General manager at Hallam and Bayswater Truck Centres and TRP Pakenham, Matthew Keene, has turned his passion for engines into a rewarding career, that’s covered mechanics through to management roles, and everything in between.
The son of a truck driver, 36-year-old Keene grew up around trucks in New Zealand, often riding in the passenger seat. And in fact, it was his father who steered him in his chosen career direction.
“At the start, I wasn’t particularly interested in trucks, but I loved engines. I was thinking about getting into cars, but he asked if I’d considered trucks. He saw Cummins New Zealand had an apprenticeship opening for a diesel mechanic. He persuaded me to apply and I got the job,” said Keene, and that’s where it all started.
After completing his apprenticeship and working as a qualified diesel technician for Cummins, Keene headed across the ditch to Australia. Though it was only supposed to be for a year or two, joining the PACCAR Dealer Network has provided a career that he truly enjoys.
“When I came to Australia, I ended up working for the heavy rail industry as a design engineering draftsman. With my passion being engines, I wanted to get back into diesel mechanics,” revealed Keene. “And that’s when the Hallam job came up.”
Working within the PACCAR Dealer Network brings with it many benefits, including the close partnerships these dealerships enjoy with a major truck OEM.
“Because it’s a local product that’s built in Australia, technicians in the PACCAR Dealer Network get the opportunity to work at the Kenworth and DAF factory in Bayswater, Victoria. It’s great to be able to work with the factory engineers on product development too,” said Keene.
His career with the PACCAR Dealer Network started when he secured the role of afternoon shift leading hand at Hallam Truck Centre. He was then asked to move onto the day shift as workshop foreman, and then progressed to workshop controller.
Fuelled by his ambitious nature, Keene was determined to keep climbing the corporate ladder. He progressed to workshop manager, then service manager for the Hallam Truck Centre Branch, before taking a slight step back to complete a Diploma of Business Administration.
“After completing the diploma, I came back as operations manager for the Hallam and Bayswater branches. Then most recently, I took over as general manager for the Hallam and Bayswater Truck Centres and TRP Pakenham, about nine months ago,” Keene said.
“I could’ve quite happily continued as a technician as I liked fixing trucks and still do, but I’ve always been quite ambitious. I’ve been through most positions at the dealership and still enjoy getting out to the workshop and seeing what they’re up to.
“I’ve always wanted to do more and take on more, going through the positions that were made available. In this industry there’s always a new opportunity just around the corner, and that’s how it worked out for me.”
Keene counts an opportunity to work on the Kenworth production line, as part of the Kenworth Technology Program, as a career highlight. The program runs regularly and PACCAR Dealers from around the country select technicians to take part.
“Through the Kenworth Technology Program, I got to work on the production line for a week, working with factory staff to build a truck from start to finish,” he said.
“There is a lot of opportunity in this industry if you’ve got the want and the drive. I don’t personally think there are any limitations. It’s a very natural progression to transition from the workshop into other areas,” Keene added.
“There is also a lot of variety too, our technicians get the opportunity to complete engine diagnosis and repair, including engine rebuilding as well as all other major truck repairs.”
More recently, to help overcome a shortage of diesel mechanics, dealerships within the PACCAR Dealer Network have also been employing light vehicle mechanics and providing the opportunity for them to transition through to diesel qualifications.
Keene adds that Hallam and Bayswater Truck Centres are continuously taking on apprentices. Being affiliated with a major truck OEM like PACCAR means there are many training opportunities made available too.
“The onsite training is held at the Kenworth factory. Because Kenworth is built in Australia and is known to be the premium truck product, our technicians have a great deal of pride in working on these trucks. It’s nice to be able to work on trucks that are built locally for Australian conditions.”