Spider Wheels, Mechanical Suspension and Engines

supporting rural trucking

Having the latest and greatest in trucking technology is not a high priority for Steven and Kate Thurston, who operate Thurston’s Transport in Walgett NSW and prefer the old school components like spider wheels, mechanical suspension and engines. 

As such Steve tolerates, but is not enamoured by the drive airbag suspension on the Titan or the bud wheels on the CHR, saying the ride in the Titan is rougher when empty than he thought an airbag system should be.

“Airbag suspended trucks are not as good in the bush as those with mechanical rear suspension, in my opinion,” says Steve. “Our newer tippers also have airbag suspension, but only because we need to have scales on them to ensure we get our axle weights right.”

Overall, he’s very satisfied with his fleet of Macks and has no intention of upgrading anytime soon. 

“For what we do I just can’t see the point in spending close to half a million dollars on a new truck; the trucks we have now work for us, rather than us working for the trucks, and they do the job just fine.”

spider wheels, mechanical suspension and mechanically controlled engines

Local and Long Haul

As for where he travels for work, Steve says he’ll go anywhere, but a fair bit of his work is local with the odd trip to Dubbo, a round trip of about 550km, thrown in for good measure. That said, of late he’s been doing a fair amount of hay haulage from Victoria and South Australia due to the dry conditions in northern NSW.

“A lot of the work around here is seasonal, like wheat and cotton, but in the last few years there’s been minimal crops of both because of the dry conditions and lack of water for irrigation of the cotton,” says Steve. “The last few years we’ve been carting a lot of hay from Victoria and some out of South Australia, it just depends on what’s going on, you do whatever you need to do.” 

Given the nature of the goods hauled, including grain, hay and cotton, the Thurston’s Transport trailer fleet consists of tippers, convertibles, drop-decks and flat-tops. 

The company has six O’Phee semi-trailers including two flat-tops, two convertibles and two drop-decks, one of which is also a widener with ramps that is used to carry oversize farm machinery. The other non-widening drop-deck joined the fleet in September 2020.

The new drop-deck has five-inch (127mm) coaming rails and runs Fuwa K-Hitch axles with drum brakes and leaf spring suspension. It also features a Ringfeder coupling to enable a dolly and second trailer to be connected.

“We bought it for hay and cotton haulage, it can carry nine bales of cotton each weighing 2.2 tonnes,” says Steve, adding that the lower deck height of the drop-deck is ideal for maximising the number of cotton and hay bales that can be carried without exceeding overall height dimensions.

“You have to have a drop-deck to cart nine bales of cotton, five on the bottom and four on the top,” explains Steve. “There is a hydraulic frame on the trailer which pulls the cotton bales down to hold them on and so they don’t exceed the height limit.

spider wheels, mechanical suspension and mechanically controlled engines

Interestingly, the two convertibles have been ‘converted’ into grain tippers with bins bolted to the decks which can be removed at the end of harvest so the trailers can then be used as flat-tops for hauling hay or cotton. 

Speaking about the future of the business, Steve says he has no succession plan to talk about at this stage because his son and three daughters are pursuing other ambitions, with none being particularly interested in trucks or the spider wheels, mechanical suspension and engines preferred by Steve and Kate.

“I’m happy enough with that because I don’t really see a big future in the transport industry with all the rules and regulations and the fact that there is always someone willing to do the work cheaper. Kate and I will carry on with the business as long as it’s viable and we can do the work,” says Steve.

“I really think you’re better off just working for someone else these days because then you get a fair wage, superannuation and holiday pay. When you’re working for yourself you don’t normally get all that unless you make a point of paying it for yourself, and then you have to be making enough profit to cover those expenses on top of all the other associated costs.”

spider wheels, mechanical suspension and mechanically controlled engines