Logging workers harvest forests to provide the raw material for many consumer goods and industrial products.
What they do
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 otherwise 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
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, hearing protection devices, and boots.
How to become a Logging Worker
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.
A high school diploma is enough for most logging worker jobs. Some vocational or technical schools and community colleges offer associate 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 logging equipment operators.
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. These programs often culminate in a state-recognized safety certification from the logging company.
The median annual wage for logging workers was $41,230 in May 2019. 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 $25,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,920.
Overall employment of logging workers is projected to decline 13 percent from 2019 to 2029. Much of the employment decline for these workers stems from declining employment in the logging industry.
Mechanization of logging operations and improvements in logging equipment have increased productivity, resulting in less demand for logging workers, especially those who work by hand. Despite the projected employment declines, some fallers will continue to be needed to fell trees on slopes that cannot be accessed by large machinery. Additionally, the need to prevent destructive wildfires by thinning susceptible forests may result in some new jobs.
Similar Job Titles
Delimber Operator, Feller Buncher Operator, Harvester Operator, Loader Operator, Log Processor Operator, Logging Equipment Operator, Logging Shovel Operator, Skidder Driver, Skidder Operator, Yarder Operator
Landscaping and Groundskeeping Worker, Farmworker (Farm, Ranch and Aquacultural Animals), Fallers, Dredge Operators, Excavating and Loading Machine and Dragline Operator
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Loggers Council - The mission of this organization is to enhance the logging profession, provide a unified voice on logging issues; cooperate with public, industrial and private timberland owners to further sustainable forestry practices; and, advocate for the rights and interests of its members by developing and/or supporting national legislation and initiatives favorable to its members.
- Forest Resources Association - FRA seeks to proactively lead a world-class wood supply chain.
- Northeastern Loggers Association - NELA is a regional trade group representing more than 2,000 members of the Northeast and Lake States’ logging, sawmilling, and forest products community.
Magazines and Publications
- American Loggers Council News Blog
- FRA Woods-to-Mill Blog
- The Northern Logger and Timber Processor Magazine
Whether their boots are in the lumberyard or spiked into a tree high above the ground, logging workers know the value of the trees they harvest. The timber they take provides the raw material for hundreds of products for home and business use. Logging workers include several categories: Fallers cut down trees with chain saws and axes, then cut them into measured lengths. Logging equipment operators use heavy machinery for the same tasks. They move the logs to be loaded for transport, and pull stumps and clear brush if required. Log graders and scalers inspect logs to estimate their value. They enter data about trees on hand-held devices, and grade the lumber in the yards where logs are collected before shipping. Logging worker supervisors have years of experience in the field. They train workers, assign jobs, and solve on-site problems to ensure compliance with regulations. Working around falling trees and heavy equipment, logging requires a balance of quick, intelligent decision-making and an appetite for physical work. Workers spend all their time outdoors… often climbing and lifting… sometimes in poor weather. The hazards of logging require rigorous safety practices and equipment. Work is usually more available in warmer months, and may be located in remote, isolated sites. A significant number of logging workers are self-employed. While many logging workers have a high school education, almost all learn on the job.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org