For four decades, trucks adorning the Blair and Campbell name and blue and white paint scheme have been a familiar sight throughout Eastern Victoria as they haul timber and woodchip out of the bush and to mills and ports over both sides of the Great Dividing Range.
Today the Blair and Campbell (B&C) operation is owned by Adam and Courtney Campbell of Bruthen, who have 12 Kenworths scattered over a wide area on log cartage from the company’s depot in nearby Barinsdale.
With a history in milling as well as hauling timber, the B&C operation kicked off in 1982 as a joint venture between Dave Blair and Doug Campbell.
“My father Doug used to work for Dave as a contractor, he started out in Cudgewa and at the Gibb mill near Corryong,” explained Adam Campbell.
“Dave bought a mill in Ensay and then in Bruthen and set up the joint business with the old man. They bought one truck then built that up to four trucks before they bought a mill in Corryong that was still going until Dave passed away.”
In the late 1980s, Adam worked at the Corryong mill for two years before hitting the bush tracks hauling timber into the mill in one of the company trucks which at the time was a popular choice for many on log haulage.
“I started out in a 500hp Mack Value-Liner when I was still on red P plates. I couldn’t drive a V8 car but was driving a V8 Value-Liner!
“With a single jinker it was a pretty tough truck, and we also had Super-Liners and a W-model Kenworth. They then bought a CH Mack for carting woodchips out of Corryong to the port at Geelong, it was a body truck with a quad dog, and I did that for three years, chips down and fertiliser back which was a good gig.”
With the passing of Dave Blair, the mill in Corryong was shut down, and having returned to Bruthen, Adam has since built the haulage operation up with the trucks carting hardwood timber to a number of mills.
The fleet is a mix of T909, C509 and T659 models along with a lone 2001 model T950, with Kennedy the preferred choice for trailers. The company also added a Drake 4×4 Deck Widener float to its inventory last year for transporting logging machinery and other heavy haulage duties as needed.
Adam reckons the Kenworth and Kennedy combination for trucks and trailers is a good one, with the specification well-suited to their requirements.
“The 909s get a flow of air through the cab and keeps the motor cool and with the T659 the turning capacity on that is really good – especially with the float. It’s a bit shorter in the rails and we can run a 36inch sleeper so the boys can get a good sleep, with fatigue management and so on we have to be across that. We set them up with the air conditioners and so forth so when they run out of their hours they can go to bed,” he explained.
Over the years logging trailers have evolved considerably, from sliding pole jinkers to the multi-trailer units common today, with all of Adam’s trailers built locally in Bairnsdale by Kennedy’s.
“We have gone to stag trailers. We run a fold-up skel on the truck with a stag behind it. It’s not as long going into the landings to load, and they track like a single trailer. If you can get a single trailer out you can get a stag trailer set out – they are real robust, they don’t dance around like a bogie so for us going forward we will be running stags. The worst-case scenario if it’s wet up the bush or a bit dicey, we just drop the pup off and run out as a single, they are a good set up.”
With the B&C trucks hauling timber out of the Great Diving Range to mills at Swifts Creek, Heyfield, Eden, Geelong and Corryong, the weather, particularly in winter is one of the factors which can bring the trucks to a halt, with Adam preferring to park a truck for a day or two than risk damage to trucks or injury to drivers.
“If it comes in wet there’s no mucking around, we will just leave the truck at the side of the road. It’s a no-brainer for us. The truck will be there the next day, or the day after, at least you will get the truck back down and won’t be six months off work.
“We can go through the winter working low volume bush up around Nowa Nowa, weather permitting, as the bottom end bush dries out a lot quicker than the higher volume stuff further up in the hills.
“Winter is also our time for big maintenance – if we need to rebuild a motor, or go over a truck from front to back, we get everything right, so it doesn’t affect us in the busy season.”
With the timber industry in Victoria facing an uncertain future, B&C has log contracts in place until 2024. The company will later this year take delivery of a Kenworth SAR Legend which Adam is looking forward to, and hopefully it will see a number of years’ service.
“We have a good bunch of blokes here at the minute, we have been pretty well on track since the [2019-2020] fires, and we are going pretty well.
“We will go where the work is, if there’s wood to cart, we will go with it. Let’s hope it keeps on going for a few more years,” he concluded.