• Timber Hauling - The DL S3E21

    Timber Hauling - The DL S3E21 is now available on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, IGTV, and YouTube

    In this episode of The DL, Diesel Laptops’ Founder and CEO, Tyler Robertson, is joined by Ewell Smith - VP of Business Development at Timber Hauling.

    Please like, subscribe, and share. If you have questions or would like to learn more about a particular topic, drop a comment and let us know. 

    As always, thank you for watching and listening!

     

    CONNECT WITH Ewell Smith and Timber Hauling:

    LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/ewell-smith

    Websitehttps://timberhauling.com/

     

    Transcript for Timber Hauling - The DL S3E21:

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Welcome to The DL. I am your host, Tyler Robertson, the CEO and founder of Diesel Laptops. This is the  podcast show where we talk about everything going on in the heavy truck and the off-highway  equipment industry. So today's episode is going to be about one of these little sub industries that is  definitely powered by diesel engines that I think people don't realize how big it is and how important it  is. But maybe if we're building a house right now, or having to deal with some things, you probably do  know how important this industry is. So with this, I'd like to invite Ewell Smith with timberhauling.com. So Ewell, welcome to this show, man. 

    Ewell Smith: 

    I appreciate you having me on your show. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Well, before we talk about what Timber Hauling does, let's just talk first about this whole logging and timber industry and forestry industry. How big of an industry is this and how much does it impact pretty much everyone's life? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    When people think of trees, they typically think about paper. They think about lumber for their houses. And the pandemic, you remember when the pandemic took off, toilet paper became a hot item. And the  price of lumber took off like a rocket over the past year and a half during the pandemic. And because  people started investing in their homes. Since they weren't going out and traveling, they started  investing in homes. But it affects so much more than just that. It touches every aspect of our lives from  the food that we eat, for the cellulars, for the Oreo. It's gum, chewing gum. Even the cell phone has a  nanotechnology that's used to make the phones operate. 

    It touches all aspects of our lives, and the industry is massive. The industry itself, when you look  at the forestry sector, it's a $300 billion business to the United States' economy. What we're going to  talk about today is the impact of loggers, and without the loggers, loggers across the United States,  they're the key element to the supply chain of wood fiber to the mills to make all those products that  impact your life, my life, and everybody listening to this show. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So I remember this with COVID, and by the way, the building we're in actually used to be a bank. So we joke that we kept some the toilet paper in some of the safes downstairs, and we really did when that  happened. But I remember, we all saw, I think, the things on social media and the news things, price of  lumber just skyrocketed. 

    Ewell Smith: 

    That's right. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    And then now it's plummeting again, it appears. Who did that really affect? Were loggers making more  money off this? Was it the home improvement stores? Was it the mills? What caused this craziness in  this commodity that's been around for really a millennium here?

    Ewell Smith: 

    Here's some context, what a logger does. First  of all, it's a very dangerous job. They put their life on the line to serve you and I with the products that  we use on a daily basis. They put their financial lives at risk as well. The loggers in the United States run  an average net, which you probably wouldn't have gotten into this business versus what you do today,  their net's 2 to 3% at the end of the day. Or the end of the year. 

    And they take on $2 million, $3 million in debt to operate. And on paper it makes no sense. But  the reason why lagers do what they do, and if you've ever met a logger or worked with a logger, they  love it. They want to be in the woods, they love being in the woods. And many times they're multi generational. From about four or five generations of families. And that's what makes that work. I think  the COVID exposed some weak spots in the industry. That's why that's where we come into play. We'll  talk about that in a moment. But we saw, and we're seeing the impacts, the ripple effect right now of  the economy with the inflation, with the price of diesel fuel. 

