Keepin’ the wheels rollin’

By: David McKenzie


It’s not uncommon for a diesel mechanic to swap his spanner for a steering wheel, but David Eyre has made a better fist of it than most. And he has the smokin’ trailer livery to match.

 

David’s’ 93 T401 Kenworth with the "wrong" bonnet

So, you’ve always wanted to own a truck? Now you have one what are you going to do with it?

David Eyre found himself in this position about eight years ago.

David and his younger sister Karlyn had grown up near Echuca. Their parents, Dale and Kathy, owned a dairy farm but had little to do with the trucking industry.

The family continued their dairy farming in Portland, moving there when David was in Year 8. He eventually left school in Year 10. "Not because I just wanted to leave school, but I wanted to start an apprenticeship," he says.

David finished his diesel mechanic apprenticeship at Kalari Transport in Portland and hung around for a while before returning north.

"I don’t really like the coast, so I came back to Echuca," he explains.

David’s family also eventually returned to the Echuca area, but not to the farm.

"Mum was a nurse but is now in management at Echuca Regional Health and dad is an engineer on a paddle boat on the Murray River," David says.

As a diesel mechanic he’d worked on trucks for many years and thought it might be fun to own one. He soon discovered the costs involved in keeping a truck, so he put it to work to pay its way.

The truck, a 1980 Kenworth K124, cost him $9,000.

At the time David was living on a couple of acres near Kyabram with his partner Brydie Bonsema. His diesel mechanic’s job was with O’Sullivans Transport in nearby Elmore.

When there was enough work around, he would get behind the wheel of the old Kenworth on weekends and after hours, putting a driver in it during the day.

David Eyre and wife to be Brydie with their daughter Cydi

Business expansion

In those early days David was carting mainly grain and hay with an open drop deck and grain tipper. But being a mechanic as well as a truck driver became way too hard, so he bought a second truck and left O’Sullivans, becoming a fulltime driver instead.

He kept the old K124 for three years, eventually selling it for more than he originally paid. For five years he continued to haul anything he could with the equipment he had.

Fast forward to the present day and David now has seven trucks, 27 trailers, a mechanic and, including himself, four fulltime drivers.

With the extra gear and needing to expand, David and Brydie, under the banner of North Vic Tipper Hire, bought an old dairy farm which is now their home base.

Brydie is very active in the business on the office side looking after the books and paying the bills. She collates all the mass management and chain of responsibility documents and sends it to Mass Management Accreditation in Bendigo. Brydie’s is also a schoolteacher, her other full-time job, although she is currently on maternity leave.

After eight years together, David and Brydie will be married in September. The couple already has a beautiful six-month-old daughter, Cydi.

Good to "nose" you: Parked up in the late afternoon sun

Imported trailers

North Vic Tipper Hire’s regular work is hauling grain, hay, silage, machinery for dealerships and steel for a local engineering company that produces shed frames.

Asphalt is the latest commodity that the business transports around the state. With asphalt needing to arrive at the job still hot, David purchased two brand new walking floor trailers eight months ago. At $160,000 each, they didn’t come cheap.

"The trailers are from America made by a company called Red River," David says. He adds that they’re shipped to Australia in a container by Tefco, minus the trailers’ running gear. The wheels, airbags, tarps and insulation are all sourced from within Australia.

David explains the trailer insulation is so effective that the asphalt only loses one degree per hour. However, the trailers’ most visibly distinctive feature is the ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ livery.

Before David took delivery of the trailers, he had Adam King from Allstar Graphics in Portland apply a vinyl wrap printed with the design.

"Adam did a great job with the image because he couldn’t find one of a reasonable size and the finished sign isn’t blurry," David says. Adam also covered the vinyl wrap with a UV coating to prevent fading.

The trailers live bottom is via a rubber conveyer belt that "walks" the material out of the rear of the trailer.

"It’s a great alternative to other methods because you don’t have to worry about overhead powerlines, awkward angles and soft spots," David explains.

The conveyor is operated via remote control, but not necessarily in the driver’s hands. When laying asphalt, the operator on the paver operates the remote, filling the hopper as required while the paver pushes the truck. The truck driver only has to steer straight and keep a little pressure on the brakes. "It’s a lot more accurate than tipping," David says.

David uses two Kenworths to pull the two trailers – one a 2003 K104 and the other a 1993 T401.

"They are pretty much just standard", he says, although he explains that the T401 has the "wrong bonnet".

"So it’s a 908, but let’s call it a 901 to keep people guessing."

Printed vinyl wrap with the ‘Smokey and the Bandit theme that’s on both trailers

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