Transportation is the backbone of the forest industry, and it is possible all thanks to logging trucks. Logging trucks are real behemoths of machines designed to carry freshly-felled trees along America’s roads and highways to be sawn into boards or made into all sorts of products at the sawmill. Because transportation of roundwood can be one of the more expensive parts of the timber supply chain, efficiency is a necessity, and it is important to fit as much wood in a load as possible. But how wood can fit in a truck load? While logging trucks can come in all sizes, a standard semi-trailer logging truck carries about 13 cords of wood. In terms of board feet, this works out to 3,000 board feet if the load is full of small logs or 5,000 board feet if it is a load of larger logs.
But there is variation, so let’s explore the different types of logging trucks and the general capacity of each.
How Much Wood Can a Semi-Trailer Logging Truck Carry?
A semi-trailer logging truck (which typically has 6-9 axles) is what one might think of as a “standard” load. These trucks carry about 13 cords of wood, or about 33 tons. However, this is not technically their full capacity. Instead, these log trucks must abide by DOT regulations in regard to weight limits, which typically limits how much wood a logging truck can carry in a load.
Board Foot Capacity
In terms of how many board feet semi-trailer logging trucks carry, it of course varies depending on the size of the logs. Because board feet is a measurement of yield, logs that are larger are going to yield more board feet as a percent of their overall volume, while smaller logs will yield less board feet. In general, these logging trucks can carry 3,000 board feet if carrying smaller logs and 5,000 board feet if carrying larger logs. However, this is only true if the truck is carrying cut-to-length logs. If the truck is carrying tree-length wood, which these trucks are equipped to do, the total yield will be smaller.
A standard semi-trailer log truck will be able to carry about 20 larger logs or up to 50 smaller logs. Of course, even within that range, the numbers can vary a bit based on exactly how small or how large the logs are. You may have seen the pictures of trucks carrying old growth timber out west back in the 60s carrying a single giant log from a massive tree on their bed. In those cases, the log capacity is… only 1 log!
How Much Wood Can a Straight Tri-Axle Logging Truck Carry?
While smaller than standard log trucks, straight tri-axle trucks are popular for moving logs from smaller logging jobs or to smaller mills, and they are also a popular choice for moving firewood. A tri-axle logging truck can carry about 7 cords of wood in a load, or about 18 tons.
Board Foot Capacity
In terms of board foot capacity, tri-axle logging trucks will be able to carry a load of about 1,500-2,500 board feet. As with other sizes of trucks, a load of larger-sized wood will yield more board feet than smaller-sized wood, even if the gross volume is the same.
Because the width and height of the bunk on these smaller is typically comparable to a standard logging truck, the number of logs one can carry is similar, though the logs are shorter. In general, a tri-axle logging truck can carry 20-50 logs in a load.
How Much Wood Can an Off-Road Logging Truck Carry?
While not common in most areas, off-road trucks are common in places with large timber industries with consolidated properties and private road systems, such as in the North Maine Woods. Because off-road log trucks stay off public roads and only use private road systems, they are not bound by DOT weight limits and regulations, so they are equipped with larger bunks to carry substantially more wood in a load than a standard log truck. Typically, off-road logging trucks can carry 20 cords or more! That translates to around 50 tons.
Board Foot Capacity
In terms of board feet, an off-road logging truck can carry between 6,000-8,000 board feet in a load. However, because these trucks are so large, they often carry loads of tree-length wood, so much of the carried volume is pulpwood.
The range for how many logs an off-road logging truck can be anywhere between 40 to well over 100! Because these are used where the timber industry is robust, they often carry smaller pieces of pulpwood, and you can fit a lot of small 4″ pieces of wood on those large bunks.
While these figures are usable rules of thumb to use to estimate how much wood logging trucks can hold, always remember the innate variability of wood volumes in forestry. Especially when estimating board foot volumes, it is important to scale logs individually to get the most accurate estimates. Regardless, hopefully this article can help you make the best logistical decisions for your operation, even if you are just buying firewood.