    But the equipment that they used to buy for $50,000 is 2 or $300,000 than 2004. So there's so  many variables and their pay has not gone up, so that's a big factor. That has to correct itself to help  these guys. That, and then helping them reduce their costs is another key factor. Right now diesel fuel is  a tipping point. It's not the only point, but it is a tipping point that's affecting so many other sectors as  well. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah, I would echo what you said there, too. So when I first got started in this business, my family  owned a Western Star truck dealership up in Northern Minnesota. And up there, a lot of logging, very  common, especially in the winter months, with all the lakes are frozen. You can get into the woods a  little bit further and deeper than you traditionally can. And yeah, a lot of second, third, fourth  generation people. It's a family business in almost all cases that I talk to. But going back to what you're  just saying, I've got to imagine now it's got to be really tough out there. Fuel, I just saw out in California, unleaded in one spot was up to 9.50 a gallon. I look at everything going on out here. I see commercial  trucks are getting more expensive. You can't buy new ones. The ones you can get are super expensive. 

    I've got to imagine it's like that with all diesel equipment. And the commodities they go through,  fuel, tires, the wear and tear items. Are they able to raise their prices as they're going through this? Or  how are these guys all managing? Because it's got to be a really tough environment today. 

    Ewell Smith: 

    It's a tough business model because loggers generally have one or two or maybe three buyers. What  that means is they have a mill or two or three to bring their wood to. Depending upon where they are,  they might only have one mill, and that one mill sets the price. The mills generally set the price. So that  could present a challenge for these guys. It's not like they can go shop the wood around, because  they're hauling 80,000 pounds of wood and if they're going to bring it further away, the numbers don't  make sense for that. So they have to really service the market that they're in and the mill that are there.  We are here to help on the cost saving side with the Timber Hauling program. And that's where we hope  to make an impact. 

    Tyler Robertson:

     

    So let's talk about Timber Hauling a little bit. When did it get started and how did it get started? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    In 2018, I started with the Carolina Loggers Association as their executive director. And we ended up  with a vendor that provided us a really great cost savings on one of our products, on tires that our guys  use on a regular basis. And I was having a conversation along with my counterpart. His name is Craig  James from South Carolina. He's head of the South Carolina Timber Produces Association. And we were  speaking to the CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. And in our conversation, we  were talking about some of the challenges getting the word out to the loggers. And when there is a  product with a really good service, sometimes that salesperson is chasing his tail, trying to keep up with  it. So the CEO asked a very simple question, suppose we could automate that process. 

    And the light bulb went off and sure enough, Timber Hauling was born out of that conversation.  So the U.S. Endowment, I think it's important for people to understand who they are. They're not the  largest nonprofit wood endowment in the United States. Nor in North America for that matter. They  received their funding back in 2007, '08 when the United States penalized Canada for some tariff issues.  A third of that funding went to fund the endowment. So the endowment, they cannot spend the  interest. I'm sorry, they cannot spend the principle. They spend only the interest and they invest back  into the wood business, and they invest into wood projects all across the United States. This is one of  those projects. And they're generally high risk projects that others probably wouldn't take a chance  with. But they recognized the need to help the loggers. 

    Now this is before COVID. Now on March 8th or 9th, I can't remember the exact day, but we had  our annual meeting for the Carolina Loggers Association of 2020. A week and a half later... At that  meeting, we announced... Actually Diesel was exhibiting at that event. And that event, we announced  Timber Hauling. And about a week and a half later, the whole country was shut down for COVID. So that  put the brakes on it for a little while. But we brought it back. And it's taken on a much more significant  meaning because you think about, we were just talking about cost before. Now we're talking about  supply chains. I think the mills are now looking at the bigger picture as well. Everybody's looking at the  bigger picture. What happens if the loggers go out of business? Without them the entire wood supply  chain, without them, the fiber does not get to the mills and all those products that we talked about at  the beginning don't get produced. 

    It creates a massive domino effect. And again, the forestry sector in the United States is a $300  billion business to the United States economy. So this project has taken on a very significant meaning to  help these guys. And it may very well mean the difference for some people being in business or out of  business because the savings that we've been able to bring in can save tens of thousands of dollars to  the loggers. And as we go grow our footprint, right now when we announced it back in March, and then  we started it a year ago, about when we brought back to life, we started in three states. North Carolina,  South Carolina, Virginia. As a pilot, so we could work through the... You deal with a lot of tech. 

