Price and Quality — Sawing Oak Boards for Dump Truck Beds

Sawing for a utility market like truck bed liners carries its own set of economic calculations. Here's a practical business discussion that delves into the pennies and the board feet. May 23, 2007

I am getting ready to bid on a job, sawing boards for the top of dump truck beds. They will be 2" thick X 12" wide X 17' long. I am furnishing the wood and not sure what to charge. I suppose charge by the BF and how much per BF?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
If it was my dump truck, I would insist on white oak boards.

From the original questioner:
I forgot to mention that I have red and white oak to saw.

From contributor T:
Instead of sourcing an 17' to 18' log, I'll cut 9ft material. Notice the gusset plate at mid-point on the dump bed. If the front of back board gets killed, your customer is not out a full board. In NC, finding a nice oak that is 18' long is not easy. If you do, it is probably furniture grade material. Better yet, most truckers want to pay Lowes/HomeDepot prices for hard to get white oak. Look at what white oak/red is bringing on Hardwood Report. Either red or white will work. The boards will be torn up long before the benefits of white oak kick in.

From contributor A:
As for price, just take what you have in getting the logs and sawing cost, then add in some for profit. Go to the local lumberyard and check on the price for pressure treated pine in the size needed, as that will be the company's back up choice.

I have found that black gum, cottonwood, sycamore and elm make better bump boards for tops of dump trucks. They hold up better to being hit, are cheaper to produce, and rot is not really an issue because most are torn up before they can rot.

For reference, I sell white oak 3A and 2C for trailer deck boards for $0.60 bdft.

From contributor V:
.60 cents is ridiculously cheap, but that is my opinion. I know the truck guys don't want to pay furniture grade prices, but I see no profit to be made whatsoever at .60. Anything on a bandmill lower than 1.00 is absurd.

From contributor N:
I agree that .60 cents a board ft is cheap, but the company I work for recently paid less than that for rough sawn green oak for trailer deck replacements. Believe me, when I saw what we bought for that price from a major operation in Ohio, I wondered how even a part time sawyer like myself could justify the time and labor. If I was sawing for a living, it would be tough to compete with that. Plus the boards were all 16 footers.

From contributor A:
The way to make money in this business is to know the business. I buy white oak logs for $300 mbdft and it cost me $0.20 bdft to saw (which I am making money), and cutting long boards I get 250 to 350 bdft an hour production. I have about a 20% overrun on the scale, which means out of 1mbdft sold, only 800 bdft is paid for. The boards are made from the middle which would be RR tie material anyway, which sells for $420 mbdft. The side wood goes to the wholesalers for about $700 mbdft average. I can saw two 16" 16' white oak logs an hour and produce about 350 bdft of lumber, producing 212 bdft of 2x decking and 138 bdft of side wood. The logs will scale 144 bdft each, thus costing me a total of $86.40 and the decking will make me $127.20 and the side wood $96.60 or a total of $223.80. $223.80 - $86.40 = $137.40. Now take out the $70.00 sawing cost and you have a clean profit of $67.40 an hour. Ridiculously absurd and cheap is why I keep doing it. Got to know the business and the business is of pennies and bdft.

From contributor N:
Thanks for the profitability perspective. That is why I view this website. Even though I don't make a living sawing, I certainly do want to saw as efficiently as possible.

From contributor D:
At the mill where I buy most of my lumber, I pay $.45/bf or less for 2C 4/4 rwrl red and white oak, hickory, ash, poplar and soft maple, although I buy mostly FAS and 1C. I grade and measure the lumber and give them a tally sheet because they sell it ungraded and unmeasured. Different areas will probably have different prices. I live in Indiana.

From contributor P:
The questioner wants to produce a board for his customer that measures 34 bd/ft. At $0.60 bd/ft, that board would sell for $20.40 per board. In NC you can get better than $20.00 for this product and I feel you can too. That is one heck of a value. Compare that price to Lowes, Home Depot, etc. In NC you'll not find a 2x12x18. If you do, it is fir or some Canadian species. The next part of the equation is, where is your market for the side wood?

From contributor S:
Too many variables for a straight answer. Maybe ask around at a few trucking companies/grading contractors or dump truck owners what they paid for the boards that they have on their dumps. Consider your cost (which in my opinion is actually one of the hardest things to get an accurate grip on). Knowing the fair market value (what truckers are paying in your area) can only be done by research/experience.

17'x2"x12" is 34bdft
@ .60 that's $20.40 a stick. 4 sticks a truck is $81.60 (that seems too cheap to me).
@ $100 a truck, it comes out to $.73 1/2 bdf. Probably a number that the buyer would still be happy to pay (but my greed says too cheap).
@ $1.00 bdf it is $136 per truck.

How does that relate to the local market and your supply and production cost? And the bigger question is, can you move the same lumber (volume/grade) for more, in another market/use or add value to it for more profit? The hard way to do it is to let the buyer set a unit price per board or truck that they are willing to pay. If you think that you can make money at that price, try producing a small quantity and evaluate the results and adjust accordingly. If you lose money, then you paid for a real life lesson that pertains exactly to your business. There is a lot to be learned from contributor A's post, too. The thing that has to kept in mind when sawing the log is not to concentrate too hard on the few 2x12s coming out of the log and forget about or mismanage the other yield.

From contributor G:
I guess you heard about the guy so POed with having his pickup box rust out that he replaced the whole thing with a box made of oak boards. When his neighbor saw it he commented: Ah, a Lumberghini...

From contributor X:
How soon do they need them? Always make sure to charge a little more if they need the boards soon. I average 1.00 - 1.50 per bdft for good oak lumber. I keep busy.

From contributor J:
Oak boards? Most bump boards on trucks last a long time if the truck is parked. We have replaced the boards sometimes three times a year. 17 years of hauling dirt. Why spend good lumber on that use?

Ask the trucker how long his boards normally last. If he says long time, like several years, go for the harder wood. If it's a short time, mill him the less expensive wood, and sell him on the savings at replacement of sideboards each year. Why put pearls before swine? Or lipstick on the pig? Unless the guy wants to spend money - which he just might… then go with the KD aptong (just kidding).

From contributor E:
In our area the boards are 3X12X13'. They sell for $175/pr, Douglas fir. Some folks like to obtain them wider; I just made a set at 15 inches wide.