STAND­ING THE TEST OF TIME

Owner Driver - - Contents #305 -

The Brown & Hur­ley deal­er­ship group has evolved and ex­celled since its found­ing year of 1946

Founded on the in­es­timable bonds of two life­long friends, the Brown & Hur­ley deal­er­ship group has evolved and ex­celled on a rare mix of ‘old school’ at­ti­tudes and sharp busi­ness prac­tice. But as gen­er­a­tions change, can the old ways sur­vive in a com­mer­cial world where profit al­most al­ways out­ranks prin­ci­ple? In this rare and personal in­sight, Steve Brooks heads to Brown & Hur­ley heart­land in Kyo­gle, north­ern NSW, to talk with re­tir­ing man­ag­ing di­rec­tors, Rob Brown and Kevin Hur­ley

On the wall in front of Kevin Hur­ley’s desk in Kyo­gle, there’s a large framed photo of his fa­ther sit­ting on a log in the bush. Dam­p­ened by rain, pan­nikin of tea in hand, it’s an im­age that cap­tures Jack Hur­ley to a tee. The la­conic wit and in­her­ent hu­mil­ity of a coun­try boy to the core. The won­der­ful sto­ry­teller and men­tor to many, blessed of a smile that was prob­a­bly glued on the day he was born. It’s all there, as if it was yes­ter­day. Even so, it’s a long way short of the full pic­ture. A real long way. For that, you need to look at an­other im­age. A grainy black and white photo of two young blokes in Army uni­form strid­ing pur­pose­fully along a Syd­ney street at the close of World War II. Funny thing, they even look like good mates. Jack’s on the right, that typ­i­cal wry grin on his face. On the left, four years younger, tall, lean, stoic and just the hint of a shy smile, is Alan Brown. He, too, is a coun­try boy but whereas Jack hails from the far north of the state, Alan comes from Cooma in the far south. No mat­ter, fate and war would span the dis­tance and make the in­tro­duc­tions.

Dif­fer­ent in many ways, so sim­i­lar in oth­ers, yet it was the dif­fer­ences that prob­a­bly strength­ened them most. Back at the time of that photo, though, two mo­tor me­chan­ics still wait­ing to

be dis­charged from an Army un­wind­ing from war, in a coun­try scarred by loss and racked by scarcity of just about ev­ery­thing ex­cept hope, it’s hard to imag­ine ei­ther young man had much idea of the road ahead be­yond a mud map in the mind.

Lit­tle idea, per­haps, that by 1946 they would set up shop in Kyo­gle, a small back­blocks town just south of the Queens­land bor­der, pool­ing their Army dis­charge pay and re­spec­tive me­chan­i­cal abil­i­ties to start a busi­ness. Log­i­cally enough, they called it Brown & Hur­ley. Fifty-fifty, right down the mid­dle, not that there was much on ei­ther side of the mid­dle for a lot of years.

Lit­tle idea, too, that like Jack’s mar­riage to Thelma and Alan’s to Lil, their mate­ship would mould like molten metal and last their long life­times, forg­ing pow­er­ful fam­ily bonds that would seep far be­yond busi­ness.

They would each have five chil­dren. For the Hur­leys, three boys and two girls, while the Browns would have four daugh­ters be­fore their only son ar­rived. Busy with life, it’d also be a fair bet that nei­ther Alan nor Jack had any idea that from this acorn of a busi­ness in Kyo­gle would grow such an ex­traor­di­nar­ily suc­cess­ful and wide­spread en­tity as the Brown & Hur­ley Group.

What­ever, these two en­ter­pris­ing men sim­ply continued to cob­ble a dour living from do­ing just about any­thing to keep the bat­tling busi­ness in busi­ness. Tough, re­silient, what­ever it took. Fix­ing things, making things, then sell­ing and ser­vic­ing things. Things like milk­ing ma­chines, rudi­men­tary chain­saws, cars, trucks (White, Ley­land and Al­bion) and trac­tors be­fore even­tu­ally, and lit­er­ally, mov­ing into the ‘big truck’ busi­ness in 1964, when Ken­worth’s Aus­tralian pa­tri­arch Ed­die Cameron of­fered a fran­chise in this bold new Amer­i­can truck.

