Way down a muddy dirt road on the wild west coast of Tasmania is the last place you’d expect to see glistening chrome and polished stainless steel reflecting from a T909 grill. But Adrian Cassidy is a workin’ man, and so is his immaculate 9OH and Lusty 4×4 deck widener.
The bright flashing amber LED lights on top of Adrian Cassidy’s T909 Kenworth broke the darkness way off in the distance a little before 6 am. Moments later, the Speaker LED headlights lit up the white frost covered ground in front of me as the Kenworth appeared over the hill.
Thankfully, Adrian had the heater notched up, and it wouldn’t take long to thaw out after standing on the side of the road for only a few moments. “The weatherman wasn’t wrong last night when he warned about the ‘icy polar blast’ arriving early this morning,” I said to Adrian as I climbed up into the cabin.
“You won’t see too many of these old dozers around nowadays,” Adrian said, pointing rearward to the Terex bulldozer sitting on the low loader behind. “They were a good machine back in their day, but they’re more of a novelty machine these days. Although they’re ideal for hobby farmers who need a bulldozer for occasional use.”
Scottsdale based Adrian Cassidy is a second-generation transport operator. Yet, a decision to diversify his operation a few years back, along with a lot of hard work, is now paying dividends at long last.
“My father had trucks and, as kids going up, we hardly knew him and more often than not, when we did plan to spend time together, he’d inevitably get called back to the truck operation. Sadly, this placed a lot of stress on Dad,” Adrian recalled. “Such was the pressure on him running a trucking company. I didn’t want that for my kids. So, a little over a decade ago, I purchased a grader with a forestry contract from Dad. It was a good job and afforded the luxury of a better family lifestyle. Thankfully I managed to spend quality time with my boys, tinkering in the shed, riding bikes and that sort of thing. But you’ve heard that old saying that all good things must end. Unfortunately for Tasmania, the Green Party won a few seats in the state election a few years later and controlled the balance of power. Their rapid destruction of the forestry industry in Tasmania was swift. Some might say likened to Mount Vesuvius’ obliteration of Pompeii in 79AD. Thousands of forestry workers and contractors lost everything overnight, myself included.”
“It was a bitter blow. I don’t think I slept that night, wondering how we would survive. It reminded me of some lines in Merle Haggard’s song ‘Workin’ Man Blues’, “It’s a big job just gettin’ by with nine kids and a wife…, I keep my nose to the grindstone, work hard every day“.
Particularly when you have a written contract with the state government, you’d think your job would be secure for the duration of the contract. Especially if you met or exceeded the terms of the agreement. Indeed, a hard lesson to learn.”
“The following afternoon, after having my grading contract terminated. A fortuitous phone call landed me a grading job out at an upcoming wind farm project,” Adrian continued. “Gratefully, I took that job. My guys and I worked hard and put in some big hours. When your world collapses around you overnight, and you get a second chance, you grasp it with everything you have. My guys understood this too. Our work ethic did not go unnoticed by the wind farm management either. Before long, we had expanded from just a grading job to water-cart and excavation operations.”
“The wind farm job allowed me to diversify my operation into civil construction,” Adrian explained. “Look, I love my trucks. But, we’re not technically a trucking operation. We predominantly use the truck to shift our equipment and move a few regular client’s machinery around the state. However, there is nothing better than climbing into a nice truck and heading off to move a few machines around the state for the day. It’s certainly something I look forward to when I get a chance. Funnily enough, Dad now drives my water cart,” Adrian smiled. “He loves it. And importantly, I’m getting to know my father again. All those hard years we had, you can’t get back. I didn’t want that for my family. That philosophy of spending quality time with family is something I try and instil in my guys. We try not to work on weekends, but we will do the odd machine shift, when necessary, on the weekend.
Lusty Low Loader
Meantime, the Kenworth T909, Lusty Low Loader and old Terex dozer rolled steadily westward along Bridport Road. This morning traffic was light apart from an odd log truck or two heading east.
