In search of fossil freedom

Hauling 105,000 lb. paper loads over the roads and through the woods of Washington State and Canada is no easy task

Hauling 105,000 lb. paper loads over the roads and through the woods of Washington State and Canada is no easy task. Trucks need all the power they can get, and matching those needs with the needs of the environment is not any easier. That's why Grays Harbor Paper views sustainability as the lifeblood of its operation.

“When we started this, we had no idea about being green or sustainability,” says David Quigg, director of marketing for Grays Harbor. “We thought sustainability was being able to go to work the next day.”

And it's no wonder. Grays Harbor was founded in 1993 by David's father Bill Quigg and a group of local investors after another paper mill left the small town of Hoquiam, WA, leaving more than 600 unemployed. But the Quigg family came to the rescue, building the local mill on the backs of a sustainability platform that encompasses the three Ps — people, paper and planet. The mill produced paper under the name Weyerhaeuser until 2000 when it began marketing its own brand. With revenues of about $100 million annually, the company produces approximately 1.5% of the paper in the U.S.

Grays Harbor operates on a “team concept” where employees have a say in nearly every aspect of the operation, from work schedules to quality standards. The company produces its paper in a carbon-neutral process. “Grays Harbor Paper is one of the few companies in North America that makes 100% recycled content paper and uses biomass wood waste to generate steam and electricity to make it a carbon-neutral manufacturing process,” says Bill Quigg.

“We bought some turbine generators so we could use the [fossil fuels] we generate to make our own electricity,” says David Quigg. Production and use of one ton of its Harbor 100 paper saves 14 million Btus, 10,000 gals. of water, 2,200 lbs. of greenhouse gases, and 1,100 lbs. of solid waste over traditional “recycled” paper, which uses 30% recycled materials, the company says.

In the early years, Grays Harbor outsourced all its transportation needs. But that began to change in 2003 when the company started its private fleet, Barrier West, with one Kenworth tractor and two trailers. “We found we could better control [movement of the product] by building our own fleet,” says David Quigg.

Building a sustainable fleet, though, is not easy when you're hauling over 100,000 lbs. in two countries. “Our paper is fossil-free, so we want our fleet to be fossil-free,” says Quigg. Right now, the company utilizes 15 tractors (12 Kenworth T800s, two Kenworth W900s and a Peterbilt Model 379), running a variety of Caterpillar, Cummins and Detroit Diesel engines ranging from 475 hp. up to 600 hp. with 18-spd. manual transmissions. Each tractor is equipped with tandem drive axles with a third pusher axle, and the trailers run with four axles to help distribute the weight.

While spec'ing the trucks as environmentally friendly as possible, there is only so much the fleet can do. It purchased a pair of biodiesel-capable tractors this year to take advantage of a local biodiesel producer, however, that company has curtailed production right now. Until it reopens, which Quigg says it hopes to do soon, the tractors are running on low sulfur diesel. There are other initiatives, though, that Grays Harbor and Barrier West have resorted to in an effort to reduce the fleet's carbon footprint.

“I think what we've tried to do is utilize the miles most efficiently,” says Quigg. “And one of the ways we can do that is to use a closed loop” operation. Most of the trucks' runs occur along the I-5 corridor within 200 mi. of the mill. Barrier West trucks run two “loops,” with each designed to limit empty miles.

“We have an opportunity to be a leader and cut our carbon footprint and our customers' carbon footprint,” Quigg says.

Aluminum-sided trailers have also been purchased to haul biomass out of the forests. The advantage, the company says, is that each trailer can be packed, increasing potential payload from six tons to twenty tons each, thereby reducing the number of loads and the overall carbon footprint of the fleet.

“We're literally using biomass to turn blue-collar jobs into green jobs,” says Quigg.

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