Aussie Angles, Heavy Haulin'

Thursday, December 28, 2017



How much worth is in a Kenworth? We took a ride in a 15-year-old T950 on a heavy haulage run to Port Lattanin Tasmania to answer that question.

This morning Craig was delivering this new WA500 loader to Grange Resources’ Port Latta iron ore pellet plant and port facility approximately 70kms west of Burnie, where they produce in excess of two million tonnes of premium iron ore pellets annually. Grange Resources also owns and operates the Savage River magnetite iron ore mine 100km south west of Burnie.

The operation is unique in that concentrated iron ore slurry is pumped 83km from the mine at Savage river to the pellet plant at Port Latta via a 229mm internal diameter pipeline, taking approximately 14 hours. In mining terms this project is considered a long life mine with the current predicted lifetime extending to 2034.

At the Port Latta plant the cleaned concentrate is pressed into pellets using bentonite as a binding agent. The pellets are then fed into one of five vertical shaft pellet furnaces where they undergo heat induced processing for approximately 4.5 hours. The finished pellets are screened to grade excess coarse and fine material and then transported by conveyor to the stacker-reclaimer where the pellets are stockpiled to cool while awaiting shipping.

The new Komatsu WA500 is one of three that feeds slurry into the processing plant and is replacing one that Craig will reload onto his Drake low loader and return to the Komatsu dealership.

Craig’s Kenworth is an old school T950, with a Gen-II Cummins that he reckons has been one of the most reliable engines he’s ever had. “Apart from regular maintenance, we’ve hardly touched it. It’s really been a great engine,” Craig said. “It’s got plenty of power for this type of work; today with the WA500 that weighs around 30 tonne plus the weight of the dolly, low loader and truck, all up the gross weight is over 60 tonne.”

When asked about economy: “Considering the weight and terrain we travel, it’s pretty good,” Craig replied. “If I can get 1.6km/l or better, then I’m pretty happy.”

Glance at the speedo and take note of the kilometres this T950 has clocked up (and incidentally, those numbers are on their second lap) since it hit the road back in the early part of this century, and it’s testament to the quality of Australian built Kenworths. The doors open and shut just like a new truck. The interior is showroom condition, which in no small part is a credit to Craig’s meticulous attention to detail. Craig has added some personal bling to this T950 to give it a touch of class and it’s a regular participant at many of the Tasmanian truck shows.

Up front of the Kenworth T950 is a highly polished King Bars’ Warrego 4-post FUPD complete with ‘Oversize’ signs and covers, as well as a row of traditional and LED driving lights.

Craig says the life cycle of the Kenworth product is something that few if any other manufacturers can get close to. “I can park this next to a new T909 and looking at the two trucks it would be hard to pick which truck is almost 15 years old and has done over a million kilometres,” Craig said. “It just comes down to keeping on top of your maintenance and operating the equipment correctly. There’s no reason why we won’t get another 15 years out of this T950; sure we’ll have to rebuild the engine and re-race the transmission and diffs, but that’s just maintenance,” Craig added.

The Cummins under the hood punches out a healthy 600 horsepower and runs that through an Eaton 18-speed transmission and out to Meritor RT50-160GP axles all mounted on a Kenworth 6-rod rear end.


Photo: The immaculate interior gives a good indication of the care and upkeep of the rest of the truck.

When the Gen-II Signature engine was released it was said that the dual overhead cam design allowed Cummins engineers to optimise both engine and braking performance. It was suggested that one should look at the engine front on, from the timing cover, and note that the left-hand camshaft drives the high-pressure fuel injection system which is massively robust to handle pressures up to 2,380 bar (35,000 psi) for future emissions regulations. The right-hand camshaft operates the valves and drives the fuel pump that supplies the fuel rail. It also incorporates a set of lobes dedicated to operating the Intebrake, the fully integrated engine brake system.

This enables the engine to deliver more braking power than horsepower, without additional stress. According to the spec sheet these Signature engines retard at an awesome 600hp.

Craig agrees, citing the Cummins’ engine braking as the best he has ever experienced. “Operating in the hilly conditions around Tasmania and with the weights I’m towing, I need all the braking power I can get and the Cummins has plenty of that,” he says.

For Kenworth the T950 model was one of their most successful and popular models, so much so that when they released a limited edition production run of 75 units in 2015 they sold out in less than 24 hours.

The T950 with its set forward front axle was introduced in 1992 and originally modelled on the iconic SAR. It has everything that comes to mind when you think of a traditional American-style long bonneted truck.

As well as looking the part, the T950 was designed to operate in almost any application from heavy haulage to livestock to logging, whether pulling a single trailer or a triple road train.


Photo: Craig Wivell in front of his 15-year-old Kenworth T950. Craig believes there’s no reason it won’t do another decade and a half with well planned routine maintenance.

The truck’s high mounted cab set back from its engine meant there was no engine intrusion into the cabin, allowing for easy all round access to the engine and exceptional visibility over the sloping bonnet.

During its 15-year production run the T950 built up a considerable fan base and is remembered fondly with other legendary Kenworth classics like the W Model and SAR. In fact Slim Dusty immortalised the T950 in his song ‘Mechanised Swaggie’.

One question that is often asked: “if it was such a popular model, why was phased out in 2007?”

The arrival in 2008 of Cummins ISX and Signature engines with exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) systems to meet the ADR 80/02 emission standards demanded increased cooling capacity.

Increasing the size of the radiator on the T950 in a vertical direction basically turned it into a T904 that consequently evolved into a T908 for the 2008 model year. So the decision to phase out the T950 model was imminent.