For Sydney’s BT Tipper Hire it’s all about perfection – Words and images by Ed Higginson
It’s great to have something rather special in your fleet, and if you can have a Legend 950, what could top that? Except perhaps another Legend in the form of a 900.
Based in Western Sydney, BT Tipper Hire has grown over the past 16 years from a single truck-and-dog, to a fleet of 23 Kenworths and the largest tip site operation across Sydney.
When looking at the company fleet, it’s hard to spot a standard fleet-spec truck among them, with many being a special build in the shadow of the two Legends that stand at the top of the pack.
Company founder Ben Sultana explains: “My first truck was an International Transtar because that’s what my dad ran, but when I needed a second truck in 2009 I bought a used Kenworth T404.
Then, when I needed a third, I bought a brand-new Kenworth T609 in 2013.”
Running through the roll call, Ben can list all of them from memory “The two Legends, then five T609, three T950, three T408, three K200, then a T608, T610, T908, T909, T658, a T350 tilt tray and an old Kenworth S2 we use as our watercart. We also have a 1976 W925 Smokey and the Bandit replica, which is worth taking a look at, too.”
Asked why he’s stuck with the single brand, Ben doesn’t hesitate: “Kenworth are the pinnacle of trucks, I wouldn’t buy anything else. The new trucks all come through Micheal Mortensen from Gilbert & Roach who is always happy to sort us out.
“The only exception to this is a Peterbilt that we’ve just bought brand new and is currently getting built up in our workshop. It’s like the Kenworth, as it comes from the Paccar family, but it will be one of a kind on the road, which we like.
“We’ve been buying a brand-new truck every year, plus adding a few second-hand trucks that we restore ourselves. We also have a good group of subbies that we use as needed.”
On the day of PowerTorque’s photo shoot, Sydney threw down some of the heaviest rain in months, so we felt for the drivers, as this fleet is renowned for being kept in showroom condition. But these are working trucks that earn their living on building sites, so they may not have looked as shiny as company drivers Dean and James would have wanted, but they still looked stunning.
Dean drives the Legend 900 after recently jumping out of the 950, one of only a few drivers lucky enough to have driven both.
“I’ve only ever driven Kenworths, so love the look of the Legends. The 900 is the better one for me, though, because visibility is easier than with the 950.”
James, who drives the Legend 950, prefers the higher cab – as does his boss, Ben. “It just looks better with the bigger cab,” James says. “They are very similar, so it comes down to personal preference. But the 950 is my choice simply because of the higher roof.”
The limited-edition Legend 950 was released in 2015 and modelled on the T950, replicating its high-set back cab that was phased out in 2007. With sales time limited to just 48 hours, only 75 were built and many would-be owners missed out.
When the Legend 900 was announced at the Brisbane Truck Show in 2017, dealers got the pre-warning they needed to ensure anyone who was interested placed their orders on a single day. A total of 260 owners signed up, and Ben made sure he was one of them.
“They are the second Legends to come off the production line, so both have the Number 2 build plates. If we were to grab another Legend, it would have to wear the Number 2 plate as well.”
When you park the two Legends side by side, there are only a couple of minor differences between them. With the 950 getting a higher cab, it also has a slightly sloping hood and higher air intakes than the 900.
The 950 runs with the Cummins ISXe5 engine painted in heritage beige, whereas the 900 gets the newer X15 Cummins in black and red, with both running through an Eaton Fuller manual gearbox. Common to both Legend models are the ‘limited edition’ special touches that appear across both trucks, inside and out, to make them stand out from the crowd.
The location for PowerTorque’s photo shoot was the new 140-hectare Akuna Vista estate in Western Sydney, where BT Tippers is finalising a 1.2 million-tonne fill project. With the photography safely completed, we relocated around the corner to the company office at the family’s Limestone Café. Aptly named, considering Ben’s tipper work, but also a reference to Ben and wife Teneal’s Maltese heritage.
“Our business has grown from the tippers into civil construction and also into running landfill tip sites, where we are now probably the largest operator across Sydney,” Ben says.
When it comes to maintaining the fleet, he has set up a workshop behind his family home, so no job is too big. “We do everything in-house including the full rebuilds. We have a good relationship with Gilbert & Roach of Huntingwood, our local Kenworth agent, so we get all our parts through the dealership, and warranty is never a problem.
“We’ve just completed a full rebuild of a Kenworth K200 that we heard had been in a rollover. We bought it and restored it back to new, then added a tipper body and now it’s back on the road. We like the cabover K200s with the shorter wheelbase, which we can use to access smaller sites.
“The guys have also just started to restore a 2010 model T908 that came out of Kalgoorlie. It was originally a tri-drive with Rivet Mining, so we have removed an axle to make it into a 6×4.
“The rebuild isn’t just on the outside, either. On opening the cab, you can see everything had been removed back to just the metal shell. After a full paint job and engine rebuild, we will add a tipper bin and then operate it as a truck-and-dog.”
When it comes to the tipper bins, Ben always uses Delarue Truck Repairs, a local manufacturer within walking distance of the yard. “We’ve had a couple of others, but Delarue makes the best bins and we always try to fit them.”
To cope with the modern era of trucking and Chain of Responsibility compliance, Ben has added monitoring technology to the entire fleet. “All our fleet is now equipped with Navman trackers and electronic work diaries, so we can monitor CoR easily. Each of the trucks are linked to my iPhone for 24/7 monitoring, which is essential these days.”
In an industry and city that always struggles to find experienced drivers, Ben has been lucky to find a great group of long-term drivers, as he explains: “The Kenworths definitely help attract and retain drivers. We’ve never had an issue and most of our drivers have stayed with us.”
Before heading off, Ben was keen to show me one last truck hidden in the corner of his yard. As a family favourite, Ben has a W925 Kenworth show truck made to look identical to the Smokey & The Bandit truck that many of us remember well. With just a 335 hp (250 kW) Cummins under the bonnet it might not be as powerful as his other trucks or have the mod cons drivers now expect like aircon, but it certainly looks and sounds fantastic.