When Kelvyn Fuller first took to the road driving trucks in the late 1960s most things were vastly different in Australian road transport compared with today.
For example, at that time the now ubiquitous Kenworth brand was in its infancy in this country, with only a limited number having been imported from the USA. Furthermore, the start of Australian Kenworth production was still some time off.
Kelvyn was born at Cootamundra and moved with his family to Peak Hill near Parkes when he was about nine. When asked about his entrance into the trucking realm Kelvyn says it came about almost by accident.
“I was working for my father who had an earthmoving business back in those days,” Kelvyn recalls. “He bought a Leyland Comet in Sydney that he reckoned would be good for spare parts, so we went down and brought it back home where it sat in the shed for the next few years.”
By that stage Kelvyn and Shirley were married and Kelvyn’s mind was ticking over as to what he would do to provide for his growing family.
“So, I said ‘Dad, “I’m going to get that truck out of there, put some recapped tyres on it, get it registered and go carting grain’,” Kelvyn says.
He found work with a couple of local farmers and because it was a bumper crop that year, the local silos at Peak Hill soon filled up and Kelvyn found himself transporting the grain to Parkes.
“We had a boom year and made a heap of money, so I thought this trucking game is the way to go,” says Kelvyn. “I don’t think we’ve made any money since, but we keep trying.”
After that the Fullers bought a second truck – a Perkins diesel powered International AB180 with a stock crate and they also took on the running of the local Amoco fuel depot.
By this stage it was the early ‘70s and the couple had been blessed with two children, which prompted Kelvyn to re-evaluate their situation.
“I was thinking that the kids would never get a job in Peak Hill because it only had a population of just over 1,000, so I decided to start doing interstate between Brisbane and Melbourne for the Swire Group which owned Frigmobile Transport at the time,” he says.
As Peak Hill is roughly halfway between the two capitals on the Newell Highway, Kelvyn’s idea was that he could call in at home and have a decent break before continuing on his journey.
“That idea lasted for about three seconds,” he says. “They told me I had to be in Brisbane the next morning. So after doing that for a while we decided to sell the fuel depot and our house and move to Brisbane.”
The truck the couple initially bought to do interstate was a second-hand Kenworth which lasted about one year, leading to the purchase of a new Kenworth cab-over powered by an 8V71T Detroit Diesel.
The year was 1974 and this was the start of a long-term affinity with PACCAR products that the company has maintained to this day.
“Everyone told me I was raving mad and that I’d never pay for it,” Kelvyn says – noting that the $40,800 price was a fortune back in the day. “I was young and like all young blokes thought I was bulletproof so I reckoned I could pay it off alright,” he recalls.
By this stage Kelvyn’s brother was working with the company and the two shared the same truck to ensure maximum utilisation.
Then about six months after buying the truck, Kelvyn had a miraculous escape from a very nasty accident after his rig skidded out of control on black ice on the New England Highway near Armidale.
“One minute I was nice and warm driving down the highway and the next I was skidding along the bitumen on the seat of my pants, literally,” Kelvyn says.
“Truck drivers didn’t wear seatbelts in those days and as the truck tipped over the driver’s side of the cab was torn off and I was ejected, passing under the fuel tanks and the trailer before being spat out into the table drain.”
He was taken to Armidale hospital where an internal injuries specialist worked on him all night. It was then a long recovery process of about 12 months before he could drive again.
“I’m always thankful from that day to this that I still have two arms and two legs, and that the specialist who saved my life was there at the hospital that night.” Kelvyn says.
Proving that trucking is in his blood, Kelvyn got the truck repaired with a new cab and carried on, paying it off over the next three years then buying more as the business continued to grow.
After 21 years subcontracting to the Swire Group, Kelvyn decided it was time to move on, buying his own trailers and doing local and regional work in Queensland for companies like Berri and fast-food giant McDonalds.
“We now do eight regional runs a week for McDonalds including Cairns, Mt Isa and Coffs Harbour,” Kelvyn says.
“We stopped doing interstate about 12 years ago and now just concentrate on Queensland and northern NSW.”
Today, the company runs about 20 trucks and 30 trailers including rigids, semis and B-doubles.
The association with DAF commercial vehicles can be traced back to the early 1990s and Kelvyn’s curiosity to see how a European brand might work in his business.
A long-standing relationship with Kenworth and DAF dealer Brown and Hurley at Yatala, also helps sate his current appetite for new commercial vehicles.
According to Kelvyn, the two new XF 105 Super Space Cab DAFs are doing everything right and the drivers are impressed with the comfort and spaciousness of the cab interior.
“The best thing about them is the comfort,” he says. “They’re a very nice truck to drive – not much different to driving a car, really.
“Some of the drivers, particularly the younger ones, think they don’t make enough noise but when you get a bit long in the tooth like me, the less noise the better. The young blokes who like to make lots of noise with straight through mufflers – they’re the ones the police are busy writing up when you go past.”
The two DAF XF 105 Super Space Cab prime movers K&S purchased were the very last two of the previous series Euro 5 versions sold in Australia.
Riding on a 3.9m wheelbase, they feature a gross combination mass (GCM) of 70 tonnes and are equipped with twin 500-litre aluminium fuel tanks.
They are powered by the PACCAR MX375 12.9-litre six-cylinder diesel producing 510hp (375kW) between 1,500 and 1,900rpm accompanied by 1,850lb/ft (2,500Nm) of torque from 1,000 to 1,410rpm.
The engine embodies an advanced high-pressure fuel injection system and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) emissions control to meet the Euro 5 standards.
Power is delivered to the rear wheels via a ZF AS-Tronic 16-speed overdrive automated manual transmission (AMT) with oil cooler.
The steer axle, with a maximum rated capacity of 7,500kg, is supported by parabolic leaf springs while the drive tandem has a maximum capacity of 18.1 tonnes and features DAF eight-bag Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) which incorporates axle load monitoring and is Road Friendly certified. The final drive ratio is 3.40:1.
The electronic braking system (EBS) comprises air operated disc brakes with 430mm x 45mm rotors on all axles and the MX Engine Brake and exhaust brake provide a combined retardation power of 320kW at 2,100rpm.
Active safety features include Hill Start Aid, Anti Slip Regulation (ASR), Brake Assist, Drag Torque Control and ABS.
Passive safety systems include a driver’s airbag, seatbelt pretensioners on both sides and a seatbelt reminder, along with front under-run protection system (FUPS).
Optional driver support systems include Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).
Additional vision options include a side-view camera system, front kerb mirror and high energy discharge (HID) Xenon headlights.
Upon further reflection of his long career, Kelvyn says the advancement in technology of the trucks in this era, such as his new DAFs, over the older trucks, is remarkable.
With the K&S fleet now comprising around 12 DAFs, Kelvyn says the brand has proven itself to be a reliable and fuel-efficient product that ticks all the boxes in terms of driver comfort, safety and longevity.
“They’re well put together and easy to fix if they sustain damage on the front end from hitting a kangaroo,” Kelvyn says – adding that the Whitlock bullbars on the new XFs are a very strong bar that provides the necessary protection, particularly on the western Queensland runs where the ‘roos are rife.
Having built a successful business over the last half a century, Kelvyn and Shirley Fuller have seen it grow from a single truck to a fleet of 20, with more than half of which are now DAFs.