Used Truck: Barry Lille's Western Star

By: Steve Skinner

Barry Lille loves driving his 5-year-old long-haul Western Star around the city, writes Steve Skinner.


Barry Lille wasn’t supposed to be doing urban pick-ups and deliveries in the 2008 Western Star he drives. It’s a bit of overkill for a truck rated to pull road trains.

But now that Barry is buzzing around the city in the ’Star, he likes it so much he doesn’t want to drive anything else.

Barry carts dry packaged food for small western Sydney operator Mendo Transport, which bought the ’Star a year ago in case it was needed for long distance running. But with a slowdown in work, that hasn’t happened yet, and Barry doesn’t mind a bit.

"It’s comfortable. Everything inside it is beautiful. It feels like sitting in my armchair at home," he says.

So what will Barry do if the ’Star is put on interstate? "I’ll wait until it comes back," he replies. What if it stays permanently on interstate? "I’ll retire".

Barry’s a big man, but he’s able to stand to his full height in the cab. There’s nothing in the way in the middle.

"If you need something from the other side, or to get your raincoat, you don’t have to walk outside," he says.

There’s also a big ‘Stratosphere’ sleeper but Barry’s never used it, and he says that situation isn’t going to change.

"I’ve never done interstate, and I never will. I like sleeping in my own bed."

Mind you, he’s not in his own bed for very long.

He gets up between one and two in the morning, which he says he doesn’t mind. He’s been doing it for nine years with Mendo Transport and its predecessor company, and before that drove garbage trucks for 18 years with very early starts.

City motoring

Barry says he enjoys the power of the Constellation 4800 with a Series 60 Detroit in it.

He can keep up with cars up hills, only having to drop back a gear or two. He doesn’t mind the 18-speed gearbox in the city because he doesn’t use the clutch anyway.

He doesn’t mind the city traffic either:

"I get paid per hour, so the longer it takes me, the more money I make.

"If you’re stuck in traffic, you’re stuck in traffic. I’ve got a big esky beside me, with plenty of food and drinks — who cares?"

All that positive thinking is a lot different to what goes through the minds of interstaters who slow to an infuriating morning crawl in the cities while on kilometre rate, at the end of a long night on the highway.

The Western Star’s long distance fuel tanks mean Barry only has to put fuel in it every two weeks ($2,000 worth).

There are only two things Barry doesn’t like about the Western Star.

The first is the bad turning circle for tight spots around warehouses, which he blames on the big sleeper: "It starts to hit the trailer".

This means the Western Star can’t actually get into a couple of places, and Barry has to take an old Freightliner instead.

The second problem is the bad city vision from behind a big bonnet. Barry says cars are constantly cutting in front of him from the left, without going past him first and then putting their indicators on.

That means he struggles to see them. "Sometimes I just catch a glimpse of a roof, and then I have to put the brakes on and let them in. It’s not nice."

The team line-up

For seven years Barry drove the 1996 Freightliner that Mendo Transport also runs, and although he says it’s slightly rougher than the Western Star, "it’s brilliant".

The Freightliner has a 450hp (331kW) Detroit in it, as do the three cabover Kenworths operated by Mendo. They date from 2001 to 2006.

Barry won’t drive the Kenworths though: "They’re too rough".

There’s another cabover Kenworth sitting in the small depot shed, which company owner Mendo Kolevski is fixing up as a spare truck.

It’s a 1987 model with an original 350hp (257.4kW) Cat motor, and Mendo has been having all sorts of problems trying to get it to run cleanly since it was re-built (at least as cleanly as a truck that old can run).

"I don’t think they did a proper job with the pump and fuel injectors," he laments.

However he’s happy with the Western Star: "So far it’s pretty good, I’ve had no dramas," except for a starter motor going in it.

Mendo says the Star used to be a long distance hire truck before the company went broke, and was sitting at a mechanic’s workshop for nearly two years, even though there was nothing wrong with it.

It’s still only done 362,000km, so Mendo was happy with the purchase price of $165,000 a year ago.

What’s Barry like as a driver: "He’s really good, mate. He seems to love it".

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