Our own legendary Hayes logger

31 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 11, 2018

In a career spanning more than five decades, Gordon Hayes has carted logs from every inch of the deep South‘s log country. Craig Andrews talks to a humble man, whose working life few will match in terms of effort, and attitude.

Photo: Gordon Hayes and the trusty Foden Alpha he‘s driven for Dynes Transport for the past 1.3m kilometres. A wonderful work life with no regrets.

There are not many people in the logging game down south who haven‘t heard of Gordon Hayes. The Hayes have been involved in the logging industry for decades in one way or another. It was through his father, Gordon Sr, that young Gordon Hayes got his start, but grandfather Ted Hayes also worked in the native bush of the Catlins all of his life. It‘s been more than 50 years since Gordon Jr started out in the logging industry and almost all of it has been spent carting logs. ‘Gordy‘, as he‘s more commonly known, got his start in 1965 aged 14, working part-time for his dad. When he was 15 he quit school to help his dad cut posts full-time. But memories of helping his Mum help his Dad cut posts go back even further.
“Mum was driving the tractor between the school bus runs and would be winching out trees with it. Whist waiting for the signal to start pulling trees, she would be knitting a jersey for one of the seven kids they had. Dad used to get annoyed after the go-ahead signal was given as she would just sit while she finished off a row,” says Gordy.

The family harvested trees suitable for posts, but some were too big and they were sold to Gorton‘s Sawmill in Milton. Gordon Sr put a 1948 Dodge to work carting the logs. It was a secondhand unit bought off Everitt‘s scrap metal dealers in Dunedin for £250. Gordy had the job of delivering the logs that were too big for posts, using the 5-ton, 6-cylinder, petrol engine machine. It was a challenge. From the back of the cab to the end of the deck was only six feet and it often carted 18-foot logs so the front wheels would lift up often. “The old Stoney Creek Bridge north of Balclutha was the worst,” he laughs. He often carted logs into Otto Forsyth‘s mill near Glenomaru towards Owaka where the late Terry Burling had his mill. “Otto wasn‘t a good payer,” says Gordy. Gordon Sr would sit on top of his load at the dumpsite and wouldn‘t unload until he saw some money. Otto would then bring a cheque, but would then postdate it for another six months. They persisted with the Dodge for around two years and then updated it with a secondhand J6 Bedford bought from Gorton‘s Sawmill. This one had a 300 cubic inch Bedford Diesel motor that was rare at the time as most were petrol. It punched out a mighty 19kW (26hp) at 2800 rpms. It had 86,000 miles on it when Hayes bought it and most of the major components had already been replaced. Like most Bedfords at the time, it was punching well above its weight and doing things it wasn‘t built to do, like pulling a single axle pole. Gordy couldn‘t get into top gear even on the flats. “There was black smoke everywhere,” he says.

Photo: The 1960 J6 Bedford. Running a tare of six ton with a payload between 10 and 14 tons.

In an attempt to get more performance, they took it in to Murray Gilmore in Balclutha. Murray did a bit of tweaking and when taking it up the Balclutha hill he admitted to not being able to see the town behind him due to black smoke. But the result gave Gordy top gear. “Nothing lasted long on the Bedford,” says Gordy. To help with the struggling Bedford, in 1967 Gordon Sr bought a secondhand Austin off Wilson and Kennard in Milton. This one punched out a staggering 63kW (84hp) at 2600 rpms. Gordy‘s brother Trevor was driving it and it also pulled a single axle pole trailer. “Not long after it turned up, its diff fell to bits,” laughs Gordy.
Both trucks and drivers toiled for six years on the demanding work and in 1973 their father bit the bullet and bought a new T93 Fuso. “He was tired of small trucks breaking down.” Gordy was to be its driver and Trevor went back into the harvesting crew. Other makes had been looked at before settling on the Fuso. He looked at a D-Series Ford for $13,100 and also a K-Series Dodge for $18,400, but decided on outlaying $32,666 for the bigger Fuso. Todd Motors were not interested in trading the two smaller trucks for the Fuso, so Hanson‘s in Dunedin bought the pair for $600 each. There was a two-week delay on the new truck as W.E Perrin in Owaka had recently taken delivery of the same model and broken its windscreen so the windscreen had been flogged out of the Hayes truck in the meantime. A lot of money was spent on the new truck and the old pole trailers were converted into a 2-axle drawbar unit. Peter Shanks was the engineer who Gordy describes as a “bloody good engineer”. With chassis rails made from the poles it passed a COF, although the poles were eventually replaced with conventional rails. The Fuso was a good truck, but at 104,000kms it dropped a valve, which they were prone to doing.

Along with the new truck in 1973, they started doing some export logs for the Dunedin City Council-owned City Forests. Gordy was driving the truck and Hayes still had one full-time gang harvesting, sometimes two when demand required. Loads for mills were carted as far south as Waiwera South, to Colin Stuart‘s mill. Colin was Campbell Stuart‘s father; Campbell being the man who started Stuart Timber, which still operates today near Tapanui. The Fuso served the family well for five years. The gearbox was out around a dozen times Gordy recalls. “The clutch was always slipping, as the gearbox leaked oil.” The Fuso left the company in 1979, traded on the first of the two R-Series Macks that the Hayes were well known for. The Mack R686 RS (New Zealand‘s Cavalcade of Trucks; A South Island Album p23) was a 213kW (285hp) model that Gordon Sr paid $96,000 for. It came with a new Domett Fruehauf semi-trailer and pulled the Fuso‘s old 2-axle trailer behind that in A-train configuration. Gordy was expecting the Mack to be a great ride. “‘The Greatest Name in Trucks‘ was forefront in my mind,” he says. Ted Pope was the Mack salesman from Invercargill and they both travelled to Palmerston North to pick it up. Gordy‘s thoughts of a good ride quickly went out the window. “Inside the cab sounded like a machine shop. Unbelievable. The ride was poor. There were no cab springs.” Ted had said that nobody else had complained, but over the years Gordy learnt from other operators that they had all complained.

Photo: New in 1973, the Fuso cost $32,666. Pictured here in Waipori.

That Mack was a good truck. The gearbox did a bearing at 72,000kms and knocked teeth off the top two gears. It was off the road for a week. It did a camshaft at 200,000kms, which surprised them, as they weren‘t known for doing that, and a diff housing cracked due to a poor casting. “It was paper-thin,” recalls Gordy. It was patched up but leaked throughout the time Hayes owned it. It only had 318,000kms on it when the accountant advised them to sell the truck and get a new one, so in 1984 the second of the R-Series Macks was put to work for the Hayes, pulling the same two trailers. This one was a 235kW (315hp) unit and was one of the cancelled banana boat models that were destined for export. It had a Jacobs engine brake, which Gordy preferred to the Dynatard in the earlier Mack. This one cost $146,000 and like the first Mack, it served them well. But the mid 80s was hard going and the inconsistency of the logging industry meant that by February 1985, having done a couple of years on the new truck, Gordy decided to leave the family business. “Every three months a boat load of logs would sell, and sometimes it wouldn‘t sell, so we spent the three months trying to find work,” he says. The Hayes decided to on-sell the Mack and it went to Samson‘s in Dunedin, with Bruce Patterson driving it. It continued to do logs with them under the name Hayes Transport, still carting for City Forests.

Gordy took a short break from driving to run the de-barking machine and cleaning up export logs for Odlin‘s near Mosgiel. This didn‘t last long and some time in May 1985, a Dynes Transport SAR Kenworth pulled in and started unloading logs. Its driver was Les Roberts and he had a conversation with Gordy about a job going at Dynes. Les was handing in his notice that evening and asked Gordy if he wanted to go back carting logs, driving a “decent” truck. Les rang Jim Dynes that evening and told him he was finishing up, but he had another driver sorted for his unit if he was interested. “If he‘s any good then he can have the job” were Jim‘s words. Les said to Gordy “Give Jim a ring at some stage to say gidday”. So he rang him a few nights later to say ‘Gidday‘ but Jim was too busy sorting out a new truck and his reply was, “I‘ll see you around sometime.” Ten months later Gordy finally met Jim at Port Chalmers when Jim was carting woodchip. Drew Ritchie, who worked at the port, said to Gordy, “Do you know who that is? That‘s the man who‘s been paying your wages for the last 10 months.” A quick introduction and they were on their way again. It would be another two years and two months before Gordy would see Jim again. Gordy‘s SAR Kenworth, ‘Papa Blue‘, was a 1981 model and pulled a 3-axle Bailey bridge trailer. Detroit powered, it was de-rated to 287kW (385hp). It was one of two SARs based in Mosgiel, although there were three SARs in total. Two were running in a partnership with Odlin‘s with ‘D and O‘ signwriting on. They carted into one of two Odlin‘s Mills on the Taieri.

Photo: The 1979 R 686 Mack with 285hp, a new semi and the Fuso‘s trailer.

Photo: The last truck Gordy was to drive for the family business. A 315hp R Model, it was the second R model the family owned and one of the ‘Banana boat‘ Macks originally destined for Peru.

In mid-1988 Jim called and advised Gordy that the work was stopping with Odlin‘s and that if he wanted to keep his job he would have to move with the truck to Tapanui where it was now going to be based. Gordy‘s family were happy to move to Tapanui so they went, although the downside was Jim‘s guarantee of only two years‘ work at the most. The Statecraft mill at Conical Hill was government-owned and there was ongoing talk of it being closed. So instead of buying a house in Tapanui the Hayes decided to rent. “It just made sense as it was potentially only going to be two years.” The mill changed name to Prolog, and then Earnslaw One bought it. For the next 21 years, Gordy carted logs into the Conical Hill mill. Gordy drove the SAR for five years, three in Mosgiel and two in Tapanui, before Jim decided to sell the truck. Gordy‘s next truck was to be a K124 Kenworth. It was new to Alf Barnett, who clocked up around 800,000kms carting mostly timber to Christchurch. It was one of three in the existing fleet set up for logs around the same time. The other two were W Model Kenworths that had come from the woodchip fleet and were set up with bolsters and new Roadcorp Roadrunner trailers. It‘s a theme repeated in the Dynes fleet over the years. The K124 was six years old when Gordy got it. “I spent nine years on that truck, clocking up 400,000kms carting mostly into the mill.” There was the odd trip down to Rayonier at Mataura but mostly logs out of the Blue Mountains to Conical Hill. “It was a good old truck. Fairly rowdy, but nowhere near as bad as the first R-Series Mack.” It was rough riding all the same, which Gordy put down to the way the trailer sat on the back when being piggy-backed. “It was bad every now and then so they adjusted it so it sat back further and then it was just bad all the time,” he laughed. By 1999 he had had enough of the truck and put a request in to Peter Dynes for something else to drive if it came along.

Photo: One of three SAR Kenworths that Dynes ran. This 1981 model is one of two that ran with ‘D and O‘ on the door. Gordy spent five years driving this one. Following the SAR Dynes this 1984 Kenworth.

A 1992 MAN F90 with (278kW) 372hp came on tap so Gordy took that. It was another 6-wheeler pulling a 4-axle trailer. It was new to Warren Lennon and Gordy inherited it off Lou Barkley. It was comfortable, which was just what he wanted. A year and a half on the MAN came to an end and Peter offered him another F90 MAN, but this was a 1995 model with 315kW (422hp). New to Sandy Gamble, it was well looked after, but it was heavy at 11,000kg tare and pulling a 4-axle trailer. “I loved the bloody thing,” says Gordy. “Again, it was nice and comfortable and had a great retarder.” The truck came new as a tractor and towed a Bailey bridge semi, but the chassis was twisted after an incident and it came back stretched as a rigid truck. “The 3-axle Bailey bridge wasn‘t a great trailer. You struggled to legally load them. The clean tare was 19,300kg and after a week in the bush on dirty roads it was up to 20,000 kg. And hard on tyres. The 4-axle ones weren‘t as bad, as the last wheels steered,” says Gordy. The maximum gross on them was 40 ton.

Gordy was on the 422 MAN for about a year and a half with little trouble. A number of the MANs gave grief and parts were expensive, so they were all eventually disposed of. Peter rang one day and told him he was getting a new 8-wheeler Foden Alpha pulling a new 4-axle Ali Arc Highway Hound trailer. Gordy liked the MAN a lot and was reluctant to see the end of it. “Once I‘m on a truck, I tend to want to stay on it and get the best out of it.” Regardless of this, he accepted the new truck in 2002. The Alpha is the same truck that he drives today for Dynes and one that he‘s happy to see his driving days out on.

Photo: Was Gordy‘s for the next nine years. It‘s still with the Dynes fleet today.

The Alpha has a C12 Cat motor de-rated from 321kW (430hp) to 306kW (410hp) to help prolong its life. The truck was less than a year old when the cylinder head started leaking water due to numerous cracks appearing. “Someone said it was just because it was made in Britain,” Gordy laughs. As much as Gordy would appreciate an extra hundred horsepower, he thinks the de-rating is one of the reasons the truck has now covered 1.3 million kilometres. Prior to a full rebuild in 2016 at 1.1m kilometres, the bottom had been replaced as a precaution at 620,000km, and a reconditioned gearbox thrown in at around 950,000kms after Gordy noted it was making the odd noise. At this point a lot of the logs being carted were chip logs and export. When the Ernslaw One Conical Hill operation finally closed its doors for good in 2009 Gordon was gutted, not just for himself but also the employees and the town of Tapanui, even though there‘d been ongoing layoffs over the years leading to the closure. “I loved carting into that mill. I enjoyed the short hauls and gravel roads.” In 2016, he and the Foden moved to Dunedin. “I only went to Tapanui for two years; 28 years later I moved away.” Gordon had two daughters at university so he wanted to support them as well. The Foden is still on its original diffs, which he attributes to the way they have been built as well as engaging the interaxle lock and diff locks every time you think it‘s necessary. “It‘s better to have both diffs taking the strain than just the one,” he says. Former Dynes mechanic Tony Lawrence recommended the power divider always be on when on the gravel, which Gordy says were wise words. He‘s a bit too humble to acknowledge it‘s also the way the truck has been driven in a demanding line of work.

Photo: A 1995 F90 MAN with 422hp. Gordy was a big fan and reluctant to give it up for the Foden.

“Doing this sort of stuff is what I‘ve been taught to do. I‘m constantly thinking for ways to look after my truck. It‘s taking the things that I‘ve been taught and trying to improve on them.” He was offered the role of being a driver trainer within the company but was just as happy to keep driving. “I don‘t like telling people what to do,” he laughs. Gordy takes his time on the rough road and it‘s a testament to his driving that the Foden has no rattles. He has turned down new trucks, happy to keep the old girl, mostly for sentimental reasons and also to see it through to his retirement, which he knows is looming although he hasn‘t set a date yet. At 67 he still enjoys his work. “I‘ve never been bored with 50 years on logs and I would do it forever if I could.” He‘s never had to share a truck, which he believes to be very important as that gives an extra incentive to look after it. It will be 33 years at Dynes Transport this year, and he rates them highly. “The Dynes have been great for me. I rarely hear from them or see them. They leave me to the job and I just get on with it and they haven‘t had to go crook at me too often,” he laughs. “Jim, Anita and Peter Dynes have been tremendous.”

Photo: Gordy doing what he loves to do best, on a run through Waitahuna.

He‘s a man at the top of his game and he‘s one of those drivers who always offers a wave in true truck driver fashion. He loves the industry and as mentioned earlier, it‘s something he could do forever. He struggles to find a downside with the work, but he believes the roads could be better. Not the gravel ones, but the main roads. “The highways are quite bumpy in places and could be better. It must be hard on gear with all the lumps and bumps on our main roads.” And he does feel a bit for the young ones, and those in general who are trying to get a truck and trailer licence. It was so much easier back in his day. “I don‘t recall having to answer any questions when I got my trailer licence and we threw some logs on it to make the whole unit weigh three and half tons. A quick drive around the Tokoiti Cemetery, a quick hill start and a short reverse into the back of the Milton pub, which was four times wider than the truck. And that was it!” There are not many forestry blocks in the region that Gordy hasn‘t been into over the years, but it‘s coming to an end and he will leave with no regrets. The industry will miss him though. He‘s one of a number of the old-school operators who are nearing the end of their driving time, and it‘s experience that can‘t be replaced. Asked about his pending retirement, he says, “I think I will retire this year or when I finally get good at it.”

The last words come from Peter Dynes, CEO Dynes Transport Tapanui Ltd. “If drivers could be cloned then Gordy Hayes is the man you should be cloning from. He‘s the benchmark which the standard should be set at. In the age of autonomous trucks, it‘s Gordy‘s driving standards that they should be based on.”