De­trac­tors said it wouldn’t sell. Too dear. Too big. Say what they like but, for Brown & Hur­ley, an in­cred­i­ble fu­ture ar­rived the same year with the sale of its first Ken­worth to Doug Wy­ton of Toowoomba. The rest, as they say in the classics, is his­tory, and the two en­ti­ties – Brown & Hur­ley and Ken­worth – have been syn­ony­mous ever since, with each play­ing a huge and some­times crit­i­cal role in the evo­lu­tion of the other.

For the record, that same W-se­ries truck sold to Doug Wy­ton now lives loved and fully re­stored at Brown & Hur­ley in Kyo­gle, along­side a cou­ple of sim­i­larly revered an­tique Whites and a Ley­land Hippo. More­over, the year af­ter Ken­worth’s ar­rival at Kyo­gle, an­other fledg­ling brand ea­ger to build a home un­der the Aus­tralian sun joined the Brown & Hur­ley books: Volvo.

But that’s an­other story with a much dif­fer­ent out­come, seem­ingly de­ter­mined more by the cor­po­rate ide­al­ism and ar­ro­gance of a sin­gle Swede than any re­gard for a mu­tu­ally suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship that had spanned more than 30 years.

Living their dreams

Nowa­days, there’s not much to say that hasn’t al­ready been said or writ­ten about Alan Brown, Jack Hur­ley, and Brown & Hur­ley. In fact, for­mer long-serv­ing Paccar Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Wright prob­a­bly ex­pressed it best when, in 2006, he wrote: “This story is essen­tially the tale of two men who have lived their dreams. Through their ef­forts, and with the sup­port of their fam­i­lies and em­ploy­ees, the Brown & Hur­ley busi­ness has flour­ished and made a mag­nif­i­cent con­tri­bu­tion to long-dis­tance truck­ing in Aus­tralia.”

Flour­ished in­deed! Nowa­days, turnover fig­ures are kept con­fi­den­tial but, in the year be­fore An­drew Wright wrote those words, Brown & Hur­ley’s an­nual turnover had cracked $250 mil­lion. Not bad for a com­pany that started and op­er­ated for many years with barely a tup­pence of work­ing cap­i­tal.

Yet tough as those for­ma­tive years were, they were also the foun­da­tion for a grand fu­ture. From the start, Jack han­dled sales and Alan looked af­ter ser­vice. De­spite an orig­i­nal plan to swap roles every few years, they just stuck to what they did best. Noth­ing was done with­out the knowl­edge, sup­port and ab­so­lute trust of the other, and never, ever, would they budge from the val­ues of an un­wa­ver­ing work ethic, the in­grained prin­ci­ple of ‘a fair go’, and an un­mov­ing com­mit­ment to the cus­tomers and the Kyo­gle com­mu­nity that had backed them when few oth­ers would.

But times change. So, too, do gen­er­a­tions, and by the time Alan and Jack were ready to pull back to a qui­eter life as a new cen­tury crept closer, suc­ces­sion planning was well and truly fixed on the Brown & Hur­ley agenda. To any­one even re­motely close to the com­pany, it was ob­vi­ous that el­dest Hur­ley son, Jim, would take the op­er­a­tional reins with Alan’s only son, Rob, even­tu­ally shar­ing over­all man­age­ment of a busi­ness seem­ingly in a con­stant state of slow, me­thod­i­cal ex­pan­sion.

Fol­low­ing in fa­mil­ial foot­steps, Jim was the sales chief, Rob ran ser­vice and most ad­min­is­tra­tive roles, with the younger Hur­ley boys, Doug and Kevin, en­trenched in the growth of a busi­ness reach­ing far be­yond Kyo­gle. From any an­gle, the fu­ture was in very good hands and, in their quiet mo­ments to­gether, it’s easy to imag­ine a smil­ing nod of sat­is­fac­tion be­tween the two old mates who started it all. Never short of a one-liner, I once heard Jack say: “We all get re­pos­sessed even­tu­ally,” and true enough, in 2007, he passed away at the age of 91. In 2016, Alan died aged 94 years.

Their lives had been mag­nif­i­cently full and fruit­ful, and while an era may have passed, their legacy had spread far be­yond a small garage and me­chanic shop in a quiet coun­try town.

