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When the federal Department of Transportation introduced
new rules for transporting crushed cars, recyclers worried
about the expense of compliance. But for businesses that opted
to replace their car crushers with auto loggers to meet the
new safety standard, there have been some unexpected benefits
in lower transportation costs and increased efficiency.
Two years after the regulations went into effect, the market
is growing quickly. “We had been selling four flatteners
a month,” says Curt Spry, sales manager at Al-Jon, Inc.,
in Ottumwa, Iowa. “Now we’re down to two flatteners
a month and four loggers.”
loggers compress car bodies into stackable, uniform shapes
that are easier to load and transport. The higher density
of the crushed cars compared to flattening helps maximize
space on trailers and leads to larger loads per haul. Many
loggers also handle white goods, loose sheet tin, stainless
steel and metal farm scrap. After logging, recyclers have
a range of choices for shipping, including flatbeds, roll-offs,
rail and trailers.
Auto loggers remove the need for shrink wrap or netting
as well as the special permits required for flattened auto
scrap, which presents potential road hazards from nuts, bolts
and other debris that could dislodge during transport. “An
auto logger gives you a finished product that’s all
squared off with no loose materials,” says David VanVleet,
sales manager at R.M. Johnson in Annandale, Minnesota.
Auto loggers range in price from $250,000 to $400,000, compared
to around $140,000 for a car flattener. Units can be portable
or stationary, foreign or American made, remote controlled,
and powered by electric or diesel engines.
When choosing an auto logger, recyclers should consider
how dense a log they want, since too dense a log can damage
a shredder. A log that’s not dense enough may require
more frequent cycle times. Specific numbers may vary, but
in general auto logs are 40 inches wide, 25 inches tall and
different lengths. The machines produce anywhere from 30 to
80 pounds per cubic foot.
Already the new market for auto loggers is showing signs
of specialization. Colmar USA Inc., in Wheatfield, New York,
recently added a unit specifically for large vehicles, such
as SUVs, vans and buses. “Auto logging is evolving because
of the evolving needs of the consumers themselves,”
says Lisa Bresolin, vice president of administration and finance
at Colmar. “There’s more and more large car scrap
here in Buffalo every year.”
Portable loggers represent another growing part of the logging
market. These let small- to mid-sized recycling businesses
process scrap at remote locations. Portable units make sense
when the volume of remote scrap available justifies the cost,
which includes the expense of transporting the heavy machines.
Even portable loggers can approach 100,000 pounds, a weight
not permitted on some local roadways.
Johnson’s fully portable E-Z Crusher auto logger, with
1,300 cubic feet of loading capacity and an average bale density
of more than 40 pounds per cubic foot, can be loaded without
a grappler using a skid-steer or Bobcat. “With a 20-foot
grappler, you can only get that far away from your material,”
Many recyclers can pay off an auto logger in less than a
year given adequate auto scrap volume. Savings are compounded
thanks to more durable, long-lasting machines. Meanwhile production
rates continue to increase. Granutech’s MAC L3600 auto
logger produced 1,200 tons a month for one customer, according
to Steve Squier, director of sales at Granutech Saturn Systems
Corp. in Grand Prairie, Texas. “At that rate, the machine
paid for itself in a matter of months,” he says. Cycle
time for the machine is around 90 seconds.
auto scrap also contributes to lower transportation costs.
“You can put 40,000 to 45,000 pounds on a truck, so
you get more weight on a truck with less volume,” Spry
says. “That means fewer trips to the mill.” With
transportation costs spiraling thanks to higher gas prices,
auto logging also helps cut costs significantly. “The
log form is also more efficient for the shredder,” Spry
says. “Handling is easier.”
The machines are also comfortable to work in. Many units
come with air conditioning, heat and AM/FM stereos. “A
happy operator is a good producer,” Spry says. Improvements
in logging technology have made the machines much easier for
operators to learn. Charging boxes create bigger targets for
scrap to move through, making the machines easier to load.
Operators still need training to help them master the electronic
joysticks, foot pedals and hydraulic control systems. Skilled
hand/eye coordination and acute depth perception are a must.
Like most heavy-duty machines, computers help make auto
loggers more flexible and efficient. Granutech’s MAC
L3600 includes a programmable logic controller that detects
when the machine has reached the density rate selected by
the operator. Automation also helps improve cycle time, says
Squier. Machines can adapt to a load’s dimensions, switching
from low flow for smaller loads to high flow, when the operator
needs more pressure. Preset hydraulic controls help recyclers
produce more consistent product for their customers.
paying off such a high-ticket item, most recyclers will want
to keep their machines running for years. Manufacturers say
the biggest key to longevity is routine maintenance, especially
greasing. Areas that get the most wear-and-tear, including
lid and door hinges, require adequate lubrication at all times.
Iron Ax, Inc., a baler and auto logger manufacturer in Wadley,
Georgia, makes a logger that comes equipped with an automatic
greaser that goes into action after the machine completes
a predetermined number of cycles. To keep machines running
smoothly, some companies also offer technical support and
on-site service contracts. Colmar’s logger comes with
a two-day training and 1,000 hour warranty.
Spry predicts the market for auto loggers will continue
growing. “The versatility of being able to do loose
scrap metals as well as cars is really key,” he says.