Toowoomba fleet celebrates 50th Kenworth milestone

Based in the small town of Jondaryan in Queensland, R & K Bulk Haulage sure does run an impressive looking fleet. Starting out with just one truck in 2005, it now runs 33 prime movers, with all but three wearing the Kenworth badge – and there are plenty more to come, with another 18 on order across the next three years.

But it’s the latest rig that marks a special milestone. The new Kenworth T909, paired with a PBS-approved A-double set of tippers, is the 50th brand new Kenworth to be welcomed through R & K Bulk Haulage’s gates. It’s the third identical combination, sporting a bright yellow colour theme across the prime mover itself and the Hercules-built trailers. The only indication of its milestone status is the personalised plate, which reads RKS 050.

The 50th Kenworth is this T909, paired with a PBS-approved A-double set of tippers, handed over in late November. Photo: Lucy RC Photography

Since it was started by husband-and-wife team Russell and Karen Strasburg (hence the R & K) in 2005, the business has grown quickly.

Along with its own fleet of trucks, R & K Bulk Haulage employs many sub-contractors too, with up to 80 trucks on the road at peak times. Operating from two depots (Jondaryan and Clermont), the business moves 2500-3000 tonnes of grain product every day, transporting across Queensland, and into NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory. 

Russell, 67, has spent a lifetime in the transport game and wouldn’t have it any other way. His company’s motto is ‘Lovin it all’ – it’s written across each of the trucks and it’s what he lives by too.

“I just love trucks and I love doing what I’m doing – they’re in my blood and I can’t give it up. I love sorting all the trucks out each day. It’s a nightmare to organise but when it comes together, it’s brilliant. These trucks are like my babies,” he said.

Karen, 52, added, “I think he’ll be doing this until the day he dies. He’ll keep going on and on. I hope it’s a legacy that can be carried on.”

This Legend SAR recently hit the road too, with another identical one to follow in February.

The son of a truckie, Russell says he grew up surrounded by trucks. “Dad had Blitzs, Commer Knockers, Dodges, Internationals, and we carted cattle. One day Dad told me to get in the truck and off I went. I was driving a cattle truck on my own when I was 15 – that was two years before I even had a licence,” he laughed. “So I started driving trucks in 1970 and I bought my first truck when I was 17. It was a Ford Louisville LTL.”

Russell grew up in Glamorgan Vale, a small rural town in Queensland’s south-east. He drove livestock trucks for over 10 years, until tragedy struck in 1981. As he explained, “My eldest brother got killed in the truck in a bad head-on and I saw it happen. Another truck came around the corner on the wrong side of the road. He was only 33 and he had a young family. That’s when I gave cattle away. I threw the stock crates off and started doing flat top work instead, running Gatton to Melbourne, carting produce.”

Over the years, Russell ran several transport businesses, before starting up R & K Bulk Haulage 17 years ago. “We started R&K Bulk with one tipper. Then we bought a quarry business which had two truck and dogs. A neighbour out the back wanted us to cart mushroom compost for him, so we bought another truck, and it’s just kept growing from there,” explained Karen. “Word of mouth has helped us get to where we are today.”

And Russell agreed, “It’s all about service – and having good drivers and doing the work on time. It’s got nothing to do with what you’re charging because if we don’t provide the service, the customers won’t be coming back.”

There is an eclectic mix of Kenworths in the fleet, which stand out on the highway. Photo: Lucy RC Photography

Thirty trucks in the fleet are set up as PBS A-doubles, which achieve payloads of between 55 to 58 tonne. As for the trucks, they’re mostly Kenworth T909s.

“The 909s are just perfect for the job and you can get them all specced up. All of our 909s are set up with TVs, fridges, microwaves and 50-inch bunks, so the drivers have a lot of comfort. A lot of drivers take their food with them so they can cook it every night. These trucks are a home away from home. They have all the luxuries – all the works and jerks, everything that opens and shuts. No wonder why our drivers love them,” said Russell.

Russell and Karen also purchased two Legend SARs. One has been on the road for about four months and the other is due to arrive in February. They’ll both be painted in blue and gold, matching the company’s original livery. “This one stands out because of the great paintwork and the second one will be exactly the same,” Russell added. 

This Legend 900 features a mural of Russell and Karen on the driver’s side, Russell’s parents on the passenger side and a tribute to his late brother on the back of the truck.

The latest iteration of Legends joins an existing Legend 900 in the fleet, which Karen says is a “family truck”. It’s one in a series of eye-catching R & K Bulk Haulage trucks sporting intricate murals crafted by PJ’s Custom Spray Painting and Truck Mechanical in Brisbane. Russell’s late brother is featured on the back, Russell and Karen are on the drivers’ side, and his parents are on the passenger side.

There are also three 2014 Kenworth Director Series T909s with incredible artwork too. One features impressive murals of country music legend Slim Dusty, while the other two feature murals of horses and cattle. 

Impressive Slim Dusty artwork adorns this 2014 Kenworth Director Series T909.

“We’ve got Kenworths on order for the next few years and plan to keep growing the fleet,” said Russell. “I originally ordered six trucks this year and ended up getting eight new ones. I’ve also got six new ones on order for 2023, another six for 2024 and another six for 2025 – by then I’ll be 70. Then after that I’ve got no idea. I’ve got six kids and I’m hopeful that the kids will take it on. I’ve got my son Jay sitting beside me now, and he is already doing one hell of a job.”

Another of the 2014 Kenworth Director Series T909s, featuring incredible artwork.

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