Gen­er­a­tional change

It’s a bright, balmy au­tumn morn­ing in Kyo­gle, on the aptly named Sum­mer­land Way. Kevin Hur­ley sits at his desk and, for a short while, as we wait for Rob Brown to ar­rive from Brown & Hur­ley’s mod­ern-day head­quar­ters at the busy Yatala deal­er­ship on Bris­bane’s eastern out­skirts, we talk about days now long gone. Days when Kyo­gle was more than just the historic home, when the truck busi­ness seemed busier in these parts, be­fore the ad­vent of B-dou­bles, and when many lessons could be learned chok­ing down a sal­mon sand­wich and billy of tea in the bush with Jack.

But much has changed. Heaps! For starters, the Brown & Hur­ley busi­ness to­day stretches far be­yond north­ern NSW, with Ken­worth and DAF deal­er­ships in Townsville, Rock­hamp­ton, Toowoomba, Ca­bool­ture, Darra and Yatala, in ad­di­tion to NSW out­lets in Kyo­gle, Coffs Har­bour and a ser­vice satel­lite in Tam­worth. All up, there are more than 400 em­ploy­ees and, with more than 2,000 cur­rent ac­counts on the books, about 30 per cent of all Ken­worth’s Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion is sold through Brown & Hur­ley.

On the other side of the Paccar fold, DAF cur­rently ac­counts for around 15 per cent of Brown & Hur­ley’s to­tal new truck sales but, as both Rob and Kevin would soon con­fi­dently sug­gest, the start of local as­sem­bly of DAF trucks at Paccar’s Bayswa­ter (Vic) fac­tory within the next few months will al­most cer­tainly create greater de­mand for the Dutch brand.

The goal, they say, is to even­tu­ally get to an 80-20 split in new truck sales – 80 per cent Ken­worth, 20 per cent DAF.

Look­ing back, while there’s no doubt Volvo’s de­ci­sion in the late ’90s to end its re­la­tion­ship with Brown & Hur­ley was ini­tially a bit­ter pill to swal­low, DAF nowa­days fills the void with in­creas­ing promi­nence. Soon enough, Rob ar­rives and the hu­mour and ease be­tween these two grad­u­ates of what Kevin jok­ingly de­scribes as ‘the uni­ver­sity of Kyo­gle’ is im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous.

“It has never been just a busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion,” Kevin ex­plains. “Our lives, our fam­i­lies, have al­ways been in­ter­twined, pri­vately and pro­fes­sion­ally. We’ve been close all our lives. That’s just the way it is. Al­ways has been.”

Yet for all the com­pany’s her­itage and suc­cess, age and evo­lu­tion were setting the scene for a new struc­ture.

Step­ping back

With the re­tire­ment of Jim and then Doug Hur­ley, Kevin moved up to work along­side Rob as joint man­ag­ing di­rec­tor. Main­tain­ing the tradition, Kevin looks af­ter the sales side while Rob con­tin­ues to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tive roles.

Now, with both on the cusp of turn­ing 60, they’ve de­cided it’s their time to step back and, by the end of June, Jim Hur­ley’s sons Paul and Tony will take over – Paul as chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and Tony the group sales man­ager’s role.

“You need younger peo­ple in busi­ness, prob­a­bly now more than ever.”

They will be fur­ther sup­ported by two ap­point­ments from out­side the com­pany to man­age parts, ser­vice and over­all ad­min­is­tra­tion, while man­age­ment of the bur­geon­ing trailer side of the busi­ness is now with Doug’s son, Dy­lan Hur­ley.

They’re all the right moves at the right time, ac­cord­ing to Rob and Kevin.

“We be­lieve Paul’s the sort of per­son we need for the CEO po­si­tion to take the com­pany for­ward, some­one who’s prob­a­bly more busi­ness ori­ented,” Rob en­thused, declar­ing with a broad grin that he finds the lan­guage and tech­nol­ogy of mod­ern busi­ness prac­tice a con­stant chal­lenge.

Rob will, how­ever, re­main chair­man of a board con­sist­ing of Jim, Doug and Kevin Hur­ley, as well as John Casey, for­merly the Brown & Hur­ley Group’s ac­coun­tant for many years.

“That’s how it’ll stay for the fore­see­able fu­ture,” Rob says, adding that Paul and Tony cer­tainly won’t be short of ad­vice or guid­ance if it’s needed.

