Diesel runs through blood

“Well, I am a mechanic by trade, and I have two uncles that were in trucks, so I guess there always has been a bit of diesel in the blood.”

It could be regarded as somewhat of a familiar story as to how Andrew James became involved in transport, and in his case it has evolved into running a three-truck operation working out of Benalla in north-east Victoria. 

Running under the banner of Jamesy’s Transport, James had his two Kenworths and Freightliner Argosy at the truck show which was held as part of the Australian Super Truck Nationals at Winton Motor Raceway just outside Benalla in July.

It’s part of the family: Andrew James and his trusty T950.

The two cabovers in the fleet, a Kenworth K200 Aerodyne and a Freightliner Argosy are primarily deployed across rural Victoria and southern NSW and just over the border into SA carting treated pine poles. His pride and joy, a 1997 Kenworth T950, has been in recent times running from Benalla to Melbourne twice a day hauling precast concrete segments as part of the CBD underground rail project. 

Jamesy’s Transport had its origins some years back when James was part of the local Bridgestone Tyre Centre in Benalla.

“We had the contract to maintain the forklifts at the local D & R Henderson sawmill, so we used a fella with a big old twin steer UD tilt tray for carting the forklifts in and out of the workshop,” recounted James.

“When he decided to sell up I bought the truck off him, he was also doing work for AH plant hire which changed over to Coates Hire. Doing more work for them I needed a float, so I bought a Kenworth W Model and widening drop deck. When Coates shut down, I went on interstate and then into the pine post work, so I pretty much got out of the tyre game and stayed with the trucks.”

Needing to upgrade the W-Model about 15 years ago, James bought the T950 off Dave Larsen who was at Adtrans truck centre at the time, with the truck proving to be a good investment in the years since.  

“The T950 was a Martins livestock truck from up at Scone in NSW. It was painted up in these colours and it has now clocked up 3.3 million kilometres. It is on its third motor. We put a N14 crate motor in it and it has done 500,000km on that and we work it 6 days a week with a B-double on the concrete segment work,” he explained.

The Argosy was purchased along with the contract work hauling the pine posts, while the K200 was purchased two years ago also through Dave Larsen, and whilst they are older trucks, they are still doing a solid job working across a wide area picking up the posts and dropping off direct on farm and to rural merchandise stores. 

“We run them on rotation, one goes to Mt Gambier on the pine poles each week, so the drivers are only away 2 nights and then they run local rest of the week. From Benalla we cover up to Griffith in the Riverina and out to Swan Hill, down to Bendigo and Coldstream and Mansfield. We are not doing real big miles, the trucks only average 2500km a week and the drivers love it as they are not away for nights on end and share it around,” he said.

The K200 is the most recent addition to the Jamesy’s Transport fleet.

With one of his drivers also a mechanic, all three trucks are kept in sound running order and despite having a Kenworth-Cummins preference he reckoned that the Detroit powered Freightliner has also been a solid truck. 

With an eye to the future, he reckoned another cabover Kenworth would fit the bill, if the price is right.  

“They are good trucks though, we look after them and keep them maintained. The plan is we want another K200 with a flat roof. This one with the Aerodyne roof is a bit of a pain on the pine work, the lower roof is more practical, but with secondhand trucks at the minute, some of the prices they are making are ridiculous.”

Both the cabovers run as singles whilst the T950 is dedicated to hauling the tunnel segments with a B-double and runs two trips to the Melbourne CBD each day with a round trip of about 400 kilometres from the concrete plant on the outskirts of Benalla. 

“We are usually up around 68 tonnes so it’s working, but there’s only three decent hills between here and Melbourne. We then run home empty – it’s not hard work, generally it’s an 8 hour round trip,” he said. 

One thing is for certain – the T950 will not be departing the fleet anytime soon if James has any say in the matter, giving a firm nod to his 25-year-old Kenworth with the distinctive purple paint work.

“I have been up to Darwin, over to Perth and all over Australia in it. The 950 is part of the family, it’s a good truck to drive and she’s in good nick so it’s not going anywhere – she’s the pride of the fleet!”

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