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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Rubber-Tracked Forwarders-Productivity and Cost Efficiency Potentials

Lundback, Mikael; Lindroos, Ola; Servin, Martin


The extraction of timber is expensive, energy intensive, and potentially damaging to the forest soil. Machine development aims to mitigate risks for environmental impact and decrease energy consumption while maintaining or increasing cost efficiency. The development of rubber-tracked forwarders has gained renewed interest, not least due to climate change leading to unreliable weather in combination with low tolerance for soil damage. The increased cost of rubber tracks compared to wheels is believed to be compensated by higher driving speed enabled by semi-active suspension. Thus, the aim of this study was to theoretically investigate how the productivity and cost efficiency of rubber-tracked forwarders are affected by variations in driving speed and machine costs. The calculations were made with fixed stand parameters, to evaluate performance in well-defined working conditions, and with parameters from 2500 final felling stands in central Sweden, to evaluate performance in varied working conditions. Scenarios were compared to a baseline corresponding to mid-sized wheeled forwarders. The results show higher productivity with the increased driving speed enabled by rubber tracks and suspension at all extraction distances, with larger differences at long extraction distances. Assuming a 15% higher machine price for the rubber-tracked forwarder and a variable cost increase proportional to speed increase, extraction costs break even with the baseline at 400 m and 700 m extraction distance for moderate and fast driving speed, respectively. Furthermore, a rubber-tracked forwarder is likely to enable access to a larger part of the harvest area during longer seasons. For the studied set of stands, the year-round accessible volumes are estimated to increase from 9% to 92% with a rubber-tracked forwarder. With rubber tracks instead of wheels, good accessibility has the potential to be combined with low soil impact and cost efficiency in a favourable way for both industry and ecosystem.


timber extraction; soil impact; accessibility; machine prototype; CTL logging

Published in

2024, Volume: 15, number: 2, article number: 284
Publisher: MDPI