Like­wise, Kevin was quick to shore up con­fi­dence in Paul and Tony, both now in their early 50s with long back­grounds in the op­er­a­tional sides of the com­pany.

“We’re step­ping back from day-to-day op­er­a­tions but we’ll still be there to bounce things around,” Kevin says, quickly adding with a wide grin: “But I’ll be hang­ing onto my or­der book just in case some­one wants a truck.”

On a more se­ri­ous note: “Some of our cus­tomers are our best friends, so nei­ther Rob nor I can just walk away. There needs to be a tran­si­tion pe­riod but, then, noth­ing grows in the shade and they [Paul and Tony] need to stand in the sun.

“Even so, we’ll con­tinue to be there just like we had the sup­port of Jack and Alan, Jim and Doug. It’s about all of us.”

“We see some of our cus­tomers do­ing the same, grad­u­ally hand­ing over their busi­ness to a younger gen­er­a­tion,” Rob notes.

“You need younger peo­ple in busi­ness, prob­a­bly now more than ever, and we just think it’s time for us to make way for peo­ple com­ing for­ward.”

“Be­sides,” Kevin says thought­fully, “if peo­ple don’t see a suc­ces­sion, like if Rob and I stayed here ‘til we’re 70 or what­ever, then you start los­ing good peo­ple in­side the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­cause they start think­ing there’s no place for them to step up to.”

On the ob­ser­va­tion that there are nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples where the third gen­er­a­tion of a busi­ness, even dy­nas­ties, has sent fam­ily for­tunes to the floor – the adage be­ing that what the first gen­er­a­tion cre­ates and the sec­ond builds, the third wastes – Rob Brown and Kevin Hur­ley hold no fears.

“There are no guar­an­tees in any busi­ness,” Rob com­ments, “but suc­ces­sion planning has been a big thing with us for the past seven or eight years, might even be 10 years.

“What­ever, it has been a gen­eral dis­cus­sion point in our board meet­ings for a long time.”

Re­flect­ing for a few mo­ments, he con­tin­ues: “It’s not usual to have two fam­i­lies suc­ceed in the one busi­ness for such a long time, par­tic­u­larly for mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions, and I’ve al­ways put it down to the fact we’re rea­son­able peo­ple.

“We ex­pect each per­son to do their role, we don’t cross over too much, and we in­vest a lot of our money back into the busi­ness. We are very much like-minded and very much for the ad­vance­ment of the com­pany and the prod­uct.”

Again, he’s quiet for a few mo­ments. “I firmly be­lieve an in­te­gral part of our suc­cess, one of the great strengths of our com­pany, is that there have al­ways been two peo­ple at the top. It started with Alan and Jack, and has continued on from there.

“To go with that, you can’t have prima don­nas run­ning the place … you have to be pre­pared to lis­ten and take se­ri­ous any­thing that’s added to an

idea or a con­ver­sa­tion. We might look at each other and say ‘you’ve had bet­ter ideas’, but we al­ways lis­ten,” he em­pha­sises.

Asked about dis­agree­ments, Rob seems mo­men­tar­ily stumped, say­ing sim­ply: “Very rarely.”

Kevin laughs: “Dis­agree­ment is a strong word.” Still, while both men con­cede that joint man­ag­ing di­rec­tors in some com­pa­nies can end up like two bulls in the same pad­dock, it has never been the case at Brown & Hur­ley.

“We dis­cuss ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one has an opin­ion,” Kevin ex­plains.

“That’s nat­u­ral and normal. But you’ve got to see the other bloke’s point of view and I hon­estly don’t think we’ve ever had a de­ci­sion that wasn’t unan­i­mous once we’d dis­cussed it. We might’ve mas­saged it a bit from the orig­i­nal but it ends up unan­i­mous.”

There’s a bla­tant bond be­tween these two that runs deep. In com­ment and char­ac­ter, their fathers never seem too far re­moved and it’s a def­i­nite Kevin Hur­ley who con­tends: “The most im­por­tant thing is leav­ing your ego at the door. We get a wage like ev­ery­one else and we treat the busi­ness as some­thing that has been gifted by our par­ents.

