A long-serving driver at Queensland freight carrier, Geoff Richards Refrigerated Transport, has been rewarded for years of exceptional service with an unmistakable new bonneted truck.
A Western Star 4900, the latest addition to the company’s interstate fleet, is characterised by a distinct orange appearance and 68-inch Stratosphere sleeper — the largest sleeper on the market.
The custom-built truck is pulling a refrigerated B-double with fresh produce from North Queensland into Melbourne.
In less than three weeks it has already accrued 20,000 kilometres according to Geoff Richards Refrigerated Transport Workshop Manager Luke Ashton.
“The driver absolutely loves it,” he said. “He’s what you might call Western Star-mad. Having been with the company for 12 years we wanted to give him the option of the next truck. When he was asked what he wanted he said, ‘Buy me a Star, buy me a Star.'”
That driver, David Horne, had the pick of the crop, when it came to the 26 new bonneted trucks the company had purchased across four brands over the last two years.
The colossal undertaking of a Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne roundtrip left little doubt on his part.
“It’s the first 68-inch sleeper cab in our fleet and the walk-through design offers those comfort options a driver needs for life on the road,” said Ashton.
Sleeper cabs are prominent within the fleet of nearly 70 prime movers, all of which are entirely American in origin.
The vehicles are coordinated between company depots at Bowen, Mareeba and home base in Bethania, near Beenleigh.
Powered by a 560hp Detroit DD15 with an output of 1,850ft-lb, the Western Star 4900 hasn’t stopped, closely following NHVR guidelines, running its return trips along much of the Eastern Seaboard.
The vehicle, as is true of the Geoff Richards Refrigerated Transport fleet, hasn’t stopped turning heads.
It’s not just a matter of keeping up appearances, either. The fleet runs multi-coloured commercial vehicles with the intention of making them stand out on the road.
“Image is everything. Our vehicles are always immaculate and clean,” said Ashton. “If you take pride in the appearance of the vehicles, the customer can expect a service equal in principle.”
Rocklea Truck Electrical Manager, Brock Macdonald, is responsible for the memorable cab exterior designs, having worked on nearly 50 trucks for Geoff Richards Refrigerated Transport over the years.
“He gets a general brief of what it is we want. He’s asked to make it stand out and away he goes,” said Ashton. “Geoff doesn’t much care for white trucks. You won’t find any two trucks the same colour.”
A sister Western Truck, painted forest green, is slated for delivery in the coming weeks.
Geoff Richards Refrigerated Transport is a long-term customer of Penske Australia’s Brisbane dealership and notably Western Star, dating back to 1988 when the carrier picked up their first 4900.
“From where I sit the warranty package is absolutely fantastic. We have a great relationship with Brisbane dealer Penske and salesman Errol Weber,” said Ashton. “It’s critical that you can get that afterhours support and should something happen, you’re dealing with one person. They sort it out.”
“With a DD15 you don’t have to touch the engine,” he added.
While the mainland states and territories appear trapped in an environment of rolling lockdowns, Geoff Richards Transport is keeping pace with surges in demand and the mounting tasks asked by border enforcement of its drivers.
“It’s crazy right now but it’s nothing we can’t handle,” said Ashton.
The company has a one truck one driver policy with a few floaters. It’s proven to be a strategy that is both flexible and timely.
“If a driver needs a couple of days off then they’re covered by those three or four floaters, who have got what can add up to full time work,” said Ashton. “We’re looking after our drivers. They deserve it.”