James Hansen Forest Products, LLC

James Hansen Forest Products

Eaton UltraShift® PLUS transmission is really cutting it for veteran log hauler

“It allows you to concentrate on driving and the conditions around you…You do not have to think about what gear you should be in. UltraShift PLUS does all of the thinking for you. It’s much safer and easier.”

Jim Hansen, owner/operator,
James Hansen Forest Products, LLC



Owner operator Jim Hansen's work week begins around 6 a.m. on Monday when he gets into his 2015 Western Star truck with a six-axle tri-drive tractor and a five-axle trailer. Hansen travels 200 miles from his home up to northern Michigan to collect some 100,000 pounds of logs. That same day, once the logs are loaded and secured, Hansen typically travels another 200 miles to deliver the wood to mills in southeastern and central Michigan.

Instead of heading home after that, he sleeps in his truck to save time and money. Hansen does the same routine, occasionally making shorter runs each day, until Friday night when he returns home for the weekend.

“Through the years, many truckers have come and gone, not realizing the daily hard work and challenges this work requires. It’s not something that’s for everyone. It takes a special kind of person to live this kind of life,” says Hansen.

The 59-year- old trucking industry veteran has been doing this for 42 years.


Some weeks are harder than others, depending on the driving conditions that range from congested urban traffic to hilly, muddy, and sometimes snow covered off-road terrains that Hansen encounters getting in and out of the north woods. The huge payloads take skill and knowledge of the time of year and types of wood to make sure the heavy hauls can be loaded and transported legally and efficiently.

Often the mills have to send bulldozers in to remove trees and stumps and carve out a makeshift road for Hansen. It’s not unusual for those same bulldozers to give Hansen an occasional push so he can get through all of the mess.

“The rough driving conditions as far as getting the logs out of the bush can be especially demanding physically and mentally,” says Hansen. “Of course, it was a lot more demanding 40 years ago. The equipment today is much better than it was in the past, but it’s still very hard work.”

The cost of diesel fuel is also one of Hansen’s top challenges, so any fuel consumption gains he can find are more than welcomed. With downtime being another factor that can chop into his productivity, he’s not shy about keeping up-to-date with the newer technologies in truck equipment and components to help ensure the best possible uptime.


Hansen cites one relatively new component as being particularly helpful with his recent success. After consulting with a fellow logger who works in even more demanding conditions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and researching the product himself, Hansen decided to invest in a new Eaton UltraShift PLUS automated transmission for his Western Star truck.

“A friend of mine bought a new truck about a year ago with an UltraShift PLUS in it,” says Hansen. “After listening to what he had to say about how it performed, I decided I wanted one. It was the wisest decision I’ve ever made. I love it.”

The lucky recipient of Hansen’s affection is an UltraShift PLUS MXP (Multipurpose Extreme Performance) model. With 18-speeds and 2,250 lbs.-ft. torque capacity, the transmission has virtually no payload weight limit – including the 158,000 pounds of combined vehicle weight that Hansen carries around every week.

The transmissions are part of the UltraShift PLUS Performance Series, all of which employ grade sensing, weight computation and driver throttle commands to make intelligent shift decisions for optimum performance. The fully automated two-pedal transmissions can be paired with the highest torque engines available in the trucking industry.

His transmission has 18 forward and four reverse speeds and an overall ratio of 20:1. Safety features include auto neutral and Intelligent Hill Start Aid, which prevents roll-back and roll-forward while launching on grades using foundation wheel brakes. Automatic Manual and Low modes offer drivers optimum vehicle control.


“I’ve always been a fan of Eaton,” adds Hansen. “My previous truck had an Eaton 18-speed manual transmission and it gave me a million miles of reliable performance, but this new UltraShift PLUS has just made my job so much easier.

“I mean it’s doing all of the work for me. When I’m coming out of the bush, through big hills and all types of road conditions, it knows when to shift and it shifts properly.”

He went on to cite the transmission’s favorable impact in making him a safer and better fuel consuming driver.

“It allows you to concentrate on driving and the conditions around you,” he adds. “That’s really helpful in heavy traffic and through the city when I am fully loaded. You do not have to think about what gear you should be in. UltraShift PLUS does all of the thinking for you. It’s much safer and easier.”

Hansen is currently averaging about 4.1 miles per gallon, which he claims is very good for a heavy hauler and about the same as he was getting with his former vehicle that had two instead of three drive axles. Hansen credits his local Eaton Roadranger with an important assist.

“An Eaton factory technician phoned me one day and said he wanted to ride along with me with a load on. We drove the full load around the loop of Lansing, Michigan, and he asked me to take a look at a new software shifting program. Then he used the ServiceRanger 4 tool to update my transmission.

“Just like that it was shifting smoother and faster. Later, I discovered, I was getting better fuel economy. He was very knowledgeable and passed along very helpful information. I was really glad I met with him.”

After the sale support has been a longtime mainstay at Eaton with the company’s more than 200 Roadranger field members servicing all facets of the North American trucking industry. Over the years, many in the industry have cited the commitment to service as a factor that keeps Eaton a cut above the competition.