“It’s some­thing that has to be looked af­ter. Our par­ents did all the hard yards and we have a great re­spon­si­bil­ity to ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially our em­ploy­ees, to keep it go­ing.”

“We’re very lucky,” Rob adds earnestly. “We have a great prod­uct, we live in a great coun­try that needs trans­port, and we had great men­tors in our fathers.

“Yes, they were dif­fer­ent but were also very much alike. They both had re­spect for other peo­ple, they had great morals, they loved a beer, they loved a laugh, and they both told re­ally good jokes.

“Brown or Hur­ley, it doesn’t mat­ter. We all have so much to be grate­ful for and we all work to the same prin­ci­ples,” Rob says.

Quiet for a few mo­ments, he adds can­didly: “That’s why I think our big­gest chal­lenge as we grow is to main­tain the prin­ci­ples and re­la­tion­ships we have with our sup­pli­ers, our staff, our cus­tomers. It’s about main­tain­ing the things that have made us suc­cess­ful.”

But in the mod­ern world, prin­ci­ples can seem old and out­dated as the pas­sion for profit con­sumes all sem­blance of ‘a fair go’.

The Royal Com­mis­sion into the shame­ful prac­tices of the bank­ing and finance in­dus­tries, for ex­am­ple. Dis­grace­ful!

Even so, it’s a pas­sion­ate Rob Brown who fires back: “I cer­tainly don’t be­lieve prin­ci­ples are out of date. At least, not ours.

“Treat­ing peo­ple as you would like to be treated. To be fair and hon­est in all busi­ness deal­ings. Giv­ing the cus­tomer the ben­e­fit of the doubt even when it mightn’t be to­tally de­served.

“How can those things be out of date? They’re the things that make any busi­ness suc­cess­ful.

“You only have to look at a lot of the busi­nesses we deal with. They’re of­ten fam­ily com­pa­nies.

“They all have sim­i­lar sorts of ideals, and the ones who don’t sub­scribe to fair­ness and hon­esty usu­ally don’t sur­vive.”

So the Brown & Hur­ley prin­ci­ples of the past will be the prin­ci­ples of to­day and to­mor­row?

“Ab­so­lutely,” Rob an­swers. Quiet for some time, Kevin says em­phat­i­cally: “We had these things handed down by our par­ents and we take them very se­ri­ously. The ba­sis of the busi­ness is cus­tomer ser­vice. That’s our first fo­cus. It’s what Brown & Hur­ley is built on.”

The pride is al­most pal­pa­ble but, as Rob Brown cau­tions: “Pride is a word with many con­no­ta­tions and one of those is that it can lead to things like ar­ro­gance. You need to be very care­ful not to fall into that trap.

“I’ve seen too many peo­ple in busi­ness who thought they knew ev­ery­thing, and most of them aren’t in busi­ness any more. Pride doesn’t give you the right to think you’re bet­ter than any­one else.”

Ken­worth and Cum­mins

No dis­cus­sion on Brown & Hur­ley would, of course, be com­plete with­out talk turn­ing to Ken­worth. Strangely, though, Ken­worth didn’t come much into the con­ver­sa­tion un­til Kevin and Rob were asked if Brown & Hur­ley would be nearly as suc­cess­ful if it wasn’t for that first fran­chise of­fer from Ed­die Cameron in 1964.

“Prob­a­bly not,” Rob replies af­ter a few thought­ful mo­ments, “but with­out try­ing to sound boast­ful, we think that, over the years, we’ve had a fair in­flu­ence on the prod­uct in Aus­tralia as well.

“We’ve all worked closely with Ken­worth and, to their credit, they’ve al­ways been re­cep­tive.”

On the sug­ges­tion that much of Brown & Hur­ley’s as­cen­sion with Ken­worth can be chan­nelled back to An­drew Wright’s long reign as Paccar Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and the as­so­ci­a­tion with, ar­guably, his two great­est men­tors, Alan Brown and Jack Hur­ley, it’s a thought­ful Kevin Hur­ley who ul­ti­mately an­swers.

“No doubt, An­drew was very close to Alan and Dad, and I think the ex­change in ideas was ben­e­fi­cial on both sides of the fence,” he says. “It has al­ways been a two-way street, and we all definitely learned a lot from An­drew about the Paccar way of do­ing busi­ness.

