Volvo, Merc buses speed up in India

Volvo Bus

State transport undertakings are warming up to the multinationals despite premium pricing
Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland have been locked in a battle for leadership in the bus segment for quite some time now, with each having around 43 per cent market share.

Volvo, for example, is negotiating with 15-20 state transport undertakings (STUs) to bag contracts for supplying long distance buses.

Mercedes-Benz too is vying for similar contracts on the back of impressive response it got from the STUs in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

MAN is also gearing up to launch a variety of products under the luxury and city bus segment.

Industry experts say Indian bus buyers including STUs and private fleet owners are warming up to these international bus brands despite their premium price tags (they cost 15-20 per cent more) for two reasons: one, they have the capacity to absorb higher wear and tear, and two, there is a growing demand for luxury and super-luxury buses from passengers.

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New map lets you see forest for the trees

Tree Forest

Having trouble seeing the forest for the trees? A newly released United States map might be able to help.

The map, created by Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) scientists, is the most precise representation yet of the height and coverage of U.S. forests and woodlands. The data will provide a baseline for understanding both forest resources and carbon flux, study leader Josef Kellndorfer of WHRC said in a statement.

"This dataset will be useful to foresters, wildlife ecologists, resource managers and scientists alike," Kellndorfer said.

Forests store carbon in living vegetation, dead wood and leaf litter. Understanding this carbon storage is important for understanding how carbon cycles in and out of the atmosphere, and thus refining predictions about climate change. Understanding forest cover can also help researchers conserve species, understand wildfire risk and manage timber production, said WHRC study researcher Wayne Walker.

"Maps of key forest attributes like canopy height and carbon stock have not existed for the U.S. at this level of spatial detail," Walker said in a statement.

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Charter school supporters defend proposed facilities

charter school

Township resident Yanbin Ma is among a group of area residents who have applied to start the Hanyu International Academy, one of two Mandarin Immersion charter schools that could accept Millburn students in fall 2012. The schools would charge no tuition, but would receive 90 percent of the average per-pupil costs from the local public school districts.
Ma, who is President of the Millburn-Short Hills Chinese Association, said he and others were looking for options to teach their children Chinese. Beyond private school, weekend classes and short-lived after school programs, the choices they found were scarce.

"We want our kids to know Chinese, to read and write Chinese when they grow up," he said.

Ma says the language offerings in the public schools are not commensurate with the growing Asian population. He said he and other Millburn parents gained the support of former language supervisor Adrienne Tator in pushing for Chinese education at the elementary and middle school levels, but the effort did not go further. The only time Chinese is taught is at the AP level in high school.

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Timber Industry Dying Slowly

Ghana’s timber industry, which employs over 70,000 people as well as generating export earnings of over US$170 million per annum, is said to be facing possible total collapse, until and unless a newly vibrant and applicable wood industry framework is instituted to address the current internal and external challenges.

Some of the external challenges that have over the years limited the anticipated growth of the industry are said to include the institution of market instrument ‘restriction on tree species’ and state procurement laws limiting direct access to some strategic markets, as well as quality standards or grading rules for various products which affect recovery levels and often give room for unnecessary claims from importers.

The internal challenges, however, include the inability to sell profitably on the local market due to unfair competition from illegal operators, high production cost such as fuel, electricity, spare parts for plants and machinery - making the industry’s products uncompetitive on the local and international market.

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School officials keep cautious eye on bus situation

charter bus

The state of emergency that was issued for Henderson County on Monday due to rising flood waters does not necessarily mean that classes in the local school district will be canceled today.

"The state of emergency declared on the roads may not be the same ones that our buses travel," said Henderson County Schools Superintendent Tom Richey.

"The law says that if there's water running over a road, we can't run on it. We observe that. We are not going to err at all in terms of the children's safety."

Yet early Monday night, it was too soon to say whether school would be called off today.

Richey said that school officials would drive the roads Monday night and early this morning to determine whether classes should be called off.

What was certain, however, was that the flood waters are definitely affecting the transportation of students.

"We are impacted pretty greatly," said Keegan O'Daniel, director of transportation.

That means that some roads that start out dry can quickly move to being flooded, and vice versa.

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Get Ready For Timber 2011 Expo

timber expo 2011

Hardwood timber is big in Pennsylvania. That's why the nation's largest hardwood-producing industry will host Timber 2011 at Rock Springs, Pa. on June 3 and 4.

Formally known as the Pennsylvania Forest Products and Technology Expo, the event promises to put attendees "in the driver's seat" with hands-on demonstrations of state-of-the-art machinery. As many as 100 commercial exhibitors will be aiming for loggers, sawmill operators, value-added processors and forest landowners in the Northeast.

