The ‘Waterboy’ earns star billing at Fred’s Transport

The Kenworth T909 could arguably be branded with the title of the ‘King of the Road’ on Australian highways with the long-bonneted PACCAR product a popular choice for many fleet owners and owner-drivers across a wide range of haulage applications. 

Over the years the base model has been a starting point for many owners to customise to stand out on the highway and it would be fair to say the “Waterboy”, owned by Fred’s Transport of Shepparton would be one of the best.

Stu Packham can be found travelling the eastern seaboard steering the T909, which has been painted in the colours of Fred’s customer Nu-Pure Water. 

Packham had travelled from his home base in Wodonga and had the Kenworth on display at the Rutherglen Rumble on the Easter weekend and provided a rundown on the truck, its customisation and the work he does.

When purchased new in 2020 by Fred’s, the Kenworth was essentially a base model with all the regular running gear including a Cummins X15 powerplant set at 600 horsepower coupled up to an 18-speed Roadranger and a 55-inch sleeper out the back.  

But it did not stay in its plain state for long, heading off to Kyzer Kustoms in Shepparton, as Packham detailed.

“I feel very honoured to be driving it.” Stu Packham with the Waterboy.

“It turned up as the basic truck and Kyzer customed it all out. There’s a lot of custom bits and pieces inside and out – under the dash it all lights up, and all the door trims are branded with ‘Nu-pure’,” said Packham.

“It’s got a TV, microwave, two fridges, an Icepack and a diesel run heater as well. Outside they put the stainless skins on the tanks and did the guards along with the air intakes and the 10-inch exhaust stacks.”  

The Kenworth has also been fitted with a drop-visor and plenty of LED lights along the roof and side skirts to make it stand out at night. 

The Kenworth tows a Pumpa Engineering tautliner B-double trailer set which has also been customised, with the whole outfit painted in the blue and white Nu-Pure Beverages corporate colours. 

“The graphics were done by Grant Fowler from Melbourne, he is just an absolute magician with what he has done here. He came up to Shepparton and camped for a few days and did the trailers as well,” Packham said.

Needless to say, Nu-Pure product makes up the bulk of Packham’s loading – 75 per cent is bottled water along with all the other products for Nu-Pure such as the plastic bottle forms and pallets.

The trailers have been built with centre-panels on the floor with Packham also carrying glass stubbies and wine bottles which has its own set of challenges on his regular trips between Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

“Due to the nature of the Newell with the glass on board it’s just too rough so I go up through Sydney. 

“There’s too much bouncing up the Newell and it just tears them apart – it’s very smooth up the Hume through Sydney and now the Pennant Hills Rd is non-existent with the tunnel. It’s usually up on its weights; with the glass it is a little bit under, but the water is a dead weight. Usually we put 32 pallets of water on and when she’s full of fuel it’s a matter of getting the balance right,” he explained.

For Packham, the chance to drive the T909 is one of the highlights of his years behind the wheel which started out in Wodonga in the late 1980s working for Don Watson Transport in the yard.

“Washing fridge vans out and all the yard duties was my start in the industry. Back then you could get a semi licence straight away. 

“I then went to Greenfreight starting out with rigids to semis on local and then interstate and then into the B-doubles. I had a chat with Danny Borg [owner of Fred’s Transport] one day and straight away I thought I should have done this 15 years ago. He’s a down to earth and fair dinkum bloke, and when I started with them, I went into a brand-new SAR.” 

Following a stint in the SAR he was somewhat taken by surprise when given the opportunity to move into the T909. 

“I was in Brisbane when Danny rang me. Another bloke was jumping out of it and Danny said, ‘You’ve got it’.

“I had to ring him back to ask him if he was sure and he had complete faith in me to drive it and look after it. I nearly fell over when I was given the opportunity to drive it.”

In case some people along the highway who may have thought recently that they are seeing double, Fred’s has put another similarly-liveried Nu-Pure Kenworth on the road working south out of Brisbane. 

“The other one is on-line now and there has been a lot of upgrades on it. If you sit them both together there’s a lot of differences, but if you saw them separately you wouldn’t be able to tell,” said Packham.

“Grant has done the colours and the graphics with some slight differences and the grill is a bit different.”

As for the truck’s nickname, the “Waterboy” was a pretty obvious choice.

“Fred’s aren’t known to put names on trucks, we just recently put the name on it.

“We were going to put Bobby Boucher on it from the movies [the lead character in the 1998 film of the same name] but a lot of people probably wouldn’t have known who he was, so we just went with Waterboy.”

It would seem that Packham and the Waterboy will have a long working relationship ahead of them and many a road to travel and load to haul.

“It’s like a limousine to drive and the attention to detail is amazing. Lots of blokes call up and say what a beautiful truck it is. I have been driving for 35 years and never had the opportunity to captain one of these things; I feel very honoured to be driving it.”  

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