“It’s a great part­ner­ship with Paccar, no ques­tion. We’ve cer­tainly grown to­gether and it’s very com­fort­ing for a dealer like us, with all its eggs in one bas­ket, and for our cus­tomers, that they con­tinue to in­vest and are ob­vi­ously com­mit­ted to this coun­try.”

Like­wise, it’s an adamant Kevin Hur­ley who in­sists the prod­uct has never been bet­ter than it is to­day, cit­ing the suc­cess of the K200 in par­tic­u­lar, and the early per­for­mance and mar­ket ac­cep­tance of the new T610 model, as proof of the engi­neer­ing and pro­duc­tion qual­ity is­su­ing from Ken­worth’s Bayswa­ter (Vic) fac­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to both men, the in­tro­duc­tion of more new mod­els over the next year or so is cause for even greater con­fi­dence in the mar­ket-lead­ing brand. Still, they also agree the price fac­tor is al­ways part of the Ken­worth equa­tion – yet not al­ways eas­ily ex­plained to any­one new to the brand.

Ever the sales­man, Kevin ex­plains: “The hard part is get­ting peo­ple to ac­cept the over­all cost of own­er­ship rather than the pur­chase price. Peo­ple usu­ally have to run a Ken­worth for some time be­fore they re­alise that.”

How­ever, it’s a res­o­lute Rob Brown who quickly points out: “The Ken­worth prod­uct in Aus­tralia is very un­usual in that it is the most ex­pen­sive, yet it’s the [heavy-duty] mar­ket leader. There are very few other products in al­most any in­dus­try that fit that cat­e­gory.”

But when times turn, tough, high price is a par­tic­u­larly hard sell, and per­haps never harder for Ken­worth or any of its deal­ers and cus­tomers than when the 15-litre Cum­mins EGR en­gine started its well-doc­u­mented dra­mas across the coun­try.

Rob Brown and Kevin Hur­ley ac­tu­ally winced when asked: “So how dif­fi­cult was the EGR era?”

Af­ter a cou­ple of awk­ward glances across the desk, Kevin spoke first: “EGR cer­tainly had its prob­lems but, to its great credit, Cum­mins never gave up work­ing on it and to­day it’s a rea­son­able prod­uct that we can sell sec­ond-hand.

“But yes, that EGR pe­riod was a com­mer­cially dif­fi­cult time. We’ve built our busi­ness on cus­tomers who have stood by us, so while the last thing we needed was an­other EGR trade-in, we had to stand by those cus­tomers when things went wrong.

“The mar­ket was in a slump and there were all these prob­lems with EGR. It wasn’t a good time, that’s for sure.”

Still, the cus­tomer had to come first. It was, Kevin re­flects, sim­ply a time to fol­low his fa­ther’s ad­vice to a young Len Roberts, who would go on to man­age the Townsville branch for decades.

Tak­ing his shoes off and putting them on Len’s desk, Jack says sim­ply: “All I want you to do is put your feet into your cus­tomers’ shoes and ev­ery­thing will be okay.”

Yet de­spite the is­sues with EGR, both Kevin and Rob hold Cum­mins in par­tic­u­larly high es­teem.

“Cum­mins stood by its prod­uct and did an ex­cel­lent job of back­ing it up,” Rob re­marks. “That’s why they’re such a good sup­plier for us. In our ex­pe­ri­ence, they never walk away from is­sues and, while EGR prob­lems would’ve cost them an aw­ful lot of money, they stood with their cus­tomers and did what they had to do.”

For­tu­nately, the cur­rent X15 SCR en­gine is do­ing a fine job of bury­ing the past, Kevin as­serts, de­liv­er­ing fuel and re­li­a­bil­ity ben­e­fits equal to any in the busi­ness. How­ever, with new Ken­worth mod­els in the wings, is there scope for the much dis­cussed Cum­mins X12 en­gine?

There’s no ques­tion tri­als of the light and lively X12 have many op­er­a­tors keen to put it to work but, right at the mo­ment, there ap­pears lit­tle like­li­hood of the smaller Cum­mins be­ing of­fered in up­com­ing Ken­worth mod­els – ei­ther the highly an­tic­i­pated T410 or its lit­tle brother, the T360.