    So we had to work through all the kinks and so forth of launching a platform like this. We're  getting through those stages and now we're starting to look at adding additional states, expanding our  footprint and some collaborations. As we grow our footprint, the better the savings will be able to help  the loggers. And at the end of the day, that's what our goal is, is to help these guys. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So I've run across a couple associations and groups such as yourself, that helps a specific group. And the  ones that seem to do pretty well are always the ones that seem like they got some funding behind them. 

    Like out in California, in an area out there, there's a high school, actually got a lot of funding from the  state and federal to put together a diesel tech program for high school kids. I know you're working with  the endowment, so if there's people listening to this that are in different spaces and trying to find  funding, was it easy for you? Do you just happen to know someone or did they call you over to the blue?  Or any tips you'd give someone out there that's in a similar situation? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    We were in a unique situation. The endowment, they mandated to invest in that business. Other  sectors, there's government grants and so forth have dealt with that, with the seafood industry and the  fisheries industry. There are certainly grants for programs, very unique programs to help with job  development and so forth. This program is certainly unique, because the endowment is very unique in  their mission, and their funding, and the resources that they have available. And again, their mandate as  a nonprofit is to invest in this, and they've invested hundreds of thousands so far. They're committed to  this. This project would not be possible without them. I can tell you that right now. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. It's great to see there's groups out there and endowments like this out there trying to further  things and help people out. Can you talk a little bit about some of the... There's some things Timber  Hauling does, right? Discounts and whatnot. Can you give us an idea, a variety of what do members get?  What benefit do they get when they join with Timber Hauling? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    Well, right now it's free for them to join and then the savings that they have access to. One of our first  vendors was Schwab Brothers, Schwab hoses. They're a smaller company. They're very entrepreneurial,  like you are in your company is. They're able to get a reach that they maybe have not had before  through the network that we're able to bring. And the way we are able to reach the loggers on a daily  basis, because we're not just working by ourselves, we're working, we're collaborating. Right now I said  we're in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. But we're working with the North Carolina Loggers  Association, the South Carolina Timber Producers Association, the Virginia Loggers Association. So we're  in collaboration with those guys. As we add other states, Georgia and Florida, we'll be doing the same  thing, working with their state associations. 

    So we have that outreach on a daily basis, to the loggers and that's how we are able to make an  impact. So a company like Schwab Brothers, or other vendors that want to be part of the program, it's  free for them to be on the program. There's no upfront cost whatsoever. If a sale is made, a little piece  comes back so we can support the program. But the program itself is a free platform, both for the  loggers and for the vendors. And it helps us get those discounts to the loggers. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So I know when we've come out with some products or services and you've said, "Oh, they're free."  Everyone looks at us weird and goes, "What's the catch?" I'm just curious, do you run across that at all  with loggers? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    It's interesting, yes and no. Yes, for sure. Because people, they don't believe it till they start to see it.  Then they realize, okay, the U.S. Endowment is for real. It's a real entity. It exists. And if you look at their website, usendowment.org, you'll see all the projects that they have going on across the United States.  They do amazing work in a lot of different areas. They invest in all these different wood projects. If  you've seen the mass timber construction, these big buildings that are out, they do 18 stories high.  That's one of my favorite projects that they worked on. The U.S. Endowment paid all the research to be  done, to educate the building code inspectors around the United States, to get the permission and  approvals, to go 18 stories with wood. That happened because of the U.S. Endowment. Well that opens  up markets. This market, that market is just starting to get it's footing in the United States. 

    That's going to be massive because now you're not building a three or four story building of  wood. Now you can go 18 stories with wood. That's the type of projects that they can take on and have  an impact with. So yes, the endowment is a very unique situation. Getting past the free thing, normally,  as a marketer, I love the word free. Sometimes when I'm having a conversation for the first time, I don't  use it because it's almost unbelievable. It's too good to be true. But it is real. And they're there to help  the industry. If you're in the industry, you may have heard of the endowment, you know their  reputation. But if you're not from the industry looking in? Yeah. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I can say, when you first approached me and explained to me it's free, I'm like, "Okay, there's got  to be a game or a scam going on here. What is it?" But I promise the listeners and watchers, it's the U.S.  Endowment Forestry... There's some other words in there. 

