Quiet in nature, Rob readily admits that he is not the kind of guy who could tie truckies’ shank knots before he was even able to walk. In fact, Rob was a successful chicken farmer in his prior profession, raising hundreds of thousands of table meat birds at a time.
But at one point the time came to get away from the grind of being shackled to a seven-day week farming commitment, so Rob sold up and, to keep himself occupied and maintain some income, took on an EZY-Tow franchise. The franchise consisted of a single “banana back” car trailer equipped with a winch, which was towed behind a simple four-wheel drive.
The concept was never intended to take the place of conventional tow trucks, but fill a market niche by towing the cars of drivers who had had a few drinks too many and didn’t want to drive home themselves. From that unique introduction to the transport industry, Rob progressed to a truck-based two car carrier, then to a truck capable of hauling three cars; and as the workload grew, he eventually moved to an Isuzu truck and trailer combination that was capable of carrying six cars, doing mostly metropolitan work for many Sydney car dealers.
Then the opportunity came around to operate his own prime mover combined with a Patrick Autocare double-deck trailer, so Rob had a look at what would be the most suitable bogie drive prime mover to do the task and suit his personal requirements.
He ultimately decided upon a DAF CF85 and was prepared to wait six months for an automated manual version to become available in Australia. “At the time I thought this was going to be my last truck, but I didn’t know how many kilometres I was going to do,” he says. “In the six and a half years I had the CF, I travelled 1.361 million kilometres. I had absolutely no problems with it, but it was definitely well on the way to wearing out.”
While researching what to buy next, Rob and his wife attended an open day at the Western Sydney Gilbert & Roach dealership and got a first glance at the then newly released DAF XF105, which had just won the ‘Truck of the Year’ award at the 2012 International Truck, Trailer and Equipment Show in Melbourne. Anticipating (again) that this would definitely be his last truck before retirement, Rob adamantly wanted a truck that was over specified, under stressed and driver friendly.
“The people at Gilbert & Roach asked me if I wanted to look at the latest 460 horsepower CF. I pointed at the XF105 and told them: ‘No, I just want one like this’,” he recalls with a bit of humour.
The new prime mover was destined to be coupled with one of Patrick Autocare’s single seven-car trailers, rather than being used as a powerful B-double unit. “With a seven-car trailer you still need a bogie drive and the DAF is rated at 42 tonnes, so there is no more need to worry about weights as I’m usually running around 30 tonne payload,” said Rob.
Home base for Rob is in semi-rural Londonderry on the western outskirts of Sydney, and most of Rob’s work comes from picking up new imported cars from Port Kembla and delivering them to dealers throughout New South Wales, including to Coffs Harbour on the north coast, Bega and even Eden on the south coast, as well as out west to Dubbo, Nyngan and Moree.
During the interview with Prime Mover, there is no doubt that Rob genuinely enjoys his job. “At my age I don’t worry about work,” is his philosophy. He also participates in the Basic Fatigue Management programme so that he can work up to 14 hours each day, with the DAF XF being a reliable companion.
However, one of the DAF’s factory diesel tanks had to be reduced in size when the truck first got into service. It is now lacking some 100 litres to accommodate the hydraulic oil tank that supplies the trailer rams and jacks; but according to Rob, the procedure hasn’t lead to any problems.
In fact, Rob is very happy with the DAF’s average fuel burn of around 40 litres per 100 kilometres, which is pretty much what he initially expected. As a result, the fuel range is about 1600 kilometres and by filling up the AdBlue tank at Patrick’s Ingleburn depot, where he is usually based, supply of the urea product has not been an issue for Rob as well.
Rob frequently travels west of the Great Divide and the lack of a bull bar raised his concerns about collisions with wildlife, not just for damage caused to his truck, but for the welfare of the animals themselves. Consequently, he fitted a pair of sonic animal repellers to the front of the DAF, which have most likely limited the incidence of animal strikes to just one unfortunate wallaby. In addition, the DAF’s high intensity discharge Xenon headlights are complimented by a pair of LED light bars mounted just above the sun visor to increase night vision.
But that’s not the only extra on Rob’s top-of-the-range XF105, which is also boasting the optional hill-start aid that automatically holds the brakes on when starting off on a slope from a standstill. “The CF didn’t have that, so like everyone else I juggled with the trailer brake control in those circumstances. The hill start is excellent and just makes everything easier and safer.”
DAF originally promoted the XF105 as ‘the ultimate driver’s truck’, and Rob describes his model as being as easy as a four wheel drive to operate, stating he seldom has to call up all of the MX375 engine’s 510 horsepower and impressive 2500 Nm of torque.
As he spends up to 14 hours a day at the wheel, comfort is vital and Rob speaks highly of the air suspended seat and cockpit style dashboard that incorporates DAF’s electronic Driver Information Panel. “The parking brake actuator seems a bit short and sometimes flicks back,” is his only negative, “but overall the truck is sweet to drive.”
Even though Rob chose his new DAF for all of his own right reasons, he is of the opinion that more incentives should be available for purchasers of later model trucks. “Everyone invests to produce lower emissions but there are no concessions on offer,” he argues.
Eventually, Rob Kuitert may be a little self-deprecating when he uses his ‘Clayton’s Truckie’ description – but he has proved that he can run a successful operation by investing in a vehicle that not only lives up to the tasks required of it, but is enjoyable to drive as well.
And, the future is currently looking bright as well, as the Australian passenger car market continues to be strong, despite some concerns about the long-term viability of local vehicle manufacturing. It is the imports that are being purchased by private and fleet buyers and that situation will continue to provide plenty of work for professional operators such as Rob.