Warren Caves visits Shane and Debbie Lee of Kelly’s Transport – Images by Torque it Up
The venerable Kenworth T908 of Shane and Debbie Lee is our PowerTorque feature truck in this month’s Custom and Classic.
If you could transit through time and travel back to 2008, you would be able to view this truck proudly gracing the Kenworth stand at the Melbourne Truck Show that year as the manufacturer’s display model, generating a fair bit of attention in its “Kenworth Burgundy” coloured glory.
Replacing the tried and tested T904, the 908 was as equally versatile to handle anything from single trailer highway work to outback road train duties, making it a big seller for Kenworth. The 908 is still hugely popular with buyers in the secondhand market, and, with a little customisation work, these rigs really stand out in a crowd.
Shortly after the truck’s modelling and promotional career was over it found itself in the employ of the Southern Highlands based company, Kelly’s Transport, conveniently located adjacent to the Hume Highway at Braemar, 90 minutes south of Sydney.
The 908 worked for the company predominantly carrying mining equipment in oversize and B-double configuration throughout eastern Australia for around half a million kilometres, before being purchased by the Lee’s in 2015. Shane, at the time, was working as an employee for Kelly’s.
Shane and Debbie are still subcontracting to Kelly’s Transport carrying mining equipment with occasional general and scrap metal consignments to supplement workloads.
Transport must be in the genes, as their two sons also have their own trucks – one also subcontracts to Kelly’s Transport, while the other for a cement company. Rounding out the theme is their son-in-law who also has his own heavy haulage truck. I assume that the topic of conversation around the dinner table would invariably revert back to trucking at Lee family gatherings.
The tail end of the mining boom provided abundant work for the Lee’s and their 908, with Debbie joining Shane as a two-up driver on a near full-time basis moving all manner of equipment to mine sites far and wide. This is less frequently required these days, however, Debbie still manages a few trips away per month.
While talking with Debbie, she admits that while they (herself and Shane) are quite chalk and cheese, they work together really well. Whilst there are always deadlines to meet, they have managed to have some good times out on the road and manage to “stop and smell the roses” occasionally, taking in and enjoying this vast country, with regular runs to Rockhampton and Emerald in Queensland, to Melbourne and destinations west of the Great Divide.
The Cummins Signature’s 620 finest ponies provide ample power and torque through the 18-speed Eaton manual transmission to transport the often-heavy loads demanded by the mining sector. The 150-tonne GCM is an additional bonus. Currently, the odometer sits a little over the 800,000-kilometre mark.
As with most show display trucks, there was no shortage of shiny bits attached to the truck, and over time more personalisation has been progressively added.
An aluminium bullbar sits out the front as a necessary guardian from wayward cattle and confused marsupial pedestrians. Quad fuel tanks ensure no destination is out of reach and are polished to a mirror shine.
Stainless steel add-ons include rear guards, air cleaner covers and “elephant ears”, headlight surrounds, intake pipes and air rams, exhaust shields and 8.0-inch stacks, and a drop visor is fitted to tame the harsh western sun.
The High-Rise sleeper is fitted with double bunks and an ice-pack for comfort, as well as a TV and fridge. On the outside are custom graphics and designs that were on the truck when Shane and Debbie purchased it from Kelly’s. The original NED 098 registration plates were swapped over to represent the new owners.
As regular exhibitors at the Trucks Across the Highlands charity convoy, a local event attracting around 120 entrants, Debbie uses the event as an excuse to convince Shane to have the truck professionally detailed and maybe knock off work a little early to prepare the truck for a great cause.
The 2016 Highlands Convoy saw the truck take out the best prime mover award, and 2017 saw them one-up that by achieving both best prime mover and the people’s choice award, adding another feather to their cap.
The much larger Illawarra Convoy has also been attended on a couple of occasions, with Debbie admitting that she gets a little bit emotional when driving the route to see the amount of support and appreciation shown to the drivers and owners for the work they put in to preparing their trucks, donating their time, and the event in general. The convoy is of special importance to Debbie Lee as it reminds her of the assistance she received when her son was unfortunately in hospital for the first three months of his life.
PowerTorque was quick to catch up with the truck after the 2017 Highlands Convoy to take advantage of the once-a-year professional shine it was wearing for our photo shoot. We hope you enjoy Walk the Line.