Rafe Cornwall grew up surrounded by trees, trucks and chainsaws. His first four years of existence were spent on Queensland’s Fraser Island where his dad and grandad were logging. It was only because of the requirement for school that Rafe left Fraser, otherwise I assume he may have had a chainsaw in his hands by the age of five.
He may have departed Fraser in order to attend school, however school really was just somewhere Rafe would go to eat his lunch. Every opportunity he had he was helping his dad and learning the logging ropes, or should I say chains. By the time he was a teenager his dad was logging back on the mainland and all of Rafe’s afterschool and holiday hours were all spent alongside his dad heading into the bush to load trailers that they would then haul to the mill in the family’s White 9000.
If he was handling chainsaws at nine, then I’m sure you could imagine what his skill level was like at say 14. I’d guess he would already be able to drive a truck, even load a trailer on his own and drive it through the bush back out to meet his old man on the roadside. Obviously, officially that wouldn’t have happened though, even on private roads. But the skill level was there.
All this afterschool work for young Rafe wasn’t seen as a chore though, he loved it. Loved the trucks, loved the trees and loved the work. The same couldn’t be said for school so once he hit Year 10 and was allowed to leave, he was out of there quicker than a felled 20 metre pine. He went to work alongside his dad.
The family company was officially registered in 1975. This is the part I found amusing, bureaucracy at its best. Back in those days when you went to register a proprietary business you were allocated a name, like designating a cyclone. The family company was trading under Cornwall Logging, the name now synonymous with beautiful black trucks. But it was registered under Regis Pty Ltd. It doesn’t have the same aura to it.
Once Rafe was old enough to get his licence, his dad purchased a second truck for Rafe to pilot himself. “Dad had the White 9000 with a 671GM in it. It cost him a fortune back then, about $34,000,” Rafe recalls. “Once I got my licence, we bought a second-hand International 4200 TranStar. It was a good truck; it had a Detroit 871T in it.”
Right from the get-go the Cornwall Logging name built a solid reputation around not just the Maryborough area, but throughout Queensland. It saw the company pick up more and more work, adding trucks as were needed and staff to go with them.
Rafe was working both behind the wheel, in the bush and helping run the family company. “I had people working for me from when I was about 18,” Rafe says. “I was driving and helping run the place. It was tough because people don’t like listening to a young fella.”
There are very few of us that get the privilege of being able to work alongside their parents and I asked Rafe if he enjoyed that time working with his dad. “Well yes and no,” Rafe laughs. “We got along really well once I bought him out. We butted heads a lot. Because of me being young I knew everything. He was right most of the time. I was right all of the time and wouldn’t be told different.”
In 1994 Cornwall Logging picked up a major contract which saw the fleet expand up to a dozen trucks, taking on more drivers and more employees. Since that contract the company has kept growing, as has Rafe.
“I ended up coming off the road fulltime around 1996,” Rafe says. “It was tough trying to drive, the phone was going non-stop. So I ended up going into the office fulltime instead.”
After so many years working the trucks and the forestry it was a huge decision, but one that ultimately was necessary. “At first I missed the driving, but I get in now and I don’t miss it at all,” Rafe admits. “Mind you, I’m not a great lover of the office either.”
This is where we need to put our hands together for Rafe’s wife, Jean. For she is one of the office staff who keeps everything ticking over and allows Rafe to concentrate on doing what he does best, which is look after his clients.
“I am very hands-on with our customers. They know if there is a problem, they can make one call to me and we will get it sorted,” he says. “That’s why we have some contracts that have been going for 30 years. We take care of our customers.”
That small family approach and respect for staff and customers is what has seen this father and son team turn into one of the biggest players in the forestry game. The company now has around 25 trucks. However, these days the logging trucks are the odd ones out.
“We have about six logging trucks, and the rest are mainly bulk trucks with walking floor trailers doing chip and pulp,” Rafe says.
Bulk and logs are the two main commodities hauled by Cornwall Logging but when it comes to the manufacturers hauling said commodities, there are more than just a couple of brands in the Cornwall black.
“The problem these days is it is so hard to get gear,” Rafe explains. “We will take what we can get.” This has seen the fleet comprised of Western Star, Mack, Kenworth, Scania, Volvo and even their first MAN due to arrive soon. Brand loyalty will get you a foot in the door, but availability is also a driving factor, although history will show there is an affiliation for certain big names.
