Transportation and Delivery Cost

By: R. Schroeder, B. Jackson, and S. Ashton

Transportation of wood fiber accounts for about 25 to 50 percent of the total delivered costs and this is likely to increase as fuel prices escalate (McDonald and others 2001). This is also true for biomass projects. Demeter and others (2003) report that for biomass power plants delivery of biomass from the harvesting site to a conversion facility is a significant portion of the materials delivered cost. Issues discussed in previous sections such as density and moisture content contribute to the delivery costs. Transportation of products generally contributes a significant portion of overall harvest cost variability. Stokes and others (1993) cited a study that found costs per mile decrease with increasing distance up to about 100 miles, after which they level off. The decrease was about 40 percent for an increase in distance of 20 to 100 miles. Beyond a certain distance, transport becomes limiting and its costs become directly proportional to haul lengths.

Bulk vans are generally considered to be the most cost-efficient mode of transporting preprocessed biomass provided the access roads are suitable for these over-the-highway carriers. In less accessible areas, other options such as container trailers should be considered as discussed by Rawlings and others (2004).

Because transport is a high portion of the overall costs, studies have been conducted to increase transport efficiency. Locating, moving, loading, hauling, unloading, and returning transport vehicles are all logistical challenges faced with every load of material removed from the forest. Coordination is important. One study in 2001 looked at methods to dispatch trucks based upon different input data, and the associated difference in costs (McDonald and others 2001). Rummer and Klepac (2003) explored the use of fixed trucks with removable roll-off truck trailers with pallet racks to supply small-scale users. Rawlings and others (2004) examined the use of roll-off containers in hauling logging slash from harvesting sites to mills in Montana.

The Forest Residues Transportation Model (FoRTS) is a spreadsheet calculator designed to help users compare alternative methods of moving biomass from the forest to a wood-using facility. It will:

  • estimate loading and hauling costs for different combinations of equipment
  • evaluate the best mix (numbers and types) of equipment
  • compare different hauling routes
  • examine reloading, or two-stage hauling opportunities


  • McDonald TP, Taylor S, Rummer R, Valenzuela J. 2001. Information needs for increasing log transport efficiency. First International Precision Forestry Symposium. Seattle, WA: University of Washington.
  • used with permission from Hubbard W, Biles L, Mayfield C, Ashton S. (eds.) 2007. Sustainable forestry for bioenergy and biobased products: Trainers curriculum notebook. Athens, GA: Southern Forest Research Partnership, Inc.