Maine trucker has grown, diversified his business since hitching his wagon to the forest products industry; Peterson is a key supplier of grinders, chippers.
By Tim Cox www.TimberLineMag.com
DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — J.D. Raymond Transport is on the move in more ways than one.
Don’t let the name fool you. The company provides trucking services. However, it is also a diversified forest products business that is growing both organically and by acquisition.
The company, with operations in Maine and Massachusetts, is focused on grinding and chipping to produce wood fiber products accounting for about 75 percent of revenues. Six Peterson machines are essential to the company’s wood fiber grinding and chipping operations.
The company is headed by John Raymond, 43, who grew up in Dover-Foxcroft — about 35 miles northwest of Bangor — and now makes it the headquarters for his business. J.D. Raymond Transport has logging, chipping, and grinding operations, and John just recently acquired a Massachusetts land-clearing contracting business he is folding into his company. Besides offices in Dover-Foxcroft, the company has a maintenance shop and yard in Bangor and three yards in Massachusetts. Its operations employ 65 people in two states.
In Maine the company produces about 200 loads of biomass — wood chips or grindings — per week and about 50 loads of pulpwood or saw logs.
In Massachusetts the company operates three yards where it collects and processes wood material into mulch that is sold wholesale. Its yards are located in Peabody, less than 20 miles north of Boston, Westford, which is about 35 miles further west, and Bellingham, about 45 miles southwest of Boston. The Bay State operations employ about 18 people.
John began driving a truck at about age 22 in the early to mid-1990s. He worked for another company in Corinth, driving a flat bed truck, then worked about five years hauling fuel for a company in Dover-Foxcroft.
He launched his own business in 1999, buying a truck and contracting to U.S. Liquids to haul sludge from a wastewater treatment plant in Massachusetts and delivering it to Plymouth, Maine. After three months he bought a second truck and hired a driver. Within two years he had a fleet of eight trucks providing the same hauling service for U.S. Liquids.
When his contract ran out, he invested in some live floor trailers and began hauling bark and chips. He added grinding operations in 2002 with Glenn Collin, processing cedar slabs from small ‘mom and pop’ sawmills and supplying it to mulch producers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. From there he began producing wood fiber products or providing grinding services for other customers.
Today John’s company supplies biomass fuel to Maine pulp and paper mills and power plants, which he started in 2002 but began doing in earnest with an investment in a Peterson machine in 2004. The Maine operations are conducted within about a 100-mile radius of Dover-Foxcroft.
The company has about 10 employees working in two logging crews, harvesting timber on private land within about 50 miles of its Maine headquarters. The region is a mix of hardwood and softwood trees, noted John. The company utilizes both in producing biomass fuel because contracts do not specify hardwood or softwood. The dominant softwood species is fir, and hardwood includes poplar, beech, maple, and birch.
Mulch is an important part of the company’s operations, contributing about 50 percent of revenues. Another 25 percent of revenues comes from biomass fuel. Saw logs and pulpwood account for about 10 percent, and the remainder is trucking.
John relies heavily on Peterson machines for grinding and chipping, and Peterson’s dealer for the Northeast, Massachusetts-based Barry Equipment.
J.D. Raymond Transport is equipped with five Peterson model 5710C track grinders and two Peterson model 4310B track chippers. Three of the Peterson grinders are deployed at the yards in Massachusetts – two in Peabody and one in Bellingham; the other machines work in Maine. Doosan excavators, also purchased from Barry Equipment, are used to feed material to the grinders and chippers.
Both grinders and chippers are used to produce fuel material. The company buys standing timber and processes whole trees into chips for fuel. It also works with local contractors and landowners to clean up logging sites, processing treetops and limbs into biomass fuel. Peterson grinders are well suited to make screen changes on the fly to produce a variety of acceptable products.
John’s relationship with Barry Equipment and its owner, Tom Barry, and Peterson resulted from a chance encounter at a popular truck stop near Bangor in 2004. Tom was hauling a Peterson horizontal grinder that he had demonstrated in Fort Kent, nearly 200 miles due north of Bangor, way up near the Canadian border. John and Glenn were at the truck stop, waiting on parts for a tub grinder. When Tom went inside, they went over to look at the Peterson machine.
“We were climbing all over the thing,” recalled John. When Tom emerged from the truck stop, John and the other men began peppering him with questions. John was acquainted with Peterson, although he had never seen a Peterson horizontal grinder before up close.
“We had been running some older equipment,” said John, “machines that required a lot of repairs.” In fact, John’s business lost $200,000 off the bottom line in the first two years it added grinding operations because of costly breakdowns and repairs. That’s not $200,000 worth of repairs; it’s a $200,000 loss.
A few months later, Tom returned to demonstrate a Peterson model 5410 track grinder. It was a machine that Tom’s company had sold to a Massachusetts contractor, R.J. Cobb. In January of this year, John bought the R.J. Cobb business.
John has continued to rely on Peterson equipment. “They’re the best,” he said, in productivity, durability, and operating costs. “We’ve had real good luck with them.”