“The first truck I really got to spec out for myself was back in 1988 and because of how well the White had gone we went with a 4900 Western Star,” Rafe says. That truck was huge back then, kitted out with all the bells and whistles. And with the Cornwall’s silver and black paint scheme it really got noticed.
Since that first Western Star, there have continually been several Stars running in Cornwall colours. Hence when the all-new X-Series was launched by Penske Australia, Rafe was one of the first to contact his salesman and get his name down for one. Well for three, actually.
“Yeah, I needed a couple of new loggers so I rang Errol (Errol Weber, long-time Penske salesman) and got my name down. We have two delivered at the moment, the second being the 48X with the sleeper, and we have another one coming,” Rafe says. “The day cab is only about a month old but the driver seems to love it.”
Here is the part where I was probably a bit premature in chasing down the new Cornwall X-Series. It has hardly been on the road long enough for Rafe and the team to form any real opinions. But it was too cool a looking truck for me to show any sort of patience with. My workaround was to go over management’s head and spend a bit of time with the driver of this stunning star. I mean, who is going to be able to offer a better insight than the man behind the wheel? Meet Luke Josefski.
Cool hand Luke
Luke is one of those guys that you automatically find yourself looking up to. Not just because of his résumé behind the wheel. From several years doing general interstate for Richers Transport, a company where you can and do cart everything, to his half a decade spent carting livestock around the country. But you also find yourself looking up to him because the man is 6ft 10, so you literally have to look up to him.
Luke grew up with one side of his family entrenched in farming and the other side entrenched in transport. It should come as no surprise to find his working life began on a dairy farm and is now consumed by trucks.
His truck driving apprenticeship was spent doing general freight with and then into interstate, before combining his farming and trucking past and getting into livestock haulage. Though he loved the stock work it did take a toll on family life and, with young kids at home, he went looking for a job that would have him home more than he was away. Enter Cornwall Logging.
“I’ve been with Cornwall about six years now,” says Luke. It’s worth noting that in the Cornwall’s employee roster, that’s only a short stay. They have employees that have been there longer than most of the trees they cart.
“I hadn’t done logs before I started but they gave me a chance and I love it. I started when they’d just bought the new Macks, so I got one of those.”
While Luke was a fan of his Trident, he was extremely excited when he found out early in 2023 that he was in line to get one of the new Western Stars. “I had a brand new 4800 Western Star when I was doing linehaul and I loved it,” Luke says. “So when I heard the new Stars were coming I was rapt.”
Again, the truck has only been on the road for a few weeks, but it is enough time for Luke to already form a pretty strong opinion. “I do two loads south out of Gympie a day, with maybe a quarter to a third of my work being off road. The Western Star is very smooth and comfortable; seriously it is on par with our Volvos,” Luke says.
With Cornwall running max weights on its log trucks, normally sitting around the 66.5 tonne mark, the 48X is sporting the big boy Detroit DD16 engine and Luke admits he is blown away by the grunt.
“It is very powerful, goes bloody well,” he exclaims.
Although many of the Cornwall trucks are manuals, including the newest 48X, Luke’s one came fitted with the 12-speed auto. “When I first got it I was hoping it would have an 18-speed auto,” says Luke, who had had a 12-speed auto in his last truck. “But you don’t need it with this one, the 12 is plenty, it works really well.”
With so much time being spent in the bush, and wet weather also being a major player in a logging truck’s day, traction and manoeuvrability are another couple of major issues. To which once again Luke has been impressed.
“Considering we have the super single on this as well, it has a really great turning circle. And so far, it has been great for traction, I haven’t once even looked like getting bogged.”
Another big selling point for Luke is the space inside the day cab Western Star. “I’m a pretty tall bloke and I have plenty of room, heaps of space above my head and lots of leg room,” he says. He also commends the build quality of the new Stars, pointing out how solid the interior is, especially with the hammering it gets once he steps off the tar seal.
It was definitely worth going over management’s head and getting the low down from the driver himself. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to ride along with Luke to see how the big Star travels, both empty and loaded. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the passenger seat of a truck, but I have to agree with Luke, there is tons of room for a day cab. And it was a damn comfy ride, even once we got off road.
It seems that, although the new 48X is still in its early days, it is ticking all the right boxes. It has the power and driveline to handle the toughest off-road conditions. It has the comfort and quietness to drown out the toughest off-road conditions and most importantly for truck fans like me, it has the looks to impress in all road conditions.