The Corona Virus impact has been significant in many areas and one of the many ways it has and will continue to affect logging operations in Montana is the huge increase in traffic on our forested roads. We all know it has pushed the sales of campers through the roof as people seek to social distance in the outdoors. Hats off to all you loggers and log haulers out there as we have managed to get through this increased traffic in the woods so far without any bad accidents; however, we have yet to test this with the winter conditions. What is going to happen this late fall and early winter? Some say the Covid19 virus is going to continue to be an issue into the fall of 2021…geez I hope not!
The fact is many of these folks looking to recreate and enjoy the outdoors are first timers in the sense of discovering the great outdoors. This certainly rings true when I think of some of the places that I have seen $100k campers jammed into spots where you say “how in the heck did you get that in there and how are you ever going to get it out!” I have seen and been nearly involved with several IPCTFC phenomenon’s this summer; (Idiot Pulling Camper Too Fast Crash) can’t wait to see what they do when the roads get slick! If there was ever a time to stress defensive driving, now is the time!
Top 5 Rules of Defensive Driving
Look up ahead. It sounds obvious to make sure you're looking ahead rather than what's directly in front of you.
Be aware of blind spots.
Slow down at all intersections.
Maintain a safe following distance.
Minimize all distractions.
Montana’s outdoor recreation opportunities bring folks onto woods roads without radios and many times without any woods driving experience or knowledge that they could be meeting a semi on one of these small roads. Needless to say, make sure your open to the public roads are well signed. If the traffic seems to be unmanageable consider talking with your sale administrator/land owner to see if there are some other options such as closing portions of the road, reducing speed limits, or getting law enforcement involved. Good communication on both high band radios and CB radios has always been one of the keys to safe woods road traveling. Stress with everyone on your job the importance of good communication, especially in these times.
By the time this newsletter goes out the general hunting season will be over and we will be into elk shoulder seasons and mountain lion, wolf and bobcat seasons which run into March. These later in the winter seasons bring another set of problems to the table. The roads into your job are plowed and thus focuses the traffic right to your operation. This especially rings true for hound hunters as many times they drive roads waiting to cut a fresh track or have their dogs “strike” from the truck. When yours is the only plowed road in the drainage it naturally brings them onto the logging roads and into your logging jobs. As always, our plowed roads in the winter also bring firewood cutters, this year it could bring 30’ fifth wheel campers as well. Winter conditions bring our slickest and hardest to stop road conditions that greatly compound the hazard of unexpected traffic encounters.
Myself, like many other folks, continue to live in Montana in part due to the hunting and recreating opportunities. The number of folks participating in these sports are increasing every year and this pandemic has increased it even more. To mitigate this hazard, it is imperative we all stay diligent with road signage, communication and driver awareness. Make sure all pickup drivers and log haulers on your job are reminded to watch out for other folks especially as we move into the winter months. Stay extra vigilant on our secondary roads and woods roads. Be safe out there and stay diligent with your signage, communication, and defensive driving!