Redundant to roaring: Following the 401

The Kenworth T401 Robert Crotty drives for Bulmers Transport has that new truck look about it. However it’s a revamped 1998 model previously owned by the now-defunct Mills Transport. Peter and Di Schlenk write

Redundant to roaring: Following the 401
Robert Crotty and his regular drive, a ’98 Kenworth T401, came to Bulmers Transport as a package deal.


In September 2015, Lismore-based haulage company Mills Transport voluntarily closed its doors, citing its investment in the industry "was no longer supported by the returns offered by the market".

Although the approximately 100 employees were paid all their entitlements, they were left without a job, although some found work with other contractors who took over Mills’ work.

One of those was Robert Crotty, who was with the company for more than 14 years.

"Mills were in business for 91 years and it was a shame to see them close," he says. "It was a really good company to work for with a lot of good drivers."

However, amid Mills impending closure, Greg Bulmer of nearby Bulmers Transport approached Robert, asking if he was available to do few days’ work a week. Robert agreed, but was then asked which truck he was driving. He told Greg about the 1988 model Kenworth T401 and that it had recently been revamped with a new crate motor, new gearbox and rear diff.

"The price was right and Bulmers bought it," Robert recalls.

Bulmer Transport took ownership of the truck before Mills closed its doors, giving Robert the familiarity of the same truck he’d been driving for nine years.

After keeping it in Mills’ colours for 12 months, the 401 went to Brown & Hurley’s Kyogle dealership for a respray before being sent to Masterart Designs at Brendale in Brisbane’s north. Apart from the stickers on the door, all the scroll work was done by hand.

"Greg, his wife Nadia and son Adrian Bulmer had a huge input in this truck," Robert says. "A lot of people can’t believe that it is the same truck Mills had owned.

"Bulmers have taken the truck skirts off, wrapped the fuel tanks in stainless, changed the bumper bar, put on new exhausts, chrome rims all around and changed the lights to LEDs."

The Freighter trailer was bought new in September 2016, custom built to suit the T401.

The T401 has an integrated sleeper although Robert says he rarely needs it as he’s mostly home every night.

"She’s not very wide in there but it does the job. It’s good enough to sleep in," he says.

In a previous lifetime, Robert was an owner driver for 10 years, subbying for TNT.

"I originally drove for Langley’s Transport in Kyogle in 1975 and after the stint with TNT I went back to Langley’s. Langley’s was bought by Mills and now I’m at Bulmers," he says.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Robert’s choice of truck. "I’m a Kenworth man and love this truck. It’s great to drive and I’m proud to be driving it," he enthuses.

Although he enjoyed his time at Mills, Robert says working for the Bulmers is just as good.

"They really look after me here, and they have good, tidy gear," he smiles, adding that "you’re in trouble if you don’t keep it shiny".

Robert hauls general freight from Brisbane down to the northern rivers of NSW, covering the Lismore, Ballina, Alstonville and Kyogle areas. With Bulmers Transport picking up some of Mills’ work, his runs can also take up him over Mt Lindesay to Beaudesert en route to Kyogle and back over Mt Lindesay.

"We mainly do fertiliser to the sugar cane and macadamia farms," he explains.

After 42 years of driving, Robert says he’s used to pick-up and delivery runs.

"You take it in your stride," he says. "It’s a really good run down the coast road now, especially through the St Helena tunnel and dual road near Byron Bay."

The T401 Cummins is only a little truck compared to today’s rigs but Robert is quick to point out that there wasn’t as much pollution gear on the engine as there is now.

"They probably built them to last," he says. "The little M11 Cummins only puts out 425hp out of an 11-litre motor, but it’s very honest and you don’t get much trouble at all."

There are three other trucks in the Bulmer fleet – two Cat-powered T404ST prime movers and a Hino body truck.

"This is the only Cummins-powered truck," Robert says. "Greg and Adrian love Cat motors but ended up buying this.

"It hasn’t cost them a cent in the 14 months they’ve had it. It’s a very honest truck."

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