The bi-annual expo is hosted in partnership with Penn State's College of Ag Sciences and School of Forest Resources. The event will be held at the Ag Progress Days site at Rock Springs, on Pa. Route 45, nine miles southwest of State College.

Timber 2011 is an opportunity for forest products companies to hone their business skills, learn about the latest production practices and see new technology, says Penn State's Bob Oberheim, the show's manager. At this show "you can learn about the latest technologies, production methods, business practices and regulations," he adds.

Workshops will cover topics such as the proposed National Hardwood Check-off Program, equipment safety and business management issues.

Indoor and outdoor exhibits will include trucks, trailers, forklifts, plus equipment for land owners, loggers, lumbermen, sawmills, wood processors and pellet manufacturers. Exhibits also will include feller bunchers with cut-to length processor heads, forwarders, log skidders, landing loader and slashers, whole-tree chippers, walking floor trailers, sawmill equipment and firewood processors, plus horizontal grinders, chippers and shavers

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Tri-Star seeking to rent Mariners bus

charter bus

A public hearing will be held on Wednesday to help the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (URB) decide if it should grant a licence to Tri-Star Charters Inc. to allow it to charter the Mariners bus to the public.

Mitch Bonnar of Tri-Star says they’d like to be able to have local sports teams and other groups and organizations rent the bus when it is not being used by the Mariners junior A hockey team.

The April 20 hearing begins at 11:30 a.m. at Yarmouth Town Hall.

Bonnar says the application before the URB is asking for a motor carrier licence to provide transportation of groups and organizations from pick-up locations that are within a 100-kilometre radius of the Town of Yarmouth.

“I could pick people up in Digby. I could pick people up in Shelburne. I could pick people up in Yarmouth. But if somebody from Halifax called and wanted me to pick them up in Halifax and take them to Sydney I can’t,” he says.

Bonnar says a reason for this is not to take business away from other charter bus operations in other parts of the province. Still, one company has filed an application of opposition to the Tri-Star application. Molega Tours of East Uniacke, Nova Scotia, doesn’t want to see the application granted.

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NZ Timber Preservation Council reply to Phil Twyford


Phil Twyford’s remarks about the dangers to health presented by the requirement to use H1.2 treated timber as announced by Maurice Williamson on 14 March are way off beam says Kevin Hing of the New Zealand Timber Preservation Council.

His comments will cause unnecessary stress to consumers and homeowners.

Mr Twyford has questioned whether the government has thought about the danger to health caused by requiring timber used as framing in house construction to be H1.2 treated. He cites the EU classification of boron as a Substance of Very High Concern.

The EU classifications for boric compounds are based on exposures of animals to boron at levels that exceed any likely human exposure in treated timber by several orders of magnitude. As well, the exposure routes used including ingestion, are not routes that would be associated with normal human use of boric treated timber. The data by which the EU arrived at its classifications are based on concentrations that would never be experienced in the handling of boric treated timber here.

Boron based timber preservatives have been successfully used in New Zealand since the 1950s as a protection against attack by borers and because of its fungicidal properties. The treatment requirement for timber framing is nothing new to house construction in this country. Furthermore, to the best our knowledge, there have been no documented cases of any health issues associated with the use of boric treated timber in New Zealand.

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Chaos on buses as lane plan reversed

Rental Bus

TENS of thousands of bus commuters face hours of extra gridlock each week because traffic authorities have removed the requirement for an afternoon bus lane during widening of the M2.

As part of the conditions attached to the $550 million M2 upgrade, Transurban was asked to set up a ''tidal flow'' bus lane to replace two bus lanes removed during construction. The flow of traffic on such a lane is reversed from morning to afternoon to match the heaviest traffic.

The Roads and Traffic Authority and the Department of Planning under the previous government dropped the requirement for a bus lane out of the city in the afternoon peak and agreed with Transurban the lane would be dangerous.

The new Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, said yesterday she had asked for a briefing on the issue.

Since construction on the upgrade began in February, commuters say, the lack of a westbound bus lane has added up to an hour to their travel time. This is likely to persist for two years.

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Preserving wood in Mississippi's climate

Treated Timber

The climate of Mississippi and the Gulf South region presents challenges for wood preservation, making water repellents and the environment top considerations.
David Jones, assistant Extension professor in Mississippi State University's forest products department, said wood treatments can lengthen the performance of timber by decades.

"If we placed an untreated telephone pole in the ground, it would last two or three years. A treated pole will last two or three decades," Jones said. "The time to consider treatments is before the wood is in place, especially if it will be in water."