“I tell (Tom) I’m his best salesman,” joked John. For service on Peterson machines, Barry Equipment personnel provide troubleshooting expertise via phone. “If needed, they come up,” said John, “but that doesn’t happen that often.”
“What we like about Barry Equipment,” explained John, “it’s not just about the sale…They want you to succeed.”
“I can call Tom at one o’clock in the morning,” he said. “He answers the phone and helps me.”
“One o’clock,” he added. “Done it before. Many times.”
When asked if Tom was happy to hear from him at 1 a.m., John said. “Absolutely, though maybe he was a little grumpy,” he added quickly.
It’s that kind of strong support to customers that earned Barry Equipment the Peterson dealer of the year for 2013 – the second consecutive year that Tom’s company has earned the award.
“Their support after the sale is unsurpassed within our industry,” said Brian Gray, Eastern sales manager for Peterson, “and Barry’s dedication, focus, and vision to the Peterson product line, and the markets we serve, make them a tremendous partner and raises the bar for dealer performance.”
The award underscores the commitment that Barry Equipment makes to its customers, said Charlie Bagnall, Peterson’s Northeastern sales representative. “Barry Equipment is the total package,” he said. “They provide superior equipment, advice, and support for their customers.”
Barry Equipment was established in 1985 and is a family owned and operated full service equipment dealership. From its location in south-central Massachusetts, Barry Equipment services customers throughout New England and eastern New York . They specialize in equipment used for grinding and chipping for biomass, paper, and mulch manufacturing industries as well as machines for the construction industry.
In addition to representing Peterson, Barry Equipment is a dealer for Doosan, Rotobec and Edge. Doosan manufactures excavators and other equipment, Rotobec manufactures grapples and loaders for forestry applications, and Edge is known for conveying and material handling equipment, including trommels and machines for feeding and stockpiling operations.
John has enjoyed a close relationship with Peterson, too. His input was valuable when Peterson upgraded the model 5410 grinder to the 5710C version. “Basically, Peterson listened to us,” said John, to engineer improvements.
“That’s the nice thing about Peterson,” added John. “They listen to the customer and make changes.” The improvements he recommended included a variable speed conveyor, for example, and faster track speed. John passed his suggestions along to Tom and his service staff and sometimes in conference calls with Peterson personnel. “John’s feedback on machine design is invaluable— the Maine environment is tough on equipment and J.D. Raymond’s experience definitely influences machine design”, said Michael Spreadbury, Marketing Manager for Peterson. “We are so fortunate to have such a strong dealer with Barry Equipment, and some amazing customers such as John—it really is a partnership where we are all helping each other.”
Oregon-based Peterson Pacific Corp. manufactures industrial horizontal grinders, chippers, chain flail debarkers, blower trucks and trailers, and screens. The company is represented by dealers throughout the U.S. and in Canada and abroad.
Peterson makes a complete line of horizontal grinders, including stationary and portable electric models to portable and track machines designed and built to operate in the woods and wood yards.
The Peterson 5710C track grinder is powered by a Caterpillar C27 or C32 engine and offers the highest power to weight ratio of any Peterson grinder. With a feed opening of 60 inches by 44 inches and combined with Peterson’s high lift feed roll, it can readily reduce a wide range of material, including stumps.
The Peterson 5710C track grinder features the new generation impact release system that allows consistent product sizing and more protection from contaminated feedstock with reduced fuel consumption. The large grate area and quick-change multiple grate system enables the machine to produce a wide variety of finished materials to precise specifications. The control system and fully adjustable feed system can be optimized for a wide range of materials; the control system provides easy self-diagnostics and troubleshooting. Another innovation is the system of urethane cushions to allow movement of the compression roll and anvil housing pivot shaft; shear pins above the cushion and a sensing circuit that stops the engine help protect the shaft from catastrophic damage caused by severe impact.
When he acquired R.J. Cobb, John was able to keep all the employees but one. The acquisition will enable the company to expand and increase its supply of raw material. Previously, the company purchased material from about 50 tree services in Massachusetts in order to have feed stock for its mulch operations. The land-clearing division will clear ground for “pretty much anything,” said John. Jobs last year included clearing a site for a solar energy project. It currently has three jobs under way.
The business outlook for the next five years “looks very strong,” said John.
He wants his employees to have a certain level of comfort and security. “When they buy a house or care, they’re comfortable,” he said. “They’re feeling secure.”
“We try to keep good people and treat them like family,” said John. They are like family to us.”
His company pays the full cost of group health insurance for employees. “We try to treat our people good,” he said. Workers also get paid holidays and vacations, and the company recently added a 401(k) retirement plan.
John’s wife, Kerri, works in the office and takes care of all accounts receivable and payable. She is one of three people in the office.
John’s day-to-day role in business “depends on who calls first,” he joked.
“I keep everything straight,” he added, checking on jobs, meeting with customers, and closing deals. He works out of a pickup truck with a cell phone much of the time. “I’m on the phone a lot,” he acknowledged. He also visits the company’s operations in Massachusetts every week.