Cover story: Campbell Contracting

By: Editor, Photography by: Editor

Cover story: Campbell Contracting Cover story: Campbell Contracting
Cover story: Campbell Contracting Cover story: Campbell Contracting
Cover story: Campbell Contracting Cover story: Campbell Contracting
Cover story: Campbell Contracting Cover story: Campbell Contracting
Cover story: Campbell Contracting Cover story: Campbell Contracting
Cover story: Campbell Contracting Cover story: Campbell Contracting

The Ed uses his best navigations skills to locate a remote logging crew and checks out their new Mack Trident 8x4 logger

I met Craig Campbell and Jeff McNeily late last year at a machine auction in the South Island, as they pondered over a tidy Hitachi ZX280LC, which was subsequently purchased. During our conversation, the business partners told me they were putting a new truck on the road, which was enough bait to invite myself along for a look.

True to their word, I received an e-mail from Craig in early February along with a couple of photos of the awesome looking rig, and I made a point of clearing appointments to ensure we could meet.

Mackenzie Country

If you’ve travelled through South Island’s Mackenzie Country before, then you’ll appreciate the wide open spaces it affords. In my case, I was heading some 40km out from Twizel and following the shoreline of Lake Ohau across DOC land to Glen Lyon Station.

The four or five lines of directions e-mailed to me on where to find the crew was perfectly functional, as I was to find out. That aided by some points of reference, previously gathered from Google Earth, along with a bit of roadside tyre track deciphering got me to the remote skid site a little behind schedule but a satisfactory result nonetheless.

Logging larch

Positioned alongside Lake Ohau, Craig, Jeff, and their crew are in the process of logging a 50-year-old larch block for a Chinese export market buyer, and it’s from this location, the Mack Trident has started to make its dent in the stockpiled logs after being put to work alongside contract haulers just two weeks prior.

Helping hand

Campbell Contracting started in 2013. Their first digger was purchased from Iain Forrester (Forrester Logging article—DOW 275 Aug16), whom Craig had worked for in the past.

"He gave us an old Hitachi and said for us to let us use it to earn our deposit," Jeff says.

Earn their deposit they did, and the business now has a number of good machines in their growing fleet. "We’ve now got two Waratahs, five diggers, two log trucks, and some other equipment," Jeff says.

Campbell -1

To keep up with the demand on the busy loggers, last year they decided to replace an older Mack Quantum with a new truck.

"Reliability was our biggest concern. We work in some pretty remote places, so we didn’t want any gear that could cause us issues," Craig says.

Choosing the right truck

The pair says that while Mack had been a good brand for them in the past, it wasn’t a case of jumping into the first Mack truck they saw, looking at almost every brand on the market across the price range.

"The Mack was a bit dearer than most of the others actually, but we hunted through just about everything there was, and we could have bought a truck that was $100k less," Jeff says.

When searching for the new truck, the pair says everyone had opinions on trucks and problems associated with each brand and model.

"We said to ourselves that it looks like we’ve got to pick the problems you want, basically," Jeff says.

"In saying that, there wasn’t anything bad anyone had to say about the Mack."

The pair says they looked closely at another popular brand, but the Mack surpassed it in comfort. "I couldn’t believe the difference. The other truck felt as if I was sitting off the edge of the seat," Jeff says.

In the end, Craig and Jeff both agreed the Mack Trident was more suited to their business model—and ‘all the better’ when it looks "pretty mean", the proud owners say.

Nine axles

The nine axles of the entire unit are set up to easily handle the 50-tonne load that the 535hp Mack MP8 SCR engine with 1920ft-lb of torque, has been hauling for the last two weeks on its daily trip through to the Timaru port. All this sits atop Meritor RT46-160GP diffs and 55" (1397mm) long heavy-duty parabolic springs with heavy-duty shock absorbers.

Trailer build

Thanks to the pressure currently on the trailer building industry, it took some time for the completed five-axle unit to be delivered, the delay causing some issues that had to be worked through. "We bought it as a four-axle and it was converted out to a five-axle," Jeff says.

"It has been fitted with new rims, and there are a few minor things to do, but it’s coming along."

Specialist skills

In the pilothouse is George Foster, who was brought in especially to drive the new rig. Looking pretty comfortable behind the wheel, he tells me he is progressively becoming accustomed to the truck after coming from DAF, Foden, and Volvo.

"It’s comfy, it’s quiet. The power’s good.

It has good visibility, which is surprising considering the stacks (air cleaners) and stuff on it."

AMT transmission

"I’m not a big fan of the automatic (mDRIVE) AMT transmission at the moment, but everyone I’ve talked to has said to give it a couple of weeks to a month," George says.The control panel is positioned on the dashboard and George demonstrates that a reach (similar to when one changes stations on a radio) is required when he has the need to change gears manually.

"Having a couple of toggles on the steering wheel would be ideal, as it can get pretty rough on some of these logging tracks and it can be awkward to keep your hand in the right position."

No doubt, he will become accustomed to the truck, but his suggestion is a valid one.


Although the American-styled buttoned leather retro theme may seem a bit dated and overused, it still seems popular with many in the industry, thanks to it being easy to maintain and familiar territory to many truck drivers.

Campbell -4

The space in any day cab is tight and the designers have done a commendable job to fit what many would consider a good number of storage areas in the relatively small area. Missing is a fridge, which would have been a good addition and something I would have expected to be standard in a truck of this pedigree. Tasteful on the bling, the gauges and other interior fittings show a nice touch of class without feeling the need to awe the crowds at truck shows, all finishing the interior off nicely.

Customer contact

Once this block is complete, the pair has another one lined up, and both partners say they are fortunate that new jobs arrive on a regular basis.

"I think people find us pretty straightforward to deal with. We like to think the quality of our work and what we say we’ll do speaks for itself," Craig says.

Working remotely sometimes means contact with customers can be difficult, but the pair says they always follow up on business calls at the end of each workday.

"We’re also in the process of establishing a website and Facebook page, so people will know that their message will be seen by us," Craig says.

Preparing more

With our catch up complete, the team gets back to preparing more logs for incoming trucks. And for George, it’s just the beginning of a long haul to Timaru before the day ends.

As for Craig and Jeff, it’s a matter of readying themselves for a trip further south the next day to inspect a wood processor. These men are partners on a mission, and there’s no time to waste. n

For more information, check out the website or send an e-mail to Jeff or Craig at

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Deals on Wheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook