Bush trucker man: Paul ‘Spot’ Muggleton

By: Tamara Whitsed


Paul Muggleton (left) with his boss, managing director Buck Bergin. Paul Muggleton (left) with his boss, managing director Buck Bergin. Paul Muggleton (left) with his boss, managing director Buck Bergin.
Bergin’s 2015 T909. Bergin’s 2015 T909. Bergin’s 2015 T909.
Paul Muggleton has been driving Bergin trucks since the early 1990s. Paul Muggleton has been driving Bergin trucks since the early 1990s. Paul Muggleton has been driving Bergin trucks since the early 1990s.
A Kenworth SAR in the Carabost State Forest in the 1990s. A Kenworth SAR in the Carabost State Forest in the 1990s. A Kenworth SAR in the Carabost State Forest in the 1990s.
A Western Star in the Bago State Forest in 1995. A Western Star in the Bago State Forest in 1995. A Western Star in the Bago State Forest in 1995.
Paul parked the Kenworth 601 in the snow near Kiandra while travelling back from Moruya in the late 1990s. Paul parked the Kenworth 601 in the snow near Kiandra while travelling back from Moruya in the late 1990s. Paul parked the Kenworth 601 in the snow near Kiandra while travelling back from Moruya in the late 1990s.
Carting military personnel carriers from Adelaide to Wodonga. Carting military personnel carriers from Adelaide to Wodonga. Carting military personnel carriers from Adelaide to Wodonga.
Backloading wool from Brisbane to Sydney in Bergin’s Kenworth T601. Backloading wool from Brisbane to Sydney in Bergin’s Kenworth T601. Backloading wool from Brisbane to Sydney in Bergin’s Kenworth T601.
Paul and Jenny Muggleton at their Tumbarumba home, Notelggum B&B. Paul and Jenny Muggleton at their Tumbarumba home, Notelggum B&B. Paul and Jenny Muggleton at their Tumbarumba home, Notelggum B&B.

Paul Muggleton harvests logs each summer and drives trucks in the winter. He tells Tamara Whitsed about his 40-year career

 

Paul ‘Spot’ Muggleton has spent the summer harvesting alpine ash in the Bago State Forest near Tumbarumba, New South Wales, for R&V Bergin.

"I’m on a processor at the moment," Paul says.

"It processes the logs – falls the trees, cuts them into lengths."

The machines are noisy, but when the crew stops for lunch they can appreciate the beauty of the bush.

"You sit down and it’s all quiet. There’s wallabies and birds."

Kookaburras, magpies and currawongs follow the machinery.

"They get the grubs when we stir the dirt up."

Paul is proud to have learned the ropes from respected loggers including Rex Bergin, Jack Neville and Ron Goldspink.

Back then Rex’s son, Buck Bergin, was driving bulldozers.

Now Buck is the managing director of R&V Bergin.

Logging is safer and easier than when Paul started in 1976.

"There isn’t a man walking around on the ground with a chainsaw."

And it is comfortable in the cabin of his processor.

"The radio works. The air conditioner works."

The compartment Paul is working in at the moment has been logged several times before.

"This will be the third or fourth time it has been logged over the last 100 or so years," Paul says. Only selected alpine ash are harvested.

Other species are left standing.

Paul expects this compartment will regenerate for 25 years before being selectively logged again.

The 55-year-old has spent most of his 40-year career working for Bergins.

He loves the bush but looks forward to returning to the road when rain and snow force the logging crew out of Bago State Forest.

"A change is as good as a holiday."

He is likely to spend part of the winter carting logs from the pine plantations around Shelley, Victoria, to Visy’s pulp mill at Tumut.

It can be up to three hours each way.

"That’s a fair sort of drive."

But it is more family friendly than highway work.

"You’re not sleeping in a sleeper cab … you’re home every night."

 

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Alpine Ash

Paul can see the mountains of Bago State Forest from the backyard of his Tumbarumba house.

Each morning he leaves home at 5.30, drives to the Bergin depot to sharpen the chain of his processor, and then drives 30 minutes to the compartment to harvest alpine ash in a crew of four Bergin loggers.

Paul was born and bred in Tumbarumba.

His late father, Bill Muggleton, was a mechanic.

Bill was working for Bergins when Paul left school to log hardwood around Tumbarumba.

It was 1976 and Paul was 15.

"Years ago you had to have a bloke to hook the logs on the back of the bulldozer. That was my job first up," Paul says.

He was 17 when he started driving a bulldozer.

He didn’t drive Bergin trucks until he was 33.

He started in a tray truck and now drives B-doubles.

Spending winters driving long distance and interstate was a welcome change after working in the bush for 18 years.

It suits Paul to spend summers logging hardwood and the winters driving trucks.

He enjoys the variety, and this is one of the reasons he has stayed with Bergins for four decades.

Paul has driven many different trucks during his winters at Bergins.

Most have been Kenworths, but he also drove their International ACCOs and a Western Star.

"We delivered sawn timber all over the country."

He has travelled forest tracks, country roads, highways and freeways as far as Gippsland, Adelaide and Brisbane.

 

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Snow Road

Tumbarumba is located on the western side of the Snowy Mountains and Paul has often travelled through snow, especially on the Snowy Mountains Highway and Elliot Way.

But he has never needed to fit snow chains: "It’s not like the Ice Road Truckers," he says.

Backloads included fertiliser, steel, wool and general freight.

Once Paul even transported military personnel carriers from Adelaide to Wodonga, Victoria.

He spent much of the 1990s travelling long distance for Bergins and sleeping in trucks.

"I didn’t mind it because I was single."

He married Jenny in 2007 and is glad he now usually works within 150km of his Tumbarumba home.

The couple offers bed and breakfast accommodation from their home which is known as Notelggum Bed and Breakfast (that’s Muggleton spelt backwards).

The B&B is popular with seasonal fruit pickers who work in local orchards.

Tumbarumba is surrounded by eucalypt forests and pine plantations, potentially providing decades of work for Bergins.

But there was a short period when hardwood harvesting slowed down, so in 2010 Paul drove a bulldozer in Queensland.

"I just took long service [leave] and then had another job for a while."

He returned to Bergins 16 months later.

R&V Bergin was established by Rex Bergin in 1949 and is now managed by Buck, his wife Debbie and son Robert.

The company is one of Tumbarumba’s largest employers with about 60 staff, 33 trucks, one hardwood harvest crew and three pine harvest crews.

There are several long-term employees including Brian ‘Sadie’ Wolter.

"We’re great mates," Paul says.

Paul sympathises with young people who find it hard to get a start in the truck industry.

"It’s a Catch-22 situation. You can’t get experience without having a go, and then they say you’re too young to do anything.

"If they want to get into logging, softwood is the go.

"Hardwood is a bit harder to get into because it’s less than six months of the year here."

But softwood is harvested year round from the pine plantations near Tumbarumba.

Buck Bergin says many of the company’s experienced truck drivers started harvesting logs before they were old enough to drive trucks.

Some didn’t even have car licences.

With experience and training, Bergin employees can progress from processors and forwarders to loaders and then trucks.

Buck likes his drivers to go on to obtain B-double licences.

He says he is looking for B-double drivers to meet the demands of a new contract.

He might have a workshop or harvesting position suitable for a young school leaver at the end of 2016.

 

 

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