Chris Penfold’s award-winning 1998 International Transtar holds great sentimental value for the long-time owner driver, writes Steve Skinner
Not many truckies get to operate the same truck their father drove. Chris Penfold is one of those, so needless to say he is extremely proud of his hard-working steed, and it shows.
Chris and his 1998 International Transtar won in the Best Owner-Driver category at this year’s Penrith Working Truck Show in NSW.
Helping out with the polishing duties was Chris’s 16-year-old son Hayden, who is shaping up as the third generation of Penfolds to drive this impressive rig.
Hayden is an apprentice diesel mechanic in the pair’s home region of Newcastle, and Chris reckons becoming an owner driver “is all he wants to do” one day.
Hayden was driving around Australia in trucks with Chris as a toddler, and his two older sisters also enjoyed plenty of road trips with their Dad when they were younger.
TRIED AND TRUE
The Transtar 4700 has a 12.7-litre Detroit rated at 500hp (368kW), with an 18-speed Roadranger of course. It’s clocked up around 2 million kilometres all around Australia, with a rebuild at the 1.1 million km mark. The Transtar was originally operated by Chris’s father and lifetime truckie Dennis, who bought it second-hand in 2004.
Chris’s mother Judy often travelled with Dennis, and evidence of that is a retrofitted hand-grip rail on the passenger side of the truck. Dennis put that in after Judy fell out of the truck in Cairns and broke her back.
Chris bought the truck from his parents in 2010, and retained the D&J Transport company name.
He carts steel, general freight and pallets with his own 24-space, 47-foot 1980 Fruehauf trailer.
He’s planning to upgrade to a newer trailer with air bag suspension, Alcoa rims and three-way pins for container cartage.
The Transtar is B-double rated, but Chris says he hardly ever uses that rating.
“I’ve always had the opinion that B-doubles are the thing that killed us really,” he laments.
“If you’ve got the job to do it, especially running west across to Adelaide or Perth or if you’re
running right up north and you’ve got the freight for it coming back, by all means.
“But 90 per cent of the work I do is single. A B-double is a pain in the arse for me, unhooking, re-hooking, watching where you go, all your limits, all the bullshit.
“You’re running 12 extra tyres and six extra brakes; you’re getting 4 to 500,000 kilometres out of a rebuild as opposed to 6,8, a million kilometres out of it; and then you’re down on fuel.
“You’re pulling the guts out of the truck, you’re wearing the truck out. There’s so much more you have to factor in cost-wise with a B-double … I think that you’re pulling that front trailer around for free.”
Chris says he tries to achieve about $2.50 a kilometre for his truck and trailer, with himself as the driver – and that’s both ways, or at least to where he’s picking up the next load. He shakes his head at the ridiculous undercutting and backload rates which are going on out there.
“Whatever gets thrown at me, I put a price on it, and if I win it I win it, if I don’t I don’t,” says
Chris philosophically. “If I don’t win that job and someone takes it off me, best of British luck to them.
“I own the gear so I’m not compelled to be out every night of the week to pay a truck off.”
Chris saves a lot of money by doing “90 per cent” of the truck’s maintenance with Hayden, including bearings, brake linings and tyre rotations.
“He’s been my grease monkey since he was about six years old, and my spanner man.”
“It’s beautiful to drive,” says Chris of his truck. “It steers as good as an old W model (Kenworth) or Heritage Western Star. To this day the doors don’t rattle; nothing squeaks or bangs. The KAB seat is the original. It pulls really well,” Chris adds. “I can keep up with trucks that are 550 horsepower no problem at all.”
But with no vents and just a small fan in the bunk, Chris plans to fork out about $6,000 for an air conditioner before next summer.
He plans to keep rebuilding the old Inter “whileever she doesn’t rust out” – and with a galvanised cab, that could be a while.
B-doubles are the thing that killed us really.
1. Stylish worker: Chris
2. Father and son at the Penrith Truck Show: Chris and Hayden Penfold.
3. A lot of polish has gone into those guards for the Penrith Truck Show.
4. Lots of wood inside the cab. 5. A tribute to Chris’s Mum