Prime Mover Magazine


Kenworth C509 muscles into Thompson’s heavy haulage fleet

Heavy haulage and towing operator, J&K Thompson & Son, has taken delivery of a new Kenworth C509 from Gilbert & Roach at Huntingwood in western Sydney.

The C509, powered by a Cummins X15 rated at 615hp matched with a heavy-duty Eaton 18-speed manual transmission, has a gross combination mass (GCM) rating of 163.5 tonnes.

The unique demands of the heavy haulage game, particularly in the Blue Mountains region west of Sydney where the company is based, ask much of prime movers and drivers alike, and according to J&K Thompson & Son Managing Director, Jody Thompson, the big Kenworth is digging deep and taking up the challenge.

In choosing the C509, Thompson said the key feature he will not compromise on is the transmission – it must be manual allowing the driver full control over gear selection in all situations.

The proliferation of automated manual transmissions (AMT) has, in recent years, narrowed the field in terms of availability of manual heavy haulage prime movers.

“While they are fine for lighter work, I’m not into AMTs at all for our type of work,” said Thompson.

“Especially when you are working around the mountains you have to be in complete control all the time.”

Having been involved with heavy haulage work for 33 years, Jody Thompson and his wife Kylie started their business 20 years ago and their son Andrew and son-in-law Greg Nolan are now also involved at the coalface, driving the trucks. In fact, Andrew is the proud operator of the new C509.

“Myself, my son and our son-in-law all started out doing apprenticeships as truck mechanics so we all know the trucks from the inside out, which helps with the sort of work we do,” said Thompson.

As a result, he appreciates the familiar setup of the Kenworth, citing the example that it has traditional and simple brake valves rather than what he describes as the overly complex arrangements found on some other brands.

Like father like son, Andrew Thompson echoed the sentiments of Jody as he described his enjoyment of being in charge of the first Kenworth to grace the family company’s fleet.

“I really like the rugged simplicity of the C509 from its square lines through to the traditional VDO gauges on the dash that Kenworths have had for decades,” Thompson said.

“It’s what we need because when we are out in the middle of nowhere we can’t afford to have any computer glitches that we are unable to fix ourselves.”

Thompson also agreed with his Dad’s theory that AMTs are not suitable for the heavy haulage sector.

“There are certain situations on steep climbs where you have to change down three or four gears quickly to keep your momentum going. You can’t do that with an automatic because it takes too long to ‘think’ about it and by then it’s too late and you’re stuck,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s new C509 will no doubt be closely monitored in the business in terms of its performance and durability over the long haul.

Early signs suggest it’s doing everything right for this proudly Australian family-owned heavy haulage company.

Last month, Wagners acquired its 50th Kenworth prime mover.

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