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Drover’s Dream




Northwest Queensland based Richmond Livestock Transport director Terry Pattel, cites stunning standards of performance, handling and ride quality as some of the reasons behind specifying the new Cummins powered versatile Western Star 6900 for their cattle cartage application. Howard Shanks investigates...

A little before 6am on the Northern outskirts of Richmond is where Terry Pattel had agreed to met, and sure enough as the first rays of sunlight peered over the horizon he was just finishing cleaning the windscreen on his impressive 6900 Western Star as it built up air pressure for the day.

Richmond is often referred to as an oasis in the Outback, and is a welcome site on the skyline after the long crossing over the rolling downs country. It is also home to Kronosaurus Korner, where you will find the only museum in Australia primarily dedicated to displaying marine reptiles, as well as a very special dinosaur, Minmi, with impressions of its fossilised skin, but more on that another time.

Today, Terry was heading north out over the Flinders River for a few hours before veering west down a dirt track for another couple of hours to a large cattle station to collect a triple road train load of cattle.

Terry’s been in the cattle cartage game for more years than he cares to remember, and admits that livestock haulage is a very good industry to be in although he cites it is a very hard industry at times.

Richmond Livestock Transport is a company that Terry’s father started several decades ago when motorised transport first came to the region with a single truck.

“Dad was a drover,” Terry recalled. “When he started out they’d shift huge mobs of cattle through this country on horse back. The progression to trucks became a necessity to provide his customers an improved service. That philosophy of Dad’s ‘to use the best equipment available to provide the best service to our customers’, is still how we run the company today,” Terry added.

Now well into the outback, deep corrugations in the road below were really putting the big six-rod suspension to work. Apart from the odd rattle from the cattle crates behind there was nothing inside the cab to indicate the road had deteriorated.

Terry smiled and told us that this so called ‘smooth running’ along the flat country was about change and sure enough up around the bend the first of several notorious narrow creek crossings meant he had slow the roadtrain down to a crawl.

Then he had to swing the big 6900 Western Star wide, running the left hand steer tyre through the tall dry grass, to get all the trailers around the bend so they’re in line with the narrow concrete culvert crossing the dry creek bed.

As soon as the bonnet reaches the end of the culvert he squeezes the throttle coaxing more power out the big red Cummins under the hood to get the roadtrain up out of the creek.

Not too far up the track Terry arrived at the wide Stawell River crossing, his earlier concerns about the condition of the river crossing were well founded, but thankfully the washed out section had been repaired during the week.

During the wet season, which is traditionally from the end of November through to March these dry rivers become ragging torrents. In many cases the large cattle stations out this way are isolated for months during the wet season, which means they need to stock up their supplies well in advance.

It’s out here on these rough dirt tracks that these Western Star 6900’s really shine, and that’s largely due to the extra strength that’s built into their chassis rails.

By late-morning the shadows on the ground were getting shorter and Terry wasn’t too far away from the station’s cattle yards. He aimed to be there a little before his scheduled mid-day pick-up appointment, which would give him ample time to set up his trailers and have a bite to eat before the loading comenced in earnest.

Terry admits that he is more than impressed with the reliability his Western Star 6900 and the service he gets from Townsville based dealer Prime-Movers. He is equally impressed with the power and reliability he gets from the 600 horsepower Cummins and 18-speed Roadranger. He’s running the Meritor AC-6T 6-Rod suspension with Meritor RT52-185 rear axles, with an 8.9:1 ratio, which is the preferred speck for cattle haulers up this end of the country.

The inside of the 6900 cabin is well appointed where the instrument cluster hosts a group of useful gauges with convex screens for better visibility, while the marine grade rocker switches are waterproof and can be easy used even with gloves on.

Terry added that the seats are among the most comfortable units in the business and come fitted with armrests. They also have wide range of adjustments available which permit you to find a comfortable driving position.

Meanwhile he had nothing but praise for the driving position, “you sit higher than usual and thanks to the generous windshield you are treated with a commanding view of the road. The Western Star’s cab also offers almost two meters of width at the shoulders, providing ample room between the seats.

Needless to say there is plenty of storage places spread across the cabin including door pockets, cup holders and other useful consoles

 

Thankfully these young steers ran steadily onto the waiting trailers.

It takes roughly half an hour to load the entire roadtrain and today was no exception. Now with the roadtrain loaded Terry eased out the clutch and the 6900 Western Star with the three trailers in tow was on its way.

“I really like the room inside these Western Star cabins,” Terry said. “This spacious sleeper is long enough to stretch out and stand up in. I believe that you need a bit of room when you’re living in the truck day after day. I’ve got a freezer as well as fridge in there,” he added.

“The regulations and driving hours have changed so much now and we have to document every detail from work, driving and rest,” he continued. “We can’t keep driving until we get home anymore, even out here in no-man’s-land, because the kilometers on the speedo must match the driving hours in my logbook. These rules even apply when we’re paddock carting on the stations and not even on a main road. It makes the job a bit easier if you’re well rested and comfortable that’s why I ordered this big sleeper.” He added

“I’m pretty self sufficient,” he explained. “I carry nearly 500 litres of fresh drinking water, there’s a 60 litre water tank on each trailer plus the large tank on the prime mover. Also each trailer has an 800 litre diesel tank, which are commonly called belly tanks.”

The shadows were getting long on the ground when Terry finally hit the bitumen late in the afternoon.

He let the roadtrain roll to a stand still on a long lonely stretch of bitumen, and then he climbed from the cabin and collected a steel bar from the locker box and began taping his tyres and rims to loosen the dust. Then he rolled along slowly letting all the dust run from the wheels.

As Terry disappeared into the setting sun we bid him and his impressive 6900 Western Star farewell.

 

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August 30, 2017 | Posted in: Articles

 

DAF

Australian Trucking Quarterly