Whether you are buying logs or selling them, it is likely you could find yourself transacting in a not-so-standard unit of measurement known as the “truck load.” Thus, it is helpful to know exactly how much a truck load of logs is worth. Generally, one can expect to pay (or get paid) between $1,000-$2,500 for a load of sawlogs and $300-$400 for pulpwood, but the true amount could differ substantially depending on a multitude of factors. In this article, we will examine the factors that affect the value of truck loads of logs and how you can better estimate the value for needs. Let’s start by discussing what affects the value.
What Affects the Value of Log Truck Loads
As with anything in the word of the forest industry, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to value, and the value of log deliveries is no exception. These values are generally a function of species, quality, and the size and volume of the truck.
A significant determinant of how much a truck load of logs is worth is the species of the logs themselves. Certain species like hard (sugar) maple, black cherry, and especially black walnut are highly sought-after, giving them substantial premiums over other woods like soft (red) maple and pine. Of course, these rules do not always hold true. Local markets can differ dramatically in the values of species depending on what mills are located nearby.
The quality of the logs the truck delivers is also be a major factor in value. The larger, straighter, and freer of defect a log is, the more valuable it will be per MBF (thousand board feet). The highest quality logs, known as veneer, will bring substantially more money than most logs. On the other hand, pulpwood, which is the lowest quality log, will bring in substantially less money regardless of species.
There are certain species that are not affected much (if at all) by quality, however. Typically, logs used for structural lumber, such as spruce and fir, are valued more by volume. Mills don’t mind if they have a few knots and blemishes. How much a truck load of such logs is worth is then mostly a function of how much wood can fit on that truck, which brings us to the final factor…
Regardless of species, quality, or product type, the value of a truck load is largely going to be determined by the size of the truck and the volume of the load. Believe it or not, a “truck load” is not a defined unit, though if you talk to loggers and truckers they might talk like it is. There are varying sizes of trucks and they have varying bunk sizes that can carry (you guessed it) varying amounts of wood. The more logs a truck can carry, the more the load is worth. That fact alone makes estimating the value of a load difficult, but not necessarily impossible.
Estimating the Value of a Truck Load of Logs
All that having been said, we can estimate the value of a truck load of logs using the above three variables. Here are lists of typical value ranges based on species and truck size.
Value of a Semi-Truck Log Load
Semi-trailer logging trucks are more or less the standard-sized load if there could be such a thing. They are the primary method of moving larger volumes of logs on public highways. Below is a chart of typical values for semi-truck loads.
Value of Tri-Axle Logging Truck Loads
Tri-axle logging trucks are smaller than semis and are used for smaller jobs or deliveries to smaller sawmills. Below is a chart of typical values of tri-axle logging truck loads.
Value of Off-Road Logging Truck Loads
While not particularly common, off-road logging trucks are substantially larger than standard semi-trailers, and they hold a lot more wood. These behemoths are used where timber companies or governments own vast tracts of forest land with their own private road systems, thus bypassing DOT regulations. This can be seen in areas such as the North Maine Woods. Below is
Beware of Ever-Fluctuating Markets
Finally, while these values can be used for generalities and rule-of-thumb estimates, the forest industry is tricky, and values can change overnight. Truck loads of logs are ultimately worth what the buyer will pay for them, and different buyers (usually sawmills) may have very conflicting ideas about what the logs are worth. While the price of lumber is always subject to changing macroeconomic winds, local conditions, such as rising inventories or maintenance shutdowns, can radically alter local markets overnight. Thus, the only way you can know for certain how much a load of logs is worth is to get the check from the sawmill or bill from the logger. While that may not be the answer you need, we hope this information at least sets you on the right track.