Logging Workers

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What Logging Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Logging workers harvest thousands of acres of forests each year. The timber they harvest provides the raw material for countless consumer and industrial products.

Duties of Logging Workers

Logging workers typically do the following:

  • Cut down trees
  • Fasten cables around logs to be dragged by tractors
  • Operate machinery that drag logs to the landing or deck area
  • Separate logs by species and type of wood and load them onto trucks
  • Drive and maneuver feller–buncher tree harvesters to shear trees and cut logs into desired lengths
  • Grade logs according to characteristics such as knot size and straightness
  • Inspect equipment for safety, and perform necessary basic maintenance tasks, before using the equipment

The cutting and logging of timber is done by a logging crew. The following are examples of types of logging workers:

Fallers cut down trees with hand-held power chain saws.

Buckers work alongside fallers, trimming the tops and branches of felled trees and bucking (cutting) the logs into specific lengths.

Tree climbers use special equipment to scale tall trees and remove their limbs. They carry heavy tools and safety gear as they climb the trees, and are kept safe by a harness attached to a rope.

Choke setters fasten steel cables or chains, known as chokers, around logs to be skidded (dragged) by tractors or forwarded by the cable-yarding system to the landing or deck area, where the logs are separated by species and type of product.

Rigging slingers and chasers set up and dismantle the cables and guy wires of the yarding system.

Log sorters, markers, movers, and chippers sort, mark, and move logs on the basis of their species, size, and ownership. They also tend machines that chip up logs.

Logging equipment operators use tree harvesters to fell trees, shear off tree limbs, and cut trees into desired lengths. They drive tractors and operate self-propelled machines called skidders or forwarders, which drag or transport logs to a loading area.

Log graders and scalers inspect logs for defects and measure the logs to determine their volume. They estimate the value of logs or pulpwood. These workers often use hand-held data collection devices into which they enter data about trees.

A logging crew might consist of the following members:

  • one or two tree fallers or one or two logging equipment operators with a tree harvester to cut down trees
  • one bucker to cut logs
  • two choke setters with tractors to drag felled trees to the loading deck
  • one logging equipment operator to delimb, cut logs to length, and load the logs onto trucks

Work Environment for Logging Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Logging workers hold about 53,700 jobs. About 1 out of 4 are self-employed.

Logging is physically demanding and can be dangerous. Workers spend all their time outdoors, sometimes in poor weather and often in isolated areas. The increased use of enclosed machines has decreased some of the discomforts caused by bad weather and has generally made logging much safer.

Most logging work involves lifting, climbing, and other strenuous activities, although machinery has eliminated some heavy labor. Falling branches, vines, and rough terrain are constant hazards, as are dangers associated with felling trees and handling logs.

Chain saws and other power equipment can be dangerous; therefore, workers must be careful and must use proper safety measures and equipment, such as hardhats, safety clothing, protective-hearing devices, and boots.

Injuries and Illnesses

Despite the industry’s strong emphasis on safety, logging workers have a high rate of fatal occupational injuries. Most fatalities occur through contact with a machine or an object, such as a log.

Logging Worker Work Schedules

Workers sometimes commute long distances between their homes and logging sites. In more densely populated states, commuting distances are shorter. Logging work is often seasonal, and workers can find more employment opportunities during the warmer months because snow and cold weather adversely affect working conditions.

How to Become a Logging Worker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Logging Workers near you!

Most logging workers have a high school diploma. They get on-the-job training to become familiar with forest environments and to learn how to operate logging machinery.

Logging Worker Education

A high school diploma is enough for most logging worker jobs. Some vocational or technical schools and community colleges offer associate’s degrees or certificates in forest technology. This additional education may help workers get a job. Programs may include field trips to observe or participate in logging activities.

A few community colleges offer education programs for equipment operators.

Logging Worker Training

Many states have training programs for loggers. Although specific coursework may vary by state, programs usually include technical instruction or field training in a number of areas, including best management practices, environmental compliance, and reforestation.

Safety training is a vital part of logging workers’ instruction. Many state forestry or logging associations provide training sessions for logging equipment operators, whose jobs require more technical skill than other logging positions. Sessions take place in the field, where trainees have the opportunity to practice various logging techniques and use particular equipment.

Logging companies and trade associations offer training programs for workers who operate large, expensive machinery and equipment. The training program often culminates with a state-recognized safety certification from the logging company.

Important Qualities for Logging Workers

Communication skills. Logging workers must communicate with other crew members so that they can cut and delimb trees efficiently and safely.

Decisionmaking skills. Logging workers must make quick, intelligent decisions when hazards arise.

Detail oriented. Logging workers must watch gauges, dials, and other indicators to determine whether their equipment and tools are working properly.

Physical stamina. Logging workers need to be able to perform laborious tasks repeatedly.

Physical strength. Logging workers must be able to handle heavy equipment.

Logging Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for logging workers is $36,210. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $54,410.

Median annual wages for logging workers are as follows:

Fallers $36,400
Logging equipment operators 36,290
Log graders and scalers 36,110
Logging workers, all other 35,620

Workers sometimes commute long distances between their homes and logging sites. In more densely populated states, commuting distances are shorter. Logging work is often seasonal, and workers can find more employment opportunities during the warmer months because snow and cold weather adversely affect working conditions.

Job Outlook for Logging Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of logging workers is projected to decline 4 percent over the next ten years. However, there will be a need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation permanently.

Domestic timber producers continue to face competition from foreign producers.

In addition, efforts to conserve federal forest lands have yielded policies that limit the logging industry’s ability to cultivate raw forest material. However, federal legislation designed to prevent destructive wildfires by thinning susceptible forests may result in some additional jobs.

Ongoing mechanization within the logging industry will spur demand for logging equipment operators because they will be increasingly needed to operate equipment. Mechanization of logging operations and improvements in logging equipment have increased productivity and made logging work safer, resulting in less demand for logging workers who work by hand. However, some fallers will continue to be needed to fell trees on slopes that cannot be accessed by large machinery.

During prolonged periods of inactivity, some workers may stay on the job to maintain or repair logging machinery and equipment while others receive unemployment benefits, seek work elsewhere, or retire.

Logging Workers Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be good because of the need to replace older workers who leave the occupation for retirement or for other jobs that are less physically demanding.

Employment of logging workers can be unsteady because changes in the level of construction, particularly residential construction, can cause short-term slowdowns in logging activities.

Employment projections data for Logging Workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Logging workers 53,700 51,700 -4 -2,000
  Fallers 8,200 6,800 -17 -1,400
  Logging equipment operators 37,300 37,100 0 -100
  Log graders and scalers 3,700 3,700 -2 -100
  Logging workers, all other 4,500 4,100 -7 -300

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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