Brett Macklin is doing the rounds of his B-double with an iron bar in his hands, checking all the tyres on his 19-metre log trailers after a run down Dunstan’s Road to Nariel in the upper reaches of north-eastern Victoria.
Running as a subbie to ANC Forestry Group, Macklin is part of the efforts in salvaging the stands of native timber which were burnt in the January fires, with the Upper Murray area a hub of activity as the timber is harvested and hauled out of the mountains.
The truck of choice for Macklin is a 2015 Kenworth T909, which has a Cummins ISX under the bonnet and has been set up with all the gear required for the hard hauling out of the bush. Macklin took the plunge into owner-driving three years ago, purchasing the truck from McConachy Logging. Working in the bush has been his sole career path.
“I started at 16, straight out of school and into the bush, I couldn’t wait to do it. I did a lot of bush work including working on all the harvesting gear then the truck side came along for a number of years,” he explained.
“We made the decision to have a go at it ourselves as the opportunity was there three years ago and as its unfolding it hasn’t worked out too bad.”
The trailers are set up for hardwood cartage, with the rear trailer folding up to ride on the back of the Kennedy A-trailer and the Kenworth is kitted out with Air-CTI to regulate the tyre pressures on the windy and unsealed mountain roads.
With 450,000 kilometres on the clock, Macklin has had a good run out of the T909 so far having spent his time on log haulage behind the wheel of a few different trucks.
“I started out about 15 years ago driving a Kenworth T401, along the way we went through a few Western Stars and in later years we had a Mack so there’s been a bit of variety over the years,” he said.
Having spent the winter months working in the bush on the other side of the Great Diving Range, Macklin was on his first day working in the north-east having travelled up from his home at Newborough in Gippsland.
His daily run during the week on the current contract sees him head up to the higher elevations and load out back down to the holding yard in the Nariel Valley with each trip up and down the range taking about three and a half hours. The majority of the timber being harvested is being stockpiled at Nariel with loads also going to mills in Gippsland giving the drivers a bit of variety.
With the nature of the work in the bush areas the truck operators and crews need to be flexible and work out of a wide geographical area, Macklin is one of many who have made their livelihood working in the forested areas of the state and unfortunately the timber industry in Victoria has come under both unwelcome and unwarranted agitation from environmental groups.
“We go where the work is – there is a lot of heat on the timber industry and we try and do the right thing by the industry – it is such a renewable resource and it employs so many people with families and businesses all employed along the supply chain, so we just try and do our bit to keep it ticking.
“The fires through Victoria last summer weren’t good for anybody but it is good that they have opened the bush up to recover some of the burnt timber rather than letting it go to waste.”
With all the load restraints removed from his load, Macklin watched on as Daryl Hutton of ANC Forestry fired up the Komatsu excavator and started unloading the logs off his truck with the grapple on the excavator grabbing the timber and swinging them over onto the growing pile of logs.
“Well it’s the first day back for a while, this job will probably keep us going until May next year so we will just keep up with the work and keep ticking along…..and hopefully Daryl will give me a load back down the highway home on Friday,” he said with a smile.