Warren Caves focuses on Burkinshaws Transport of Wagga Wagga

Words and photography by Warren Caves – Torque it-up Photography

Since the first all Australian-built cabover Kenworth, the K125CR, rolled off the production line in 1971, Kenworth K-Series trucks have had a familiar presence on Australian roads.
The K104 and K108 models were a product of evolution from earlier variants, and throughout the late 1990’s enjoyed a period of market-leading sales. This dominance can, in part, be attributed to regulatory restraints in relation to overall combination lengths.

The 1980’s saw the introduction of B-double combinations onto the Australian transport landscape; however, they were not widely embraced until the early 1990’s, with initial lengths set a maximum of 23 metres. Shortly thereafter this was extended to 25 metres, where this limit on length stayed for some years.

This 25-metre benchmark led to the manufacturing of trailer combinations with 34 and even 36-pallet capacities, with one main downside. To adhere to the length regulations and maximise productivity with the use of the longer trailers, the reduction in space available meant that the only choice for a towing unit was that of a cabover truck.

During this period of time the only options available for proponents of American-based truck design were the Kenworth K-Series or the Freightliner Argosy, to which, to a lesser degree, Volvo and Scania also shared in the “cabover years”.

The 25-metre length was widely criticised for adverse effects on handling, safety and driver comfort (although I suspect the driving factor was more fiscal), resulting in the eventual extending of the length limit to 26 metres, effectively opening up the door for B-doubles to begin using conventional cab designed trucks with certain safety criteria to be met.

The K200 was a giant leap forward as far as cab design goes for the brand, with that cumbersome engine tunnel intrusion into the internal space now all but gone, giving way to a near flat floor design, negating the need to crawl up into the bed and making the “lay down to put your pants on manoeuvre” now just a distant memory.

The ability for a grown human to be able to stand up inside the cab created instant appeal and brought the K200 in line with its European counterparts. Attention was also applied to entry and egress from the cab with safety improvements like a full-length top step opening replacing the need to locate the second foot-hold by the “Braille method” when exiting the cab.

With ongoing emission targets to be met, the introduction of the Cummins EGR engines and subsequent increased heat required the K200 to feature a dramatically new front-on styling with wider and lower grille openings, and a redesigned fan shroud to facilitate increased air flow and cooling efficiency.

Because of the discontinuation of cabover models in the United States, re-engineering a totally new model for a relatively small Australian market would, to many, have seen to be cost prohibitive. The solution here was for Kenworth Australia to refine its existing K-Series platform instead.

As a tribute to the long-standing market leadership of Kenworth in the heavy truck segment, the 50,000th Australian made Kenworth was a K200 sold to Rodney’s Transport of Wagga Wagga NSW.

Also based in the Riverina town of Wagga Wagga is Burkinshaws Transport. Formed in 1942 by Ray Burkinshaw, with their original depot in Lockhart NSW, (which they still utilise), the company emphasis was on stock crates. Over time and under the direction of subsequent generations of family management, Burkinshaws Transport has moved almost exclusively into general freight work, from its current depot in Wagga since 2002.

PowerTorque met with Brendan Burkinshaw and their driver, Chris, to find out more about their operation and their K200 Big Cab.

As the name would suggest, Brendan is a third generation Burkinshaw working within the company operations, moving into the family business after completing an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker.

Brendan describes his role as a bit of an all-rounder, splitting his time between yard and forklift duties, administration and fill-in driving work.

“We are a small family-run business employing 18 staff, operating 9 prime movers, 6 rigid body trucks and 20 trailers of drop-deck/curtainside design. It’s a small operation and we like it that way, preferring the personal nature of doing business with our clients and the closer connection with our drivers. We’re more like a bunch of mates than work colleagues,” says Brendan.

Chris is the driver currently operating their K200, having initially run on single-trailer work and for the last 12 months in B-double guise, running between Wagga and Sydney, and Wagga and Melbourne.

“The truck currently has around 920,000 km on the odometer and it still drives like new, I have been driving it as a one-driver truck since early 2017. I find it a great truck to drive and quite comfortable, even after previously driving the company’s FH Volvo. It does tend to pitch a little, fore and aft, when on single-trailer work, but I find this does not occur when pulling two trailers,” said Chris.

Chris explains, “This truck was initially from new, given to Shane Burkinshaw, another third-generation family member to work in the company, and this is the significance of the “Third Generation” painted on the cab air-conditioning unit. Shane and subsequent drivers have really looked after the truck, which makes it easy for me to do the same, I take great pride in its appearance”.

Chris has been with Burkinshaws for seven years, previously working for Finemores for 22 years. As someone who is very grateful for his employment, Chris says, “This is a great company to work for”.

The truck is a 2011 K200 Big Cab, purchased through Inland Truck Centres in Wagga, fitted with a Cummins EGR engine rated @ 600 horsepower, mated to an 18-speed Eaton Roadranger manual transmission. Also featuring are aluminium fuel tanks with LED lighting and totalling 1500 litres storage, and an aluminium Barup bullbar standing proud for frontal protection and as a mounting platform for the four chrome Hella Rallye 4000 driving lights.

All stainless steel work was carried out by Royan’s of Wagga, including, stainless steel wing trims with LED marker lights, eight-inch curved exhaust stacks, and stainless steel step treads with LED courtesy lighting.

Polished alloy rims are used with the classy looking off-sets on the steer, giving that custom edge and complementing the deep green livery of the Burkinshaw fleet colours, with scroll and line highlights by Auto FX Signs and Graphics, also of Wagga.

To keep things more comfortable for rest breaks, an electric aircon unit is used, and Chris says it works quite well under all but the very hottest of days. To help with thermal efficiency and to keep the daylight out, Chris has fashioned up a set of wraparound curtains on bungee cord as these were not an option on the very early 200s.

As a storm approached, with the promise of some relief from a humid February afternoon, the K200 stands proudly against an angry sky, as Brendan and Chris admire their well-presented workhorse.

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