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Haulin’ hardwood in the Victorian high country

Despite it being well into late spring, a jumper and a beanie were still necessary attire for Daryl Hutton as he was about to commence another day’s work in the north-east Victorian high country, with the sun yet to break through over the hilltops.

Hutton is the Managing Director of ANC Forestry Group, overseeing a fleet of 37 log trucks and 20 various pieces of logging equipment, and with the company taking on a contract salvaging hardwood timber affected by the 2020 bushfires, had established a log dump at Nariel just south of Corryong.

Based at Morwell in southern Victoria, the ANC Forestry operation has evolved over the last 12 years having originally being set up with stakeholders from Australia, New Zealand and Canada (hence the name).

Hailing from the North Island of New Zealand, Hutton has been an integral part of the company’s growth which has seen more of a focus on timber haulage over recent years.

“We have grown the fleet from four log trucks when I first came over here to 37 and had a bit of a change in the business line as we were right into cable logging and harvesting of plantation pine – we have moved away from that somewhat and more oriented towards timber haulage/loading and hardwood logging,” he explained.

The ANC fleet is dominated by Kenworth, with a variety of T658/T659, T909/K200 and some older T950’s making up the numbers, with Kennedy Trailers of Bairnsdale being the predominant supplier of the variety of logging trailers used across both softwood and hardwood log transport.

“We have only bought Kenworths over the last 10 years, we look at them as being a ten-year log truck and they are well supported across Victoria for the parts and service we need,” he said.

Daryl Hutton on the job at the Nariel log dump.

Timber haulage can be one of the hardest vocations a truck can undertake given the nature of the terrain encountered and the roads travelled can be a factor in determining the best truck and trailer combination for the job.

As a result the ANC fleet consists of a variety of truck-and-trailer combinations across single and B-double configurations, with all trucks sent to work with a full complement of safety and driver aids to get the job done efficiently.

“The K200 is a good example,” said Hutton. “It comes in under 23 metres in length and can cart a 47.5 tonne payload – with a short prime mover it gets in and out of the hills pretty well and if it has to go a good distance it can cart a good payload too.

“Across the fleet we only average 100-120,000 k’s a year but our average speed is only 45km/h, and that’s a hard-working 45 k’s too.

“With a log truck you have to spec it up with every extra you think of. Our trucks have cross-locks, CTI (tyre inflation system), safety systems, and GPS tracking and despatch, all these gadgets that make a truck dearer,” he said with a smile.

EBS is standard across the ANC fleet with downloads undertaken fortnightly with feedback provided to drivers.

“The download gives us feedback on how well the systems are working and how much the brakes are being used, and with some of the high-camber corners in some of the places we cart out of can be problematic in terms of coming close to rollovers and we find the EBS reporting is working for us well – driver acceptance has been really good, it’s a training thing, not an arse-kicking exercise, they take the information on board,” he explained.

One of the biggest developments across the timber industry over the last couple of decades has been the advances in safety, with ANC at the forefront having in 2015 taking out a Worksafe Victoria award for ‘Best Solution to a Workplace Situation’. 

The company developed systems to hang the chains to be placed over the load by the loader operator with the machine rather than having the driver physically throw the chains, and after a number of problems with loads shifting, Hutton developed a double-purchase roller which doubles the pull capacity and therefore security of the load winches and prevents logs moving whilst in transit.

“Forest companies don’t want to see incidents – forestry has been a high-incident industry and we are really striving ahead over the last 10-15 years and log truck drivers now have the tools to get them home safely,” he said.

Around seven trucks from the ANC fleet, along with a number of subbies were working on the Upper Murray contract on the day Big Rigs visited, and with the majority of the timber harvested destined for the pulp mill 400 kilometres over the other side of the Great Diving Range at Morwell, the log yard had been established with one of the factors being better utilisation of the truck fleet.

“We have two main sites, here and our one in Morwell where we put 200,000 tonne through a year at our busiest time. We have the yard here for storage as it would have been a nightmare carting it over that distance – around here it’s not the easiest place to get logs out of and here a truck can do 4 loads of pulp a day rather that than one,” said Hutton.

With single and B-double combinations operating in the ANC operation Hutton reckons A-doubles could be on the radar in the right circumstances.

“Definitely on some routes I would love to run them, but they are not super bush-friendly, you need the right forest floor to turn them around and back them in. We carry a trailer everytime to get them in where we have to go.

“A-Doubles are the future though, especially with the fires this year the configurations are something that will need to be looked at to cart logs further distances and support some of the mills up here in north-eastern Victoria and NSW that have lost a lot of their supply.”

Around 90 staff are employed across the ANC operation, and back at the Morwell base all repairs and maintenance on the trucks, trailers and logging gear is carried out in-house. The workshop runs a double shift, keeping the trucks serviced overnight and other general work carried out during the day.

“There’s not much we can’t do, it’s a one-stop shop so we don’t have to rely on anybody outside and if we need something done, we can do it overnight,” he said.

As the trucks began to rumble up into the hills to start the day’s hauling down to the log dump Hutton was about to fire up the Komatsu excavator to build on the already impressive pile of timber that had been neatly stacked, with Hutton working on getting all his trucks and drivers’ home to Gippsland with a load of pulp for the weekend.

“It’s what we work around for the whole week, we have people in the office monitoring BFM – we need it especially on these longer routes….we have a pretty good management team back at head office which allows me to get out here running a machine instead of staring at a computer.”

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