that is what the public sees all the time, so we wanted to have a respectable image. It’s resulted in more people calling looking for a job or calling with timber to sell because they saw the truck.”
Going forward, Tyler said the company sees plenty of work in the forecast. “We have plenty of work lined up,” he said. “There is a lot of growth in our area with housing and commercial building. In the last two years, about 40% of the tracts that we have harvested have been for building projects. We’re also looking at different markets within the timber industry to sustain our growth – so we plan to add more trucks once we find qualified drivers.”