Driving forklifts in the great outdoors – the perfect job

Melinda Russell -
Forklift Diaries
- 16 Mar 2023 ( #1119 )
3 min read
The best advice I can give to anyone starting out is just take your time and learn the machine.
The best advice I can give to anyone starting out is just take your time and learn the machine.

Forklift operator Melinda Russell from North Idaho grew up on a farm, so operating machinery is something that comes easily. With her love of the outdoors, she jumped at the chance to operate a forklift at a timber mill two years ago. 

I drive a Hyster H210 forklift and I've been driving/operating a forklift about two years now. 

Growing up, I lived in a farming town, and worked for a number of farms: a hay farmer, potato farmers, etc. Operating equipment is nothing new to me, so when I got the opportunity to run a forklift in a cedar remanufacturing mill, I took the job! 

My job in a nutshell is loading the saw mill with cants (a sawn log that is sent to another machine to be processed further), and I unload the outfeed in PB1 (planner building 1), which is finished lumber that is ready to be shipped out. 

I also load the infeed for the sticker stacker, which puts green lumber on sticks to go into the kilns. Added to that, I unload semi-trucks that bring in cants or green lumber to be planed or remanufactured. 

My favourite part of operating a forklift is being outside, away from any drama. My bosses tell me what I need to know and to do and then I am left alone to get the job done. 

I worked in restaurants for six years and was inside all the time. After growing up as a farm girl, I yearned to get back outside, so this job was a great opportunity. 

The most challenging aspect of my job would definitely be not damaging loads in the wintertime. The forks are very slippery if ANY snow gets onto them, and snow and ice make running a forklift challenging. 

Taking your time in the winter is the key to avoiding wrecking or dumping units:  re-stacking the unit or loads is not fun; especially when you get into 8x8 cants or 289 piece, 2x4 units. 

The best advice I can give to anyone starting out is just take your time and learn the machine. Pay attention to the fork position - going in or coming out from the units can be challenging. 

After the first week, it gets a lot easier. 

Take care of the lift and get familiar with its quirks - that will help a lot!

I live in North Idaho with my husband. In our free time, we like to ride our quad bikes, go fishing or hunting, take drives and explore the mountains.

We love hiking with our dogs (two McNabs, one is a very old mutt that we love dearly). 

Melinda takes us inside a cedar remanufacturing mill...

"We get rough lumber in the size of 2x12 or 2x6 and we put it through a planer to smooth one side or surface four sides. Or, we use a planer to turn it into tongue and groove. 

The cants we receive are 12”x12” square blocks of wood 6 - 20 feet long. We run these through our quad band saws and make 2x12 out of them.

We also receive 6x6 cants that get turned into 2x6 rough boards.

After the saw mill the wood goes into our kilns, which dehumidify’s the wood to dry it out.

Then the wood will go into a planer to become a finished product for shipment. "

My dogs, Duke on the left and Sevin on the right.
My dogs, Duke on the left and Sevin on the right.

 

Do you work in or around forklifts? The Forklift Diaries would love to hear your story!

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