HIGH COUNTRY HAULIER
Josh Riley is relishing the task of driving the family business’s latest acquisition around East Gippsland – a new Kenworth T909, write Peter and Di Schlenk
RILEY EARTHMOVING, based in Clifton Creek, Victoria, has been around since the late 1960s and, although the focus is on heavy machinery, its fleet of three Kenworth trucks is indispensable to the business.
Decades separate the trio of Kenworths, from a 24-year-old T909 to a 2007 T350 and the latest addition, a new T909.
According to Josh Riley, the T909 is a world away from the Leyland Hippo his company used to pull a tri-axle float to move its machinery. Nowadays, Riley Earthmoving boasts a diverse range of earthmoving equipment, not to mention 15 staff.
Josh is the T909’s driver, the Kenworth having a 5.85m wheelbase, an 18-speed gearbox and a Cummins Euro 5 engine set at 600hp. Josh says he’s happy enough with the Cummins, but would have preferred a Cat under the bonnet.
“We have a lot of Cat gear and we shed a tear when they stopped putting them in,” Josh says.
“The Cummins is not too bad, a lot better than the EGRs anyway.”
Josh says the first thing that struck him about the T909 was the space inside the cab.
“Until you sit in both Kenworths, you don’t realise just how much roomier and bigger the T909’s cab is over the T900,” he said. “And the dash layout has changed with the T909 having a smart steering wheel and no radios or controls above the windscreen.”
The T909 has been spec’ed up with Kenworth’s IT sleeper that comes in handy as its used its float to move gear throughout different areas in Australia.
“We move a fair bit of machinery in our local area and also a lot down to Melbourne and back, but some goes further afield, so having a bed for the occasional sleep is great,” Josh explains.
“I wouldn’t want to have to use it every night, but for the odd occasion it does the job.
“And doing a trip away breaks things up a bit; it’s a nice change.”
The new Kenworth is fitted with a quick-release system tipping body, so Josh can change it over for a turntable to pull the company’s quad-axle float.
Josh’s grandparents, Cyril and Heather Riley founded the business in 1964, starting off with bulldozers, clearing land for roads and building dams.
“We’re still doing the same work today,” Josh grins.
There’s a reminder of the company’s origins in the form of an old Terex water scraper that sits in the yard. Today the scrapers have been replaced with dump trucks and excavators. Its largest bulldozer is a Caterpillar D8.
“We’re very versatile in what we can do,” says Josh.
Josh’s father Danny joined the business in 1986, while his uncle Peter started in 1982. Hence Josh and his cousin James are the third generation of Rileys to be involved. Peter’s other son Ashley was the main truck driver with a strong passion for trucks and earthmoving, but he sadly passed away in April 2013.
“There’s not a day that goes by where we do not miss him,” Josh says.
One of Ashley’s lifelong dreams was for the business to have a brand-new truck. The T909 has posthumously fulfilled his dream.
Josh himself began working for Riley Earthmoving soon after leaving school, starting at first on the heavy machinery. A few years later, with his heavy-vehicle licence, he was driving an R model Mack. “That wasn’t my favourite truck; it only had a coolpower with 320hp. It was hard work,” he recalls.
The R-model was followed by a near new T900, the same one still in Riley’s fleet today, although it’s had a new C15 Cat fitted along the way.
“It is still earning its keep,” Josh smiles. “The old girl is paying for the new trucks.”
He says the T900 will soon be
temporarily off the road to get refurbished and repainted.
“After the great run we’ve enjoyed with it, there was no choice but a Kenworth for the new truck.”
Meanwhile, Riley’s T350’s regular day is spent pulling a quad dog.
“You can’t underestimate the little Kenworth,” Josh says. “It’s a great truck, but pulling the quad dog is a bit ambitious. It probably needs a super dog and that would suit it down to the ground.”
Meanwhile, the new T909 is pulling a Kennedy quad-axle Ejekta trailer. With a lot of Riley’s work in Victoria’s high country and in places where flat areas are rare, operating a trailer that doesn’t need to tip up is a big benefit.
“Kennedy Trailers have made a few of these and it does open up the possibilities as to where you can deliver your load,” Josh says.
“With the hydraulic ram, the load is simply pushed out. The rear tailgate has a hydraulically operated bottom guard that holds the main door shut but keeps the load away from the rear of the trailer when unloading.”
The T909 and Ejekta trailer combo are working well, opening up the possibility of Riley’s adding an identical setup to its fleet.
Josh says that although the trucks may not accumulate many kilometres, they’re doing the hard yards. The mild winter has also meant the work has kept coming. “With our earthmoving and trucks, we’re flat out six or seven days a week.”
Despite this, Josh keeps the new truck looking sharp. So good that he spent days cleaning and polishing it before this year’s Alexandra Truck, Ute and Rod Show. It was the first show outing for the T909, and Josh is keen to take part in more events. He may even bring along the T900 as well, once it’s had a workover.
“When you buy something like our 909, it’s nice to polish them up and bring them back to top condition,” he says. “Especially, when they have our family name on them.”
“The old girl is paying for the new trucks.”
Two of three Kenworths in the Riley Earthmoving fleet
Josh Riley with wife Pippa and daughter Bella
The new Kenworth T909 (right) alongside the 24-year-old T900
Kennedy Trailers’ quad-axle Ejecta