Mississippians use wooden pilings and decking extensively from the salt waters of the Gulf to the lakes, ponds and rivers throughout the state.

Even away from bodies of water, the state's humidity and rainfall can take a toll on the life expectancy of wood products.

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District concerned about possible charter schools

Charter bus

Two charter schools that plan to offer Mandarin immersion programs at the elementary level may be drawing students - and funding - from the Millburn public school system in the near future.

Superintendent of Schools James Crisfield said at the April 11 Board of Education meeting that the New Jersey Department of Education has received application for the two charter schools. The schools would pull students from the Millburn, South Orange-Maplewood and West Orange districts.

"This is a complicated issue," he said. "We should all understand the impact."

Crisfield said the way charter schools are funded could have big implications for Millburn's budget. Millburn would pay 90 percent of the per-pupil cost of each student attending the school. There is supposed to be a cost reduction to compensate, but this is not always the reality.

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Timber Exports To Spiral This Year On Higher Demand From Japan


Timber products exports are to increase this year following higher demand from Japan which may rise by at least five per cent from its normal requirement due to reconstruction and rehabilitation projects underway after the disastrous March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry secretary-general Datin Paduka Nurmala Abdul Rahim said Japan was the main importer of Malaysian timber products.

"Japan imported RM3.7 billion worth of timber and wood-based products last year and we hope this year's exports would surpass last year's RM20.5 billion worth of exports," she told reporters after launching the Malaysian Timber Council Global Woodmart 2012 here Monday.

Malaysia's timber and timber products exports in 2008 and 2009 totalled RM22.7 billion and RM19.5 billion, respectively, while exports for January 2011 were higher at RM1.8 billion from RM1.7 billion in January last year.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Timber Council chief executive officer Cheah Kam Huan said Malaysia was experiencing tight timber supply as the output has been hit by the need to conserve Malaysian rainforests, logging areas in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak have shrunk and affected by uncertain weather conditions.

"However, we still hope supply will increase by between five and 10 per cent," he said.

Meanwhile, the second MTC Global Woodmart will serve as a premier one-stop selling, buying and networking platform for domestic and international timber suppliers and buyers.

The exhibition also aims to promote and encourage wider use of timber from Malaysian and international sources.

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Some say lifting cap on charter schools would be death knell for public schools

charter buses

State lawmakers have tweaked legislation that would lift the cap on the number of charter schools allowed, but opponents remain wary.

Backers of Senate Bill 8 say it would increase educational opportunities for children since charter schools are intended to provide innovative learning options, free from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools.

“We need to provide more options under the public education umbrella,” Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Reform in North Carolina, said. “Far too many families in our state and far too many families in Rowan-Salisbury have only one option.”

There are currently 99 charter schools in 47 of the state’s 100 counties.

Allison, who graduated from A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis, said the success that many of those charter schools are experiencing cannot be replicated because of the cap, and more than 20,000 students statewide are on waiting lists for charter schools.

“The vast majority of North Carolina does not have a charter school,” he said. “It’s not that public charter schools are more superior, but if we have more options than children have a better chance at getting a quality education.”

But opponents say the bill, which also seeks to clarify the current funding formula, could be detrimental to public school funding.

“I think this would pretty much be a dagger in the heart of public education,” Dr. Jim Emerson, chairman of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, said.

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Billion-dollar deal reached for TimberWest

TimberTimberWest will be under new ownership soon, but no major changes in operations are expected.

The mega-timber and real estate company is being purchased by two pension funds for $1.03 billion, including assumed debt.

“No fundamental changes in the operations of the business are anticipated,” a press release reads. “It will be business as usual on the ground, and existing operating systems and processes will remain in place.”

The pension funds acquiring TimberWest are British Columbia Investment Management, and Public Sector Pension Investment Board, which invest on behalf of Canadian pension plans.

“As part of the definitive agreement, TimberWest has a 60-day ‘go-shop’ period during which it is permitted to solicit a superior proposal,” a TimberWest press release added.

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Sensible Rules to Make Bus Travel Safer

Charter Bus

Three major bus accidents in the Northeast, including the horrific crash on Interstate 95 in the Bronx that killed 15 passengers and critically injured several others, may finally spur Congress to mandate bus safety improvements.

A bipartisan measure to require seat belts, roofs that can withstand a rollover, better windows to prevent passenger ejection in crashes, and other vital safety steps was introduced in the Senate by Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas. The bill, which covers interstate motor coaches, also has new and more stringent requirements for driver fitness and bus company oversight to root out irresponsible operators. A companion bill is pending in the House.

