Art of the log truck driver

By: David McKenzie, Video by: David McKenzie

James 'Jimbo' Barton talks about his early beginnings and current job behind the wheel of a Kenworth T909 log truck for MJM Excavations.


James 'Jimbo' Barton not only drives trucks, his artistic talents has led him to drawing professional quality images of Kenworths as well.

Jimbo knew he wanted to be a log truck driver from the time he was in school. It seems trucking has always been in his blood.

Jimbo’s family have been involved in trucks as far back as his grandfather, many of them in the logging industry. His grandfather, Gerry, started out as a hand faller at about 20 years of age. He felled blue gum in the cross cut days on the boards. He would load them onto a single axle jinker trailer attached to a Federal and haul them to Melbourne to be used as telephone poles.

Jimbo’s dad Rob and two paternal uncles, Tony and Russell, also drove tucks. His dad and Uncle Russell were log truck drivers. Russell still owns and drives his own truck.

Jimbo’s mum Chris used to drive a heavy rigid locally around Melbourne for a couple of years. His maternal uncle John still owns and drives his own truck, but has given interstate away and is just doing local work carting containers around Melbourne.

As a kid at in school in Bairnsdale, Jimbo spent most of his time in and around trucks, washing or loading them. He dreamt of driving a log truck.

When he left school, he was too young to get insurance so he was clever and did the next best thing; a diesel mechanic apprenticeship. He finally got a chance to start driving, albeit part time, at age 20. By 21 he was a full time log truck driver doing old growth logging around Orbost, Cann River, Eden and Bendoc.

Keith Herron

Jimbo did this for 10 years and loved it, but due to personal reasons he ended up living in Eden and leaving the dream for a while to drive for JD Interstate Transport, doing interstate general cartage in a B-double tautliner.

In 2017 Jimbo’s partner Bonnie told him "enough was enough". She and the kids wanted to see more of him and Christmas 2017 was to be the end of his interstate career.

So he put the feelers out for a new driving job and as luck would have it, Mark Maiden who owns MJM Excavations, along with his wife Jo, rang him in September. Mark told him that he had a new truck coming and offered to let him drive it.

Jimbo packed up the family and moved to Traralgon, where MJM is based, in October 2017.

The new truck happened to be a Kenworth T909 with a 600hp X-15 Cummins power plant and Jimbo uses "every pony with two trailers fully loaded".

It has ABS and TCS but he turns that off when on the gravel roads because it "stuffs you up on the hills, so you’re better off controlling it with your pedal". The trailers still have active EBS though and he switches it all on again once he’s back on the bitumen.

There are scales on each axle group so he knows the weight distribution to within 20kg. He can take a remote display with him to check weight distribution while he loads the truck.

The truck is fitted with four cameras that are constantly recording. There is one on each mirror; one looking at the left hand corner of the bull bar and the right hand one is set-up like a dash cam. The other two cameras look back, with one of them concentrating on the logs.

The truck is also fitted with GPS so Mark can check Jimbo’s location on his phone.

Read more on James 'Jimbo' Barton's log truck lifestyle in the July 2018 edition of Owner//Driver, available from July 9.

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