Robby Votino de­fied the ‘no ex­pe­ri­ence, no job’ malaise per­vad­ing the Aus­tralian truck­ing in­dus­try, head­ing to the mines where he ob­tained his road train li­cence. Now he’s a suc­cess­ful owner-driver. Peter and Di Sch­lenk write

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver -

ROBBY VOTINO is very par­tic­u­lar with his equip­ment for a cou­ple of good rea­sons. Firstly, he bought his Ken­worth T359 brand new. Sec­ondly, he’s look­ing at the well-cared-for rig to see him out to re­tire­ment.

“I’m very fussy with my gear be­cause this is my as­set,” Robby states. “With­out the truck on the road I’m not mak­ing money.”

Robby says his other vi­tal as­set in his owner-driver busi­ness is his wife Clau­dia, who not only looks af­ter the books, but helps clean the truck as well. He also re­ceives great sup­port from his two daugh­ters Stephanie and Daniella.

Sub­con­tract­ing to Bo­ral, he carts as­phalt and quarry prod­ucts with a cou­ple of Hamelex White tip­pers.

He says he en­joys the work and the op­por­tu­nity to meet new peo­ple.

Robby had been out of the tip­per game for a while, sell­ing his pre­vi­ous truck six years ago and spend­ing time in the min­ing sec­tor.

A diesel fit­ter by trade, Robby first be­gan work­ing for Hal­libur­ton in the Cooper Basin for nine years af­ter com­plet­ing his ap­pren­tice­ship, firstly as a diesel me­chanic/truck driver and then as a blender op­er­a­tor.

“When I fin­ished my trade I went for my semi li­cence but was un­able to get a driv­ing job be­cause of hav­ing no ex­pe­ri­ence. So I got a job with Hal­libur­ton do­ing fly in/fly out in the Moomba gas fields.”

That was in 1996, when he drove his first Ken­worth, a C500. Dur­ing his time at Moomba, Hal­libur­ton bought a fleet of Ken­worth T950s.

“I got my road train ticket with Hal­libur­ton as an op­er­a­tor on hydraulic frack­ing and we would need to move up to 15 trail­ers each setup and op­er­a­tion. The road trains cut down the trips.

“They put us through our road train tick­ets – that was great. It was good ex­pe­ri­ence.

“The com­pany was able to cut the trav­el­ling time in half when mov­ing equip­ment from point A to point B.”

Robby left Hal­libur­ton in 2003 when Clau­dia fell preg­nant.

He bought a truck, an old Ford LTS 4000, which he used to work on as an ap­pren­tice me­chanic.

He found work with the Ford in a sand and metal yard.

“That’s how I got into the busi­ness,” he ex­plains. “I had a lot of break­downs with the old Ford so I de­cided to go new.

“I’d seen the T350s on ag­i­ta­tors so I went down to Ken­worth and looked at the brochure. I just thought ‘wow’!”

The re­sult was a T350 tan­dem tip­per. Robby later bought him­self a lit­tle 2-axle pig trailer from Ade­laide­based spe­cialised trans­port equip­ment man­u­fac­turer Barry Stood­ley.

“It was only a 300hp C10 and was un­der­pow­ered with the trailer, so I sold that and bought another one with a Cat C12 with a bit more horse­power,” he says.

Robby kept the Ken­worth for six years un­til re­turn­ing to min­ing.

“I de­cided to sell the truck and move on. I was try­ing to get out in iron ore for a long time and fi­nally got in there with help from a good mate.”

Up in Kar­ratha, Robby was work­ing two weeks on, one week off; one week day shift, one week night shift, and then home for a week.

“It was a good ex­pe­ri­ence,” he re­calls. “At the end of the day, be­cause you are putting in the hours, it’s very fa­tigu­ing and you need the week home to re­cover.

“I prob­a­bly got in at the end of the iron ore boom but it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause most of my min­ing ex­pe­ri­ence had been in oil and gas.”

How­ever, Robby never thought he’d get back into the tip­per in­dus­try, al­ways be­liev­ing he’d re­tire af­ter his ca­reer in min­ing.

“With the fam­ily, I was af­ter job se­cu­rity, so you go back to what you know,” he says.

“I knew I was go­ing to buy another Ken­worth. I know they work, their re­li­a­bil­ity, they are cheap to main­tain, but I priced up three other trucks as well.”

Robby had three quotes from dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers but the T359 ticked all the right boxes.

“It had a light tare weight of 9.6tonne, ex­cel­lent vis­i­bil­ity, and it was an ex­tremely com­fort­able and easy truck to drive.”

Robby’s three Ken­worths have been bought through CMV in Ade­laide, each time deal­ing with sales­man Bob Malusa.

“Bob and I have ac­tu­ally be­come good friends; I have a lot of re­spect for him and his fam­ily.”

The T359 has a 440hp Cummins ISMe5 cou­pled to a Fuller 18-speed Ul­traShift Plus on Ken­worth Air­glide 460 rear sus­pen­sion.

“All of my trucks have been au­tos; for around town you just can’t beat them,” Robby says. “The tech­nol­ogy is so good. This one doesn’t have a clutch and I tell you it is amaz­ing.”

Another fac­tor that im­presses Robby is that the T359 comes with en­gine brake and cruise con­trol on the steer­ing wheel.

“They have come a long way since the T350,” he con­tin­ues. “The fin­ish inside the cab is beau­ti­ful; there’s gold trim­ming around the gauges and I cus­tom built this with black in­te­rior.

“The grab han­dles in the cab are great and there is no ef­fort re­quired to get into the cab. The steps are wide and easy to ne­go­ti­ate.”

Robby worked as a diesel me­chanic for Cummins in Kar­ratha so it made sense to have Cummins in the new truck.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful lit­tle en­gine, great on fuel and not as noisy. It does a great job and pulls up the Ade­laide Hills with­out a prob­lem.”

“I can go up the Mt Barker free­way in 12th fully loaded, but I go up in ninth and then gear-drop the revs to 1500 and get bet­ter fuel con­sump­tion.”

Robby loves how Ken­worth trucks can be cus­tom built to his needs.

“The re­sale on th­ese is great, you can’t beat them,” he smiles.

“But I know that this truck would see me through to re­tire­ment – and I’m only 43.”

“You go back to what you know”

Robby bought his Ken­worth T359 brand new, which he in­tends to keep for the long haul

Robby Votino along­side his Hamelex White trail­ers

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