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Jason's Jewel

by Jim Park

Salvaging timber cut from an oil-patch haul road is like finding money lying in the gutter. As the construction crews cut their way into the northwestern Alberta wilderness in search of black gold, Jason Javos isn't far behind. He buys the cut and de-limbed timber from the oil companies and picks it up from the roadside. He then sells it to a pulp mill at a modest profit.

His custom-designed, one-of-a-kind Kenworth T800 picker-tractor wasn't spec'd to haul large bulk loads of timber, rather to go in and pick up the smaller loads off the ground in places where conventional loaders are nowhere to be found. The pole-trailer/jeep combination is a match-up of a Peerless-Page tandem pole-trailer and an Arctic Manufacturing single-axle jeep.

Javos' 2000-model T800 is equipped with a 14.6L Caterpillar 475 coupled to an Eaton Fuller 18-speed transmission. He's running 46,000-lb tandem drive axles with 4.30 gears. The 20,000-lb steer axle is equipped with dual steering boxes. The truck and trailer are both equipped with Vulcan shear-beam electronic scales. During the winter months, the combination can gross up to 65,000 kg or 143,000 lb.

The frame-mounted picker crane is a Vanguard 1028, capable of lifting 2800 lb up to 10 ft away from the truck. The grapple can accommodate logs from 6 to 38 in. in diameter. The crane is operated from a position just above the truck's 36-in. sleeper.

Jason spec'd the trailer/jeep combination himself, with the intention of making it as easy as possible to fold up and carry on the tractor for the unloaded portion of the trip. The jeep has a sliding kingpin plate which, when released, slides back lifting the jeep axle off of the ground. That locks into place on the rear of the tractor frame. He then has to slide the pole-trailer tandems all the way forward before lifting that unit up onto the tractor as well. The whole process takes about two minutes.

Javos began his career in the bush as an oil-rig mover a decade ago. He now earns a respectable living from his timber salvage business. He also does the occasional job for The Alberta Transmission Company laying out telephone and electric poles along the haul roads, or hauling the salvage cleared by private land owners on a for-hire basis.

Because of generous winter-weight allowances, Javos does most of his work when the ground is frozen. During the off-season, he and his wife, Samantha, don't stray too far from the family farm. They work a single section (640 acres) near Nampa, Alta., with a little help from their two sons, Kyle, 4, and Matthew, 3, and their latest asset-on-the-farm-to-be, daughter Jessica, 3 months.

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