A nearly identical bill died at the close of last year when Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, imposed a hold on the legislation. Early Senate approval, with strong bipartisan support, may even embarrass the regulation-hostile House into acting.

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Timber producers honor state forester


The South Carolina Timber Producers Association has selected State Forester Gene Kodama to receive its President's Award.

Kodama, who is the agency head of the South Carolina Forestry Commission, was recognized by the association for "outstanding support for SCTBA and commitment to the sustainable forestry industry in South Carolina." The SCTBA award also recognizes Kodama's professionalism and dedication to the advancement of the timber harvesting and timber producing segments of our state's forest products industry.

South Carolina has 13.1 million acres of forestland. This is 68 percent of the state's total land area. Forestry is No. 1 among manufacturing industries in jobs (90,624) and payroll ($4.1 billion)

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Cutting school bus service picks up speed in senate

school bus

Drastic times have called for drastic measures and one of the proposals to cut is school bus service for all except special needs students.

Aiea Elementary School is one of the biggest proponents of school buses. More than 250 students or 80 percent of the school use the service. It's even got a school bus on the mural.

"We enjoy having the school bus, it really does help," said Kate O'Malley, Aiea Elementary School Principal.

Many of the kids take it to and from public housing. If school bus service was cut more students would have to walk over a footbridge crossing Kamehameha Highway and Moanalua Road. It's a walk that could be unsafe for young students.

"Then you get into philosophical discussions of is it the school systems responsibility to get students to school or is it parental responsibility that doesn't have an answer there are a variety of perspectives," said Randy Moore, Assistant Superintendent.

Safety aside bus drivers say get used to seeing more traffic and congestion without school buses.

"Think about beat the school jam. In one day traffic goes from mild to congested and that's with only public schools opening up. You have a lot of parents taking kids to school because of emotional issues or whatever so that's the most congested day you're going to get, and that is what it would be like without school busses," said Ken LeVasseur, Bus Driver and Researcher

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Greenwood Management Reveals New Teak Plantations

Teak Plantation

Greenwood Management has announced it is introducing a new product to its range of timbers grown in Brazilian plantations.

The firm will soon be growing a new species of timber to add to those already included in its forestry investments product range, which includes the Eucalyptus, the Black Wattle (Acacia) and Guanandi species.

The new species is semi-matured to matured Teak trees, all to be grown on plantations. Teak timber, well known for its strong grains and texture, is often used in the carpentry trade and the manufacture of furniture for boat decks, due to its high weather resistance.

A spokesperson from Greenwood Management explained that returns on investment in the Teak business are expected to be strong: "Investments are available up to eight years with returns predicted at 12 per cent per annum."

Although the management rotations for the growing of Teak were traditionally 80-100 years, this has been reduced to between 20 and 25 years for the commercial production of the wood.

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Car sales, exports soar

Bus sales

New vehicle sales, in all the major segments, registered strong gains in March compared to the same month in 2010, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) said in a statement on Monday.

Aggregate industry domestic sales improved by 9937 units or 22.8 percent to 53478 vehicles from 43541 units in March last year.

Total domestic sales for the first quarter of 2011 were 22.2 percent ahead of the corresponding three months in 2010. Total export sales, at 29254 vehicles for March, represented the highest monthly vehicle export performance on record.

Overall, out of the total industry reported sales (including AMH and AAD) of 53478 vehicles, 86.2 percent or 46078 units represented dealer sales, 6.3 percent sales to government, 4.1 percent industry corporate fleet sales and 3.4 percent represented sales to the car rental industry.

Aggregate industry new car sales during March 2011 at 35167 units reflected a substantial improvement of 6703 new cars or 23.5 percent compared to the 28464 new cars sold during March, 2010.

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Preserving wood in Mississippi's climate


The climate of Mississippi and the Gulf South region presents challenges for wood preservation, making water repellents and the environment top considerations.
David Jones, assistant Extension professor in Mississippi State University's forest products department, said wood treatments can lengthen the performance of timber by decades.

"If we placed an untreated telephone pole in the ground, it would last two or three years. A treated pole will last two or three decades," Jones said. "The time to consider treatments is before the wood is in place, especially if it will be in water."

Mississippians use wooden pilings and decking extensively from the salt waters of the Gulf to the lakes, ponds and rivers throughout the state.

Even away from bodies of water, the state's humidity and rainfall can take a toll on the life expectancy of wood products.

"Wood can be degraded by a variety of factors including biological factors, mechanical means, fire, sunlight, and chemicals," Jones said.

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