Af­ter all, in the T410 par­tic­u­larly, the X12 would be a chal­lenger to Paccar’s own MX-13 en­gine. How­ever, like many of their cus­tomers, Rob and Kevin Hur­ley can’t hide their en­thu­si­asm for the 12-litre Cum­mins.

“Any ad­di­tional of­fer­ing or op­tion in the mar­ket has to be a good thing,” Rob says. “Paccar’s job is to sell trucks, so if there are enough cus­tomers want­ing a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct, well, surely it’s about meet­ing the cus­tomer’s needs.”

As for the con­test be­tween Cum­mins and Paccar’s MX, Rob sim­ply harks back to a time when we sold three en­gine brands [Cat, Cum­mins and Detroit].”

“There are a lot of cus­tomers,” Kevin chimes in, “who also have a very close as­so­ci­a­tion with Cum­mins and there’s no doubt they’d pre­fer a Cum­mins prod­uct if it was avail­able. It’s the mar­ket that should de­ter­mine if it hap­pens or not.”

More to the point, a suc­cinct Rob Brown con­cludes: “It’s not a good thing to dic­tate to cus­tomers what they should or should not buy.”

Time had trav­elled fast and the con­ver­sa­tion in Kevin Hur­ley’s of­fice over a few hours had cer­tainly cov­ered plenty of ground, not all of it about trucks but all of it pas­sion­ate and, at times, pro­found. Ev­ery­thing from gen­der equal­ity to the short­age of skilled peo­ple in an in­dus­try des­per­ate for pro­fes­sion­als, the value of ex­ten­sive in­vest­ment in ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams and train­ing fa­cil­i­ties, the qual­i­ties that make some brands and some ex­ec­u­tives more suc­cess­ful than oth­ers, and, sadly, what­ever fate­ful event in Rob Brown’s life causes him to wear a ma­roon jumper at cer­tain times of the year. At the heart of it all, though, were the her­itage and the ex­am­ple of their fathers, even down to what they each have in store for this next stage of life.

Says Rob: “I reckon there are two sorts of peo­ple who re­tire: the sort who go home, sit on the lounge, watch TV and die, and those who look back and say: ‘How’d I ever find time to go to work?’ I have a boat. A boat with a big diesel en­gine, and I don’t watch much TV.”

For Kevin: “Well, I plan to do a bit of trav­el­ling with (wife) Colleen but if I get bored, I’ll think about what Dad said when some­one asked him about re­tire­ment: ‘I tried that but I’d rather come to work and give or­ders than stay at home tak­ing them.’

“That’ll do. You wanna cuppa?”

“It is the most ex­pen­sive, yet it’s the [heavy­duty] mar­ket leader.”

Above: Kevin Hur­ley (left) and Rob Brown. Time to hand the reins to the next gen­er­a­tion

Right: Mates for life. Alan Brown (left) and Jack Hur­ley at the close of World War IIBe­low: Left to right – Alan and Lil Brown, Thelma and Jack Hur­ley. If friends can be fam­ily, this was itOp­po­site top: First of many. Loved and lov­ingly re­stored at home in Kyo­gle, the W-se­ries Ken­worth sold in 1964 to Doug Wy­ton of ToowoombaOp­po­site be­low: Rob Brown on DAF. The long-term goal is to take the Dutch truck to 20 per cent of all Brown & Hur­ley sales. A task sure to be made eas­ier by Paccar’s de­ci­sion to as­sem­ble in Aus­tralia

Top: Kevin Hur­ley. Adamant that the cur­rent Ken­worth prod­uct range has never been bet­ter. Be­hind him, a new T610 SAR

Above: Close al­lies, good friends. Jack Hur­ley and for­mer Paccar Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew WrightOp­po­site top: In­side the Kyo­gle ser­vice area, a new K200 be­ing pre­pared for de­liv­ery to long­time Brown & Hur­ley cus­tomer Wick­ham Freight­lines. It’s the 14,000th Ken­worth sold by Brown & Hur­ley and the 250th bought by Wick­hamsOp­po­site be­low: From 2005, a rare shot of the Brown and Hur­ley men dressed to im­press. From left to right – Doug Hur­ley, Rob Brown, Alan Brown, Jack Hur­ley, Jim Hur­ley, Kevin Hur­ley

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