“This float sits on the road nicely,” Adrian said. “I’ve towed a lot of different floats over the years, and I must admit that this one is one of the better and more stable floats I’ve had the pleasure of towing.”
“The hydraulic suspension plays a big part in the stability of this float,” he continues. “Like any piece of equipment, there are pros and cons, and it’s the same with floats. For example, some blokes argue deck wideners are unstable because the wheels remain on the same wheel track. But I believe they’re a versatile piece of equipment if you load and operate them correctly.”
“You will soon see how versatile and manoeuvrable it is when we get on the bush track to deliver this dozer,” he explained. “One of the biggest advantages with a deck widener is I can widen the deck to suit the machine width, but the wheels retain the same track as the truck. Consequently, it is ideal for operating on tight bush tracks and narrow farm laneways with narrow bridges. However, a full widening low loader with wheels that extend with the deck would certainly restrict my bush access.”
The deck is 2.5 meters wide in the closed position and opens to 3.7 meters at the rated weight when fully extended. Another feature that adds to the versatility of this low loader is the front mounted winch. There is ample storage for rachet chain turnbuckles in the gooseneck. In addition, there are chain storage lockers under the front of the deck. The hydraulic pack and controls are on the gooseneck’s left side, and the gooseneck’s right side has a 60-litre water tank.
In his spare time, and he is quick to add there is not much of that, Adrian is a ‘hot rodder’ for want of a better term. Consequently, his attention to fine detail, polish and chrome flow through to his trucks and machines. So, for example, both the hydraulic and water tanks on the float are polished alloy. The wheels are chrome, and the trailer is finished with signs and lines by Tasmanian’s truck sign writing maestro Kevin Brown from Spectrum Signs, who incidentally signed the truck.
The Kenworth T909 didn’t miss out either. The polished lowered Texas bumper boasts 24 LED lights with custom reversible oversize signs mounted on the polished stainless steel plates. Meantime, the headlights have a stainless backing plate with teardrop covers. Stainless elephant ears cover the air-cleaner inlet pipe from the large 406mm diameter cyclopic air-cleaners with the chrome deep bowl base.
Hints of Adrian’s hot-rod passion are evident inside the cabin too. And especially noticeable with the Pearlcraft Steering wheel and gear stick knob. In addition, the diff-lock, power-divider, and suspension dump switches have gold extensions, and gauges include the gold bezel option.
Adrian added that some of the credit for the shine on the truck must go to his driver Josh Bennett. “Josh and I spend a lot of time keeping it clean, and any free days in the winter are put aside for polishing,” Adrian added.
But this truck is no show-pony. It’s very much a working truck, set up for hard bush work with AIR-CTI central tyre inflation and Elphinstone loadcells. “I must admit I was sceptical about the AIR-CTI at first,” Adrian explained. “However, it works a treat. Especially in paddocks and muddy conditions, it provides amazing traction. But one of the biggest surprises is with tyre wear, I’m actually getting better tyre life, and the tyres wear more evenly. That is one aspect that indeed surprised me. Plus, the ride is far better when we’re empty once I’ve let the tyres down to 60-PSI.”
The Elphinstone loadcells provide the most actuate on-board weighing system on the market. The beauty of the system is that when paired with the EasyWeigh reader, it can be connected to any trailer fitted with an Elphinstone system without requiring additional adjustment or calibration.
Cummins Road Relay
The Cummins Road Relay-5 unit is not a common option seen on many trucks these days, but the system provides useable and unique features for drivers and fleet owners. The system has several functions, including providing accurate time monitoring of engine operating functions and conditions, recording and storing vital engine operating data, and displaying engine fault code narrative.
Navigation around the Road Relay-5 is easy enough, with three top level menus, Data pages, Vehicle and configuration and settings menu. But more on how the Cummins Road Relay-5 operates later.
Under the hood is a Cummins Signature 600HP (447kW) that produces 2050 lb-ft (2779Nm) of torque, coupled to an Eaton 18-speed Roadranger. The rear axles are Meritor RT46-160GP with a 4.56:1 final drive ratio.