    Ewell Smith: 

    Yep. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    But it is a real thing. It does exist. They get a transparent report on there. And what you'll are saying is a  hundred percent true. They literally have hundreds of millions of dollars in this account and they use the  interest to help better their cause and their mission of being there. It's a great organization. The other  thing I've noticed, here at Diesel Laptops, we've said, "Man, we want to get into these sub niches.'  Forestry has always been a passion of mine because that's what I grew up in at the dealership, was all  these loggers and logging equipment. 

    But we always try to find industries where it's one to many. We like utility companies because  they're big and they buy a lot of stuff. What I found with the loggers is there's a lot of loggers. There's  not a lot of huge ones, that own 10,000 pieces of machinery. It's a lot of smaller operations. 

    Ewell Smith: 

    Yeah. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So how's it been trying to get that message in front of them? Because I've got to imagine that's the  hardest thing, is saying, "Hey, there's this thing that exists. It's going to help you." But you've got to put  your name in front of those people. So how's it been going on that front? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    We go to their events. Like we're at the annual associations for all these different trade associations. We  go to the logging events. We were at the Richmond Expo in Richmond, Virginia, and we were just at the North Carolina, the Mid Atlantic Show in Laurinburg, North Carolina. And we communicate, we work  with the state associations through email. We're communicating with them on a regular basis, and we  also use social media. Loggers like social media. They actually use Facebook quite a bit. So that's a way  that we get to them. But the email is how we really reach them. We also text them as well. We have  been able to dial that in pretty well because of the relationships. And it goes back to the trust factor of  working with those state associations, and they've come to know who we are. But there's still an  adoption process, like any new technology using us. And we're getting through that as well. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So your members now, they're starting to realize the value of this, do this thing. I know you've talked,  you're in the Southeast. You guys have some plans here to keep branching out, or are you trying to lock  down the Southeast here first? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    We want to go regionally across the whole south, and then we'll start expanding other region of the  United States. So right now I'm in conversations past few weeks with Florida and Georgia. And there's  another group that represents the entire south that we're in conversation with, to collaborate on. I wish  I was a little further down the road to say where we are, but I can't say it yet. But it looks very promising,  so I'm excited about that. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    And the program as it exists today, how many partners? I know Diesel Laptops were on there. People  are part of your program. They get a discount buying product from us. How many companies do you  have on there currently that are involved in this? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    We have 18 companies right now. We've got another one getting ready to come on. And then the  collaboration will expand our footprint even greater. Then we are constantly looking to bring in new  vendors as well. And again, as we grow this footprint, the goal is, especially with the larger corporations,  it's really great for small mom and pop family businesses because we have a reach. For example, you all  came on and other vendors come on. We will do the push out into the marketplace. We'll take this  podcast. We'll push this out through our logging community as well. We have that reach, which is the  key. And we've dialed that in pretty tight. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So if we have some future members looking for you right now, what's the website and people want to  get a hold of you, how do they do that? 

    Ewell Smith: 

    So the best way to get a hold of me is my first name is Ewell. E-W-E-L-L at timberhauling.com. And you  can check out the website, which is the last part of my email address, is timberhauling.com. And there  you can enroll into the platform if you're a logger. You can enroll into our contract truck driver. You can  log in and enroll into the program for free. And if you want to find out being a vendor, just reach out to  me directly through at Ewell, E-W-E-L-L at timberhauling.com.

     

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Well thank you very much for coming on the show. It's been great to learn about everything going on with Timber Hauling, learn how this whole thing works. I think that's a beautiful thing about this show is  I always learn. That's why I enjoy doing these shows. I always learn a little bit something new that I  didn't know previously. So again, thank you for coming on. We're going to call this an episode for  everyone that's been watching and listening. Make sure to give us a like, comment, thumbs up, subscribe. Whatever buttons, whatever app you're using, you can mash. It definitely helps our cause  over here at The DL. So we're going to call it an episode, and as we ever end every episode, it's just not  diagnostics, it's diagnostics done right. And if you're involved in the logging industry at all, check out timberhauling.com.

     

     

     

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