Mickey Buell (Equipment Manager)
Jack Buell Trucking/JMF Co. Inc. - St. Maries, Idaho
For lifelong St. Maries resident, Michael Allan “Mickey” Buell, the ultimate satisfaction as an equipment operations manager comes at the end of each work day when “all our employees safely return to their homes.” In an operation with more than 200 big trucks hauling forest products on long, sometimes dangerous stretches of roads, covering an average 50,000-60,000 miles daily within a three-state area, every hassle-free day is a great day.
As manager of log handling and portable wood chipping and grinding, Mickey oversees site operations at the landings with his company’s chippers and grinders. He has spent his career working in various dimensions of his father’s trucking company, starting out as a youngster cleaning shops. Next, he changed tires on the big trucks for three years, and since age 17, he has driven trucks for Jack A. Buell Trucking/JMF Co. Inc.
These days, he mainly hauls heavy equipment to and from sites and occasionally even a load of logs. The family business has been operating from the St. Maries area for more than 50 years, transporting forest products from the woods to manufacturing facilities. The company’s mint-green trucks, with the white “Jack Buell Trucking” logo on the side doors, travel as far east as Butte, Mont., south to the Clearwater Paper Co. in Lewiston and west to Royal City, Wash.
“It was started with one log truck and one small shop by my father,” Mickey says. “It’s now grown to 70 log trucks, 125 chip and lumber trucks, 4 heavy-haul trucks, 7 processors and numerous wheel loaders, hydraulic shovels, 3 portable chippers and 3 grinders.“
The business, which employs approximately 225 employees (drivers, shop mechanics and machine operators) also includes five maintenance shops, located around St. Maries.
Nowadays, Jack Buell Trucking transports several products, including lumber, wood chips, sawdust, biomass, rock, gravel and heavy equipment. “We hauled a 70-foot Christmas tree to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. a few years ago,” Mickey says. “That was quite an extensive project. We had to build a special trailer long enough for the tree to fit but capable of sliding back to legal length on its return trip. We hauled the tree all over Idaho before it went to the Capitol.“
Like many woods-oriented businesses, company employees include generations of Buell family members. Mickey’s brother Kevin works with the log trucks and transfers. Kevin’s son Josh helps throughout the business. Another brother Frank specializes with chips and lumber hauling while Mickey’s sons, Ryan and Christopher, focus on biomass. Mickey reports to his immediate supervisor, mentor and father Jack Buell.
Along with his family, Mickey has learned and lived firsthand the importance of diversification
in dealing with an ever-changing forest industry. Hauling hog fuel/biomass (the ‘guts and feathers’ of trees left in logging operations) has become a key component to the company’s continued livelihood in the wood industry. “It helps keep the employees working with mill shutdowns/closures and always changing markets,” he says. “It’s just another way to keep people going.“
Mickey says weather problems provide the greatest challenge for day-to-day operations. Besides black ice causing road hazards, frigid weather can prove tricky while trying to maintain a consistent transport schedule. As an example, he cites a weeklong cold spell, where sawdust and chips froze in the bins, making loading difficult at best. “If you could get it in the chip trailer, then there was a six-eight hour wait in Lewiston because everybody was cold [and the unloading process goes slowly],” he says. “We just try to do the best we can to schedule around the problems.“
Practical on-the-job experience has provided Mickey the best education for his career, which he loves because it provides an ever-changing environment. “I have learned the business through trial and error and from examples that my father set,” he says, adding that both parents, Jack and Eleanor, have “taught me honesty and responsibility.” For anyone interested in pursuing Mickey’s line of work, he suggests, “Go find a contractor willing to teach you the ropes at an early age, and keep learning as much as you can through the years.“
Want to know more?
º Construction Equipment Operator Careers, Jobs and Training Information
º Learn more a career as a equipment operator
º Sample of reported Logging Equipment Operator job titles:
Skidder Operator, Skidder Driver, Logging Shovel Operator, Feller Buncher
º Links to Idaho truck-driving schools
º National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Schools
º Associated Logging Contractors
º Turning waste wood into energy and factors involved
º Buell family members and others discuss biomass and advanced
technology helping revive timber industry