Used Truck: Western Star Commander from Hayes Haulage

By: Greg Bush, Peter and Di Schlenk


The Western Star cabover was introduced into Australia in the late 1990s, and Bega-based Hayes Haulage still has four in its fleet. Greg Bush, Peter and Di Schlenk write

 

The trucking industry has been tough on Hayes Haulage in the past six years. Before that, the Bega-based transport business was a major player, hauling Bega Cheese to Melbourne with refrigerated vans.

However, when Dutch private equity group ABN Amro took over Scott’s Refrigerated and McColl’s in 2005, it spelt the end of Hayes’ Bega deal following a 50 percent rate cut.

Hayes Haulage boss Tony Hayes was forced to downsize the business from 14 trucks. Nowadays, he has five trucks in his fleet — all Western Stars. Interestingly, four are 1999 model cabovers.

"There were about 80 of them brought into the country, and most of them went to Brisbane," Tony explains.

"We bought nearly all of ours out of Brisbane."

Of the four, two are currently off the road and unregistered, although Tony has no intention to sell. He recently bought three wrecked models, using them as replacement parts.

Despite the lack of room in the cab, Tony has been a fan of the Western Star cabover due to its comfort and lack of engine noise.

"At the time, with the specifications, they had everything a real truck had in them," Tony explains.

"I wasn’t ever keen to go for the European style at the time, but they were a lot cheaper than Kenworths, and after driving one of them, I fell in love with the thing itself."

Tony says, due to a history of driving slimline cabover Kenworths, he later bought a new Aerodyne. To put it simply, he wasn’t impressed and sold it two years later.

"It was too noisy and as far I am concerned, hasn’t changed any since I started driving 35 years ago.

"It’s floating around Brisbane, still in my colours. It was the biggest b*****d of a thing, it was like a rope around my neck," he says.

"I’m 55 now but from the time I was 18, I was sitting in a slimline Kenworth with no sleeper box.

"I couldn’t see a bit of difference between a brand new Aerodyne and the slimline I used to drive," Tony explains.

"You still had to drag yourself out of the seat; you may as well sleep on the engine cover as sleep in the bed."

Despite their age and lack of space, Tony says he’d still prefer to be behind the wheel of the cabover Western Stars. Storage space is limited to two small lockers, but he says the trucks are quiet and comfortable and ride exceptionally well.

"There are less and less of them on the road now," he explains.

"I bought one for 15 grand from an auction and took it home. I had it for three months and then decided I no longer wanted it.

"I took it to auction and sold it for $7,000 more than I paid. That’s basically what the value of them is today.

"This one I drive was their last demo and I bought it in 2001."

All four Western Stars have 525hp (386.14kW) Cummins, with 18-speed Roadrangers and 46/160 diffs.

"They’re all sitting on about 1.3 million kilometres at the moment. We do a lot of kilometres," he adds.

"The sleeping facility is a little bit small if you’re a big bodied bloke," he explains.

"I’m not that big, I’m only short, and not that wide across the shoulders, but we’ve had a couple of big guys driving them.

"I think the biggest downfall of them was the original air-conditioning system."

 

Family Heritage

 

Tony is the fourth generation in his family to be involved in road transport. His son, Tom, continues the Hayes’ tradition in trucking.

Tony recalls one night when, by chance, his father, grandfather and himself were on the road at the same time in the same area. The three met up in Kiama.

His father had a liking for Peterbilts, returning from a trip to the United States in the early 1980s full of enthusiasm.

The Peterbilts arrived in 1984 and, according to Tony, they were beautiful to drive and had a very light tare weight.

When parts were required, Hayes Haulage would have them in six to seven days.

All it took was a phone call to the Peterbilt dealership in California, a price confirmation, a transfer of money into the dealership’s account and they would come in through Port Kembla.

"The trucks themselves were very good with a great chassis," Tony says.

"Once one of them went over with a tipper on the back, but the truck stayed upright with the back axle on the ground and the first axle up by your head. "It broke a V bolt but after replacing the bolt, we were able to drive it home.

"To get the twist out of the chassis, we loosened all the chassis rail bolts and it returned to the original straight shape." However, they did encounter a few problems, including the parabolic front springs which Tony later changed.

"We had trouble with the Cats. In one day, three out of our four broke down. So I went to the wreckers and bought old Detroits and stuck them in.

"Dad loved the Peterbilts, which were known far and wide. But when he died in ’91, we got rid of them.

"In the end it was the increased regulations and new length laws that pushed me into selling them.

"I needed something more practical, but they are a big piece of our transport heritage," Tony says.

Hayes Haulage then bought cabover Macks before the Western Stars came along. After walking away from Bega Cheese, Tony says his fleet’s mainly hauls general freight out of Sydney, as well as Blue Circle cement and Austral bricks.

Despite the ups and downs of the road transport game, Tony is determined to stick with it.

"It is hard to get the diesel out of your veins, once it’s in," he smiles.

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