Used Truck: Graeme’s Freightliner Coronado 114

By: Peter and Di Schlenk

Calcimo Freightliner Big Calcimo Freightliner Big
Freightliner Front View Freightliner Front View

In the year of Freightliner’s 25th anniversary in Australia, a fertiliser supply and spreading operator replaces a workhorse Kenworth with a new Coronado, much to the delight of driver Justin Atkinson.


Calcimo Lime & Fertilizers operates out of Sale, Victoria, owned and operated by the O’Connor family. As its name suggests, Calcimo is a fertiliser supply and spreading operation.

Recently, the company made the decision to replace its 2005 Kenworth K104. It had clocked up 850,000km, but instead of buying another Kenworth, Calcimo’s Graeme O’Connor opted for a Freightliner Coronado 114.

Justin Atkinson is the Coronado’s driver, and says Graeme seemingly sought his advice on which way to go after the Kenworth.

"The good thing about the Aerodyne [Kenworth] was its turning circle," Justin says.

"We do a lot of farm deliveries and you can sneak into a lot of places.

"The boss had asked me what I would like and I simply said that I didn’t really get a choice.

"One day, Graeme called me into the office and said ‘here’s your new truck’ and showed me a photo from the internet.

"A week later I had a set of tippers that needed some work done on them and, while I was dropping them off, he rang and said that my new truck should be in the yard having its hydraulics fitted."

Justin didn’t have a lot of experience driving Freightliners, he’d mainly been behind the wheel of Kenworth 401s and 680s.

He never gave Freightliners much thought, but admits that he loves driving the Coronado. It has certainly impressed him with its ride, room and finish. There’s a Detroit DD15 under the bonnet, set at 560hp (417.6kW).

Justin is also full of praise for the way the Freightliner handles and sticks to the road. His only area of criticism is off-road, doing deliveries to paddocks and farms. He says the Aerodyne was better handling the soft ground. With the Detroit, however, he can’t let it lug down.

"It’s not a Cat," Justin exclaims.

"You have to keep the revs up, but it’s a good run down here with only a few hills.

"It’s averaging 1.55km per litre and that is loaded both ways generally."

What was a likely influence on Graeme buying the Freightliner was that his son Brenton is a salesman for Freightliner and Mercedes-Benz at Daimler Trucks Somerton. However, Graeme says the Coronado can hold its own against any opposition.

Calcimo Freightliner Small

"I am 6 foot 3 [190.5cm] and can stand up without any problem," Justin says.Calcimo’s Coronado is the 58-inch (147.3cm) XT model and, though it does look deceptively small from the outside, Justin has been impressed with the level of finish and how much thought for the driver has gone into the cabin. This includes lockers for clothes and a built-in fridge.

"The bed is comfortable and the whole cab finish is very plush."

As far as Graeme is concerned, the Coronado, which recently had its first service at 40,000km, ticks all the boxes.

"Besides the pressure that I was probably under from my son, it was still a business decision and I would not have bought the truck if it didn’t suit our needs and application," Graeme says.

"As it turned out, the truck has been fantastic thus far and hasn’t missed a beat.

"It is excellent for living in and is one of the best laid out and equipped trucks I have seen."

Presentation is important to Calcimo, hence the Coronado’s painted lines and scrolls.

"I like the green colour and most people like it too," Graeme says.

"Bob Conway in Melbourne does all of our trucks.

"Bob’s a top operator; he did the entire truck in one day and it looks really good."

Opportune Decision

Graeme started in the family business in a 2232 Mercedes-Benz 32 years ago. At that time Justin barely gave a thought about driving trucks. He let it ride for many years until during a Christmas break he decided to get his rigid ticket.

"I thought there might be an opportunity down the track and as it turned out, I sat on it for two years," Justin recalls.

"A mate of mine had his own truck and I would get behind the wheel occasionally. Then I got a job driving full time and needed my heavy combination. I started doing general and groceries down to Melbourne and back daily."

The grocery run saw Justin leaving very early in the morning and working into the day, but changes led to the run being a full night shift.

Justin and his partner Abbey weren’t happy with the night work, so he left and took up driving the local hardware shop’s tray truck around town.

"Another job came up running to Melbourne for Dyers. Then Garry Bacon, one of the yard supervisors at Calcimo, heard that I had my B-double licence and asked me to come and have a chat.

"I went but didn’t think much of it because I had no experience with B-double tippers.

"Anyway, a week later I received another call to come in for another chat. I went and they began talking to me as if I was going to be working there.

"I asked if they were crazy as I had no experience, I could back up and hook them up but hadn’t ever done any tipping. I was told that wouldn’t be a problem as they would teach me the way they wanted it done.

"That’s the way it all started and it’s been great. I love the truck, the job, the people … yeah, I’m very happy," Justin smiles.

Looting incident

Graeme says he doesn’t mind giving people a go, especially as Justin came with good credentials.

"I liked his attitude and his work skills," Graeme says.

"He is very proud of his equipment and comes in every Saturday to wash the truck and I appreciate that.

"He loves a clean truck and I do too."

However, on one Saturday afternoon earlier this year, Justin arrived as usual to wash the truck, only to find the truck doors open, and ransacked.

"They pulled everything out, absolutely everything — tools, polishing gear, pulled the cupboards apart and went into everything," Justin recalls.

"They left my CDs but pulled out the carpet, my clothes, and stripped the bed. They were looking for drugs; you know the stigma that goes with truck drivers.

"The perception is that there has to be drugs in a truck driver’s truck," Justin frowns.

But that’s been the solitary hiccup during his time with Calcimo.

The majority of the company’s work is its own. With five super spreaders and a lime pit, they cart lime out and bring fertiliser back in.Freightliner Front View

"It’s great freight. I think I have had one night away in the past three months," Justin says.

"Most days I try and start about five in the morning. You can’t leave too early or too late because then you get the traffic coming or leaving home. I’ve been five hours getting home from Geelong."

The hours suit Justin’s family life, especially as his second son James was born with a moderate heart murmur.

"We didn’t know there was a problem until nearly two weeks after he was born," he says.

"I’ve had to go to doctor’s appointments or whatever and I give Graeme notice and it all works out.

"I am very thankful for the opportunity they gave me and I want to do the right thing by them."

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