It was midmorning when Adrian moved the indicator wand downward to signal a left hand turn up the narrow bush track. Here on the tight bush track, we get to see first-hand how the self-tracking BPW steering axles make manoeuvring the low loader around these tight bends and twist a lot easier. But it is not all plain sailing.
“You need to keep your wits about you when you’re in the bush and have the trailer’s steering wheels active,” Adrian explained. “If you don’t watch what you’re doing, they can steer the trailer off the road in a worst-case scenario. I can lock them up electronically with a switch on the dash, which disables the steering action. For instance, the steering axles are locked in the straight-ahead position when reversing the trailer. This way, the trailer will behave like a traditional semi-trailer.
BPW Steering Axles
Overall, the steering axles on the trailer significantly improve tyre wear compared to fixed-axle units. Additionally, as the tyre scrubbing effect is reduced, there is minimal impact on the road surface.
Up around a few more corners and a friendly wave from the dozer owner signalled we’d arrived at our destination. Adrian slowed down, pulled the truck and trailer straight, and flicked a switch on the dash. “It’s imperative to roll forward in a straight line to ensure all the trailer wheels are facing straight ahead before engaging the steering lock,” Adrian said.
He gently guided the trailer back into the bush clearing, paying attention to keeping the drive wheels on the hard, firm ground. “They’ve had a lot of rain down here on the west coast over the past few weeks, so we certainly won’t be going back too far along this soft track today,” he added.
The old two-stroke 871-GM in the Terex took some gentle persuasion before finally coming to life on the cold frosty morning. It bellowed out more smoke than the famous Flying Scotsman steam engine in full flight for a while before the distinct two-stroke GM sound finally broke the morning stillness. Then, fifteen minutes later, the Dozer was safely in its new home, the float’s ramps raised, all the chains and rachet turnbuckles stowed.
“Remember how I said those Terex dozers are a novelty machine,” Adrian asked, “Well, the novelty wore off by the time I’d driven it off the trailer. But, my goodness, they are loud inside that cabin. It’s little wonder the old fellas who used to drive them had hearing problems.”
“All low loaders require a lot of maintenance,” Adrian explained. “Especially ones with hydraulic suspensions because there are so many moving parts. Nevertheless, they work fine if you keep up the maintenance and keep everything finely adjusted. Then, they will steer where they are meant to, and the hydraulic deck height system will function as intended.”
“I’m very particular about maintaining the truck and trailer,” Adrian concluded. “The condition and presentation of our equipment reflect our pride in workmanship. We like to think that is why our customers come back to us.”
Model: Lusty 4×4 Deck Widener Rear Steer Low Loader
Axles: BPW, self-steering
Hydraulics: 6.5hp Honda pull-start power pack
Storage: Internal chain trays
Spare wheel carrier: 4 x gooseneck mount
Kingpin: 50mm fixed
Skid plate: Oscillating
Model: Kenworth T909
Engine: Cummins Signature
Horsepower: 600hp (447kW) at 1850rpm
Torque: 2050lb/ft (2779Nm) at 1100rpm
Gearbox: Eaton RTLO20915B 18-speed Roadranger
Air cleaner: Dual 406mm Cyclopacs
Fuel filter: Fuel Pro and fuel/water separator
Electrical: 160A isolated alternator
Front axle: Meritor MFS73L
Front suspension: 7.2 T multi-leaf
Power steering: TRW Ross TAS 85
Rear axles: Meritor RT46-160GP with DCDL
Rear axle ratio: 4.56:1
Rear suspension: Air-Glide
Brakes: HD (P-type) drum brakes with auto slacks
Windscreen: Two-piece, flat
Interior: Charcoal cab trim, HD Diamond pleat vinyl
Seats: Charcoal HD Extreme air suspended driver’s seat
Bumper: Polished alloy Bumper
Battery box: Slide tray LH under cab above tank
Extras: Severe Service Kit,
Lower Radiator pipe shield,
Remote diff breathers,
Extended grease lines to clutch,
Pearlcarft Steering wheel
Pearlcraft gear knob
Speaker LED Headlights