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Skidders: The Backbone of the Forestry Industry




Skidders are the backbone of the forestry industry, used to extract logs from forested areas to sawmills or other processing facilities. They are powerful machines that can haul heavy loads over rough terrain, making it easier and more efficient to clear forests for timber harvesting. Skidders come in various sizes, configurations, and types, each with its own unique set of capabilities and limitations. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of skidders, including their definitions, types, mechanical configurations, operational considerations, safety concerns, treatment options, and advantages.

What exactly is a Skidder?

A skidder is a heavy-duty machine that is used to extract logs from the forest and other heavily wooded areas. Skidders typically operate in areas where the terrain is too rough for other logging equipment to operate efficiently which gives them a little bit of an advantage. They are purposely designed to grab logs with grapples or cables and drag them to a landing or loading area where they can be transported to a sawmill or processing facility.

Skidders are powerful machines that are used to haul logs from the forest to a processing facility. They are designed to operate in rugged terrain and can move logs weighing several tons. Skidders are an essential part of the forestry industry and have revolutionized the way timber harvesting is done.

Why is it named a Skidder?

Skidders are called skidders because they skid or drag logs along the ground instead of lifting them. The term “skidder” comes from the word “skid,” which means to drag or slide along a surface.

2 Different Types of Skidders

There are two main types of skidders: wheel skidders and track skidders, each designed for specific conditions and applications. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the terrain, the size of the logs, and the distance they need to be hauled. Here are some of the common types of skidders:

1. Wheel Skidders – These are skidders that are mounted on wheels, making them suitable for flat and gentle terrain. They are commonly used in logging operations where trees are harvested on flatter land.
2. Track Skidders – These are skidders that are mounted on tracks, making them ideal for rough and steep terrain. They have better traction and stability compared to wheel skidders, making them suitable for logging operations in mountainous areas.

Skidder Parts

Skidders consist of several parts that work together to make them function. The main parts of a skidder include the engine, transmission, winch or grapple, tires or tracks, and the operator’s cab.

Different Controls for Operating a Skidder

One of the essential controls of a skidder is the steering control. The steering mechanism allows the operator to turn the machine in different directions to navigate around obstacles, avoid hazards and position the skidder in the optimal position for loading or unloading logs.

  • The throttle control is another important feature of a skidder. It regulates the engine speed, allowing the operator to control the skidder’s speed while moving over rough terrain or negotiating steep inclines and declines.
  • The brake control is equally important. It enables the operator to stop the skidder quickly and safely, especially when traveling downhill or navigating uneven terrain.

In addition to these basic controls, skidders are also equipped with a winch or grapple. These are used to grab and move logs and other materials around the worksite. The winch control allows the operator to pull logs along the ground, while the grapple control is used to pick up logs from the ground or from a log pile and transport them to the desired location.

The winch and grapple controls are critical features of a skidder, enabling operators to manage heavy loads and move logs efficiently around the worksite.

Mechanical Configurations

Skidders come in various mechanical configurations, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The three main configurations are track or wheel, grapple or cable, and single arch, double arch, or swing boom.

Forestry skidders have a boom or arch that allows them to lift and drag logs through the forest. There are different types of arches or booms, each designed for specific applications:

  • Single Arch – This type of arch has a single pivot point that allows the operator to swing the boom and drag logs behind the machine.
  • Double Arch – This type of arch has two pivot points that allow the operator to swing the boom and drag logs in front of or behind the machine.
  • Swing Boom – This type of boom is attached to the rear of the skidder and swings around to grab and lift logs from the side.

Forestry skidders can also be equipped with different implements that allow them to perform specific tasks. Here are some of the common implements used with skidders:

  • Grapples – These are hydraulic arms with jaws that can be used to grab and lift logs.
  • Blades – These are used to clear brush and debris from the skid trail.
  • Winches – These are used to pull logs up steep slopes or across obstacles.



Advantages, Cost, and Market

Advantages of Skidders in Forestry

Skidders offer several advantages over other logging equipment, including:

  • Versatility – Skidders can be used on a wide range of terrain and in different types of forests.
  • Mobility – Skidders can be moved easily from one location to another, making them ideal for logging operations in remote areas.
  • Efficiency – Skidders can haul large volumes of logs quickly and efficiently, reducing the time and cost of logging operations.

How much does a Skidder weigh?

Skidders can weigh anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 pounds, depending on the size and configuration of the machine.

How to Haul a Skidder

Hauling a skidder involves transporting it from one location to another. Skidders can be transported on a trailer or flatbed truck. To transport a skidder, it is important to properly secure it and make sure that it is not overloaded.

How much does a Skidder cost in 2023?

The cost of a skidder can range from $50,000 for a used machine to $400,000 for a new one, depending on the size and features of the machine.

Products and Markets

Skidders are commonly used in the logging industry, where they are used to haul logs from the forest to the landing. They are also used in other industries where heavy loads need to be moved, such as construction and mining.

Skidders Research

Current research and innovations related to Skidders

Researchers are continuously developing new technologies and innovations to improve the efficiency and safety of skidders. Some of the recent developments include:

  • GPS Mapping – GPS mapping technology can be used to map the terrain and optimize the skid trail for maximum efficiency.
  • Telematics – Telematics technology can be used to monitor the performance of the skidder and identify areas for improvement.
  • Autonomous Skidders – Researchers are developing autonomous skidders that can operate without a driver, reducing the risk of accidents and improving efficiency.


Skidders are an essential component of the forestry industry, playing a critical role in the process of extracting logs from the forest to the mill. They are some amazing rugged and powerful machines that can navigate through difficult terrain with ease, and they are available in a variety of configurations to suit different logging operations. Without skidders, the process of logging would be much more time-consuming and labor-intensive, making them the backbone of the forestry industry. As the industry continues to evolve, skidders will undoubtedly continue to play a vital role in the harvesting of timber and the sustainable management of our forests. Here is a short list of 5 companies that manufacture skidders: John Deere, Caterpillar, Tigercat, Komatsu, Ponsse.

Be sure to check out our lineup of quality used skidders and other forestry equipment for sale today!

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