Normally, discussion of forest road building tends to focus around avoiding soil disturbance and runoff that could pollute nearby waterways. Water Quality BMP’s or Best Management Practices are now common in every state across the nation. BMP’s provide acceptable slope limitations, proximity to streams, lakes and wetlands, adequate stream crossing designs, methods of stabilizing, slowing and filtering surface water runoff. Such BMP’s help to protect our water resources and can be adapted for excavation and construction, agriculture, and forestry applications.
Less common are discussions of forest road building from a safety standpoint. The best way to begin thinking about forest road building from a safety standpoint is to remember the golden rule; treat others the way you would want to be treated. When building a road intended for forestry operations, consider who and what will be using the road in various stages of the process.
If possible, build roads well in advance of expected traffic to enable settling and stabilization of the new access. Incorporating BMP’s during construction and after completion will allow for a more stable forest road. Walk along the new road after precipitation events to observe surface flow patterns and effectiveness of BMP measures. Unfortunately, the timeline on some forestry operations do not allow for much lead time. However, doing so when possible will improve the stability and accessibility of access throughout your operation.
While planning is important for a stabilized road, it is also needed for a safe road. Consider the intended lifespan and stages of the road. Initially, the road may only see light truck traffic as landowners and foresters assess the stand for planning efforts. As long as the road is dry, such traffic is fine on the new road. After a precipitation event, no matter how light, any traffic will usually result in devastating effects on a new road. BMP installation and stabilization efforts should begin during, and immediately after construction. So what does any of this have to do with considering others’ safety?
As logging equipment and trucks begin using the road, drivers and operators would certainly appreciate a solid and stabilized surface to travel on, as well as have enough room to maneuver. Any trees or stumps cast aside should be done with other users in mind. Trees pushed over and out of the way might have to be removed by someone with a chainsaw. Consider the manner in which the tree was left. Did you, with your dozer or excavator leave the stem or branches in a bind, forcing the sawyer to relieve stored energy with simply a chainsaw that was created by a machine weighing 10 tons or more? What about stumps cast to the side? A forwarder operator will often grab and throw stumps and root wads filled with dirt and rock that have not been pushed far enough away. Such lifts can exceed the load capacity of the system resulting in equipment failure and other dangerous situations. Consider the safety of the operator and capacity of the machine by establishing the needed clearance during road construction. Also eliminate any overhead hazards, hung trees, snags or “widowmakers”, along the road before heavy traffic begins.
When considering traffic over the lifespan of the road be sure to allow for safe clearance of all vehicles. This includes establishing curves to accept the full length of log trucks and trailers, allowing them to stay in the road bed. Adequate pull offs, staging areas and turn-arounds are also needed to allow equipment, log trucks and pick-ups to move out of each other’s way. Turn-arounds and vehicle staging areas should provide enough room to turn and park with the vehicle facing the way out in the event of an emergency. Many accidents and fender benders happen when an operator moves in reverse while hurried.
Finally, after the operation is complete and the road is retired, ensure that stabilization and road retirement measures have been completed and no hazardous situation remains.
Summer is here, and many roads are being established during this time. Saving money in the long run goes hand in hand with safety. By following the tips here, as well as a few of your own that aren’t mentioned, we can build forest roads right the first time.