With new diesel-emission regulations for trucks looming, the state Air Resources Board booth at Saturday's Sierra-Cascade Logging Conference's exposition had its share of visitors.
Staked out on the upper level of the Redding Convention Center, Kathleen Mead of the Air Resources Board was busy answering questions and networking.
The new rules require affected trucks and buses to meet performance requirements between 2011 and 2023. By 2023, all vehicles must have a 2010 model year engine or equivalent in California.
"It's important that I'm here; I need to get this information out," Mead said.
Considering the frustration and at times anger the trucking industry has displayed toward the new rules, Mead said she was relatively well received at Saturday's Forest Products & Construction Equipment Exposition.
"I've run across some upset people. A lot of it is misinformation and a lot of it is just frustration with the economy," Mead said.
A few hundred yards away from Mead, in front the Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Inc. booth, truck and heavy equipment dealer Robert Mills said the impending new emission rules - more than the economy - are making it difficult for him and others to survive.
"I'm not a big dealer. I don't have the people to go to the continuing education and training" for the new rules, said Mills, who owns Interstate 5 Truck & Equipment in Corning. "All the changing rules, the compliance, all that stuff, sheesh."
But the economy does continue to cast a pall over the forest products industry.
Jamie Crowell, general manager at the Northern California Log Scaling & Grading Bureau, said he couldn't afford a hotel so he stayed in Redding with a friend to attend this weekend's event.
Crowell's nonprofit cooperative is based in Arcata and provides scaling and grading as an independent third party to log buyers and sellers. The organization was established in 1951.
"This is really the toughest times they (timber industry) have ever had," said Crowell, whose customers include Trinity River Lumber Co. in Weaverville and Shasta Green Inc. in Burney.
"The challenges this industry faces, they've never had before - they've cut back so much, they've cut staff so deeply that it's going to be difficult to attract new employees."
Crowell, who also owns Mad River Brewing Co. in Blue Lake, said he's had to cut about two-thirds of his staff. Crowell himself is practically working part time as general manager of Northern California Log Scaling.
But shows like this are still important, Crowell said.
"I'm here because my customers want to see me," he said.
Meanwhile, Brian Hamre, a territory manager for Ritchie Bros., said it's a buyer's market for trucks and heavy equipment. Values have plunged roughly 50 percent over the past several years as demand has waned in California.
"There is no industry work to speak of in California, no development," said Hamre, who lives in Red Bluff.
That doesn't mean business is down at Ritchie Bros., the world's largest auctioneer of industrial equipment with 90 locations, including three in California. Ritchie Bros. has a large facility in Dunnigan off Interstate 5.
The publicly traded company did nearly $4 billion in sales in 2009. Many of Ritchie Bros. customers buying at auction today are in Mexico, Australia or the Middle East, Hamre said.
Mills of Interstate 5 Truck & Equipment said Ritchie Bros. has revolutionized the industry. Twenty years ago, dealers like Mills set the market.
"Today, we will go to an auction and we are like vultures, picking up the deals that slip through the cracks," Mills said.
Buyers today will go to a company like Ritchie Bros. first before giving a dealer like Mills a shot at closing a deal, Hamre said.
Reporter David Benda can be reached at 225-8219 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.