Logging is a job that is commonly misunderstood, as many people see loggers as nothing more than tree cutters. However, truth be told, logging is a job that is much more complex and multifaceted than it appears on the surface. There are many layers to being a logger, involving numerous different tasks and the use of multiple pieces of equipment. They are responsible for not only securing the timber, but also for shaping it into raw material that can and will be used by multiple industries that use wood to create their products.
There are also many different jobs on a logging crew, including being a “faller”. Faller sounds like a weird term, but what a faller does is more or less in line with what most people think of when they think of loggers, which is to say they are tree cutters. Fallers generally use power chainsaws or machines to accomplish this task, leaving the more complex equipment to other members of the logging crew.
Similar tasks are carried out by choke setters, who drag logs and load them onto trucks using steel cables or chains that they tie around the wood. Those cables are set up and later dismantled by crew members who are called rigging slingers and chasers. The logs then get moved and sorted out based on size and log type by those known as sorters, chippers, and markers.
There are also log graders and scalers who are essentially the quality control unit of the logging team in that they are responsible for measuring the logs, inspecting them for quality, and entering relevant data about them into a centralized computer system. Some crew members will clear crowded areas to make them more suitable for logging, while others scout the location to determine the conditions of the forest.
The more advanced tree cutters use more complex machinery and are known as logging equipment operators. These operators use pieces of equipment known as skidders or forwarders – which operate like drive tractors – to knock down trees, cut off limbs, and make deep cuts into the wood. They also use the machines to drag the logs to the loading area and lift the logs into the trucks. The newer logging equipment operators tend to be more highly trained and skilled because the updated equipment is often built with more advanced computerized technology that needs to be mastered by the operator.
While logging is a fairly straightforward profession, it can be intensely physical in nature and very dangerous. The job often requires physically stressful activities such as climbing and heavy lifting and the crew can be surrounded by constant sources of danger such as falling branches and vines, as well as difficult terrain.
The weather can be a big issue, too, as logging can necessitate working in extreme heat or extreme cold. Poisonous insects and animals – like snakes – can be par for the course depending on the environment where the logging is being done and poisonous plants can be a major issue as well. Due to the loud noises and physical hazards of the job, it is also essential that workers wear hard hats, steel-toed work boots, and protection for the eyes and ears to prevent potentially permanent physical damage.
In fact, to ensure safety, proper training is generally considered a must, which can either be an on the job situation, or – as in the case of some fallers and logging equipment operators – state forestry or logging associations may have departments that can provide training. State training is fairly common in many states and involves both classroom and field training in areas such as safety, compliance, and management. Whether through state training or on the job training, correct usage of all equipment – such as chainsaws – is vital, not only for safety purposes, but also to ensure that the logger can do the job properly.
While the job of logging is very important and necessitates the right amount of training, it has not traditionally required any kind of advanced level of education. Generally, a high school diploma combined with either on the job training or training from a state agency has sufficed as far as serving to appropriately prepare loggers for the job they must carry out. That said, some Associate programs do offer forest harvesting classes, which can be helpful. Those programs sometimes offer classes for equipment operators as well, which can be a plus since those jobs usually require a higher level of skill and mastery than most other logging jobs.
There is a lot that goes into logging, so many will ask what the financial rewards for the job are. The answer is that it depends on which logging job you take and how much experience you have. Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers indicate that fallers, on average, earned just north of $20 per hour or roughly $42,000 per year. Those same numbers showed that log graders and equipment operators earned, on average, just over $16 per hour or roughly $34,000 per year. That was matched by buckers, chokers, ringing slingers, sorters, movers, and chippers who also all earned roughly $16 per hour or $34,000 per year.
Overall, logging is a job that is thought to be nothing more than a bunch of tree cutters, but there is far more to it than that. The job itself is very important since loggers provide an incredibly valuable raw material to numerous industries and there are multiple different specialties within the logging profession.
Whether somebody is a faller, choker, ringing slinger, equipment operator, grader, or any of the many other jobs somebody on the logging crew may occupy, the tasks can be very involved, as well as physically demanding and dangerous.
While formal education like a college degree is typically not required, the training it takes to learn the various jobs a logger must do and be able to know how to keep yourself safe while on the job makes logging a very difficult, rough, and demanding occupation.