TO STAND

In Tests, Kenworth, March 202144 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineApril 21, 2021

TO STAND


Forget the logs they‘ve hauled; if you had a dollar for every time a Bennett opened the door of a log truck and climbed in, you‘d more than likely make the rich list. Kane Bennett is the latest generation of this esteemed Bay of Plenty log hauling and trucking family. He recently took delivery of ‘Tumai‘, the truck with which he will write the next chapter in the family‘s story.


He‘s like his Uncle Wayne, eh?” reflects Russell Bennett, and for an instant, you can see in his eyes that memories of his late brother Wayne fill his heart and mind. “A thinker. He thinks about things, won‘t say much, takes it in. But he knows what he wants, and he backs himself. Yeah, he‘s more like Wayne than me, really.” Then he bursts into laughter, “I just shoot from the lip. “Na, but that truck‘s bloody nice. It‘s a beautiful machine; he‘s done well. We‘re proud of him.” ‘He‘ is Russell and Tina Bennett‘s son Kane. One of the current generation of Bennetts in the famous Bay of Plenty trucking family. Then, of course, there‘s Uncle Murray, equally as well-known as his brothers in the New Zealand truck driving scene; he‘s here with us also, pouring over photos, laughing, and reminiscing.


Photo: Cathedral of cool.

The reason we‘ve all come together isn‘t here; it‘s parked all by itself down the road in RMD‘s Mount Maunganui yard on Aerodrome Road. It‘s Kane‘s brand-new Kenworth T909 6×4 log truck and equally brand-spanking Koromiko Low-Boy four-axle log trailer. An absolute Kiwi classic in terms of log truck configuration and brands. Like all Bennett-owned machines, it‘s more than just a truck; it‘s the next intergenerational symbol. Its name ‘Tumai‘, drawn from Kane‘s grandfather and Uncle Wayne, means ‘to stand‘, and there‘s a dedication to Wayne on both air cleaners. “Yeah, it‘s all come together as I‘d hoped,” says Kane. “The culmination of a dream, I guess, dedicated to Uncle Wayne, the next truck in the family line, and having it blessed by Tipi Oholson before it went on the road, that was a really special moment.” Yes, he is a thinker.


Photo: Typical narrow rural access road.

Let‘s go loggin‘
Bennett trucks are working trucks. There‘s no room for excess technological dross hanging from machines that purport to enhance efficiency and productivity yet may end up the reason you‘re stranded on the roadside somewhere. It takes a lot of ‘efficiency‘ to make up for a lost load or two and a repair call-out. Put logs on trucks, and get them to where they need to go, driving so the truck lasts a long time — that means steady and safe. Press ‘Repeat‘. It‘s as simple as that. We meet Kane and Tumai at RMD‘s yard at a most respectable 8.00am. “G‘day,” Kane says as he appears from around the corner of the bonnet and extends a hand. “I was up until late giving it a polish, hoping this weather would be kind to us.” Tumai is a visual festival, eye candy in the extreme. The T909 Kenworth is a big machine, and as we said in last year‘s ‘Truck of the Decades‘ competition, it is the current baton holder of the traditional classic squarebonnet W-Model look … and we have to say it does indeed carry the baton well. It‘s high, commanding frontal presence came about for reasons of cooling requirements in the EGR era. Interestingly, the modern Cummins family would be quite happy behind a smaller frontal area as SCR systems don‘t get quite so hot under the collar. That‘s essentially what has allowed Kenworth‘s heritage series trucks to come about. In we get and as Kane sorts the administration, we find where everything we want to take along for the ride can happily sit.

It‘s an amazing job, this one, when you think from month to month how much our world changes. Jarrod in the November IVECO X-Way, Owen in the Christmas edition‘s Scania, and Garry in last month‘s Volvo, could all raise the tare of the trucks they drive by a tonne if they weren‘t careful about the amount of stuff they filled their cabs with. Not so, Kane. As huge as the T909 might be, it‘s all truck. There‘s a fridge between the seats that Kane rates as invaluable in terms of accommodating better food choices but, generally speaking, you have to be picky about what comes in. The reality is, though, Kane‘s is a different world. Carting logs back from the Central North Island, Bay of Plenty, Coromandel, and Waikato into the Mount or to local sawmills doesn‘t require a stay-away home. Kane‘s farthest regular pick-up would be lower King Country, about three and half hours from his Mount Maunganui base, so this‘ll do fine. Besides, big high-maintenance cabs and log trucking – in terms of cleaning – never cohabitate well. Hoe into a T909 cab for an hour on a Saturday morning with the ‘vaccy‘ and a wet cloth, and she‘ll look like new. Kane dips the clutch, let‘s the stick find its first slot for the day, release, and the Swan on the end of the bonnet moves slowly toward the gate. Right-hand-down and the big snout cuts one of the most famous arcs in all of trucking as Kane snaps through the gears.


Photo: Tumai blasts through Te Hoe.

Cathedral of cool
We roll out of town, west over the Kaimais, aiming for a skid site nestled in the hills behind Ngaruawahia. The drop visor and bonnet frame the view top and bottom and the high-rise air cleaners and mirrors side to side. It‘s hard to fault, really, if you‘re a child of the era, and if you are, the capsule you‘re in is a cathartic place that takes you from a crazy mucked-up world back to one far simpler and way more understandable. Summer skid sites can be high, baron, and airless, or conversely, as in the case of G and S Logging‘s perch just off the Waingaro Road, picturesque. A light skiff of rain had been through just before we arrived, settling the dust on both road and landing. The surrounding trees were still in the upright position, so the light was just right with no shadows. As Tumai backed up under the loader, the full scene was surely a Cathedral of cool, no question. We asked Kane about the Kentweld bumper and its proximity to Mother Earth on the lower edge? “Yeah, I‘ve nicked the light bar once and given it a tweak, but I have a winter-bumper to go on shortly that‘ll give us more clearance.


Photo: Pine Logging Ltd‘s gnarly little skid behind an orchard in Te Puke.

I‘ll just put this on in summer months.” Gotta love this man‘s style. The unit has a balanced look front to back, which isn‘t always easy on a log truck. Often the spartan rear quarters mean too many adornments at the other end can make them look out of kilter visually. Not so here. The 7” stacks, stainless-steel step, door in-fills, and air cleaner light bars aren‘t overbearing. Even the ‘visual‘ weight of the nine bullet lights on the roof are offset by the lack of air-horns and the painted RedDOT unit helps draw the eye up beyond them. With no stainless bonnet flashes or name badge, the paint up-front is allowed to ‘breathe‘ – again aiding in creating the front to back balance of the overall look. “Darryn Caulfield sign wrote it, and one thing I was particular about was the scroll work on the side of the guards. We had a couple of goes at those,” said Kane. “He‘s bloody great at what he does, there‘s no doubt about that.” The bling on the truck came courtesy of Willy Malcolm‘s genius hand, and aside from the additional lights and things, there‘s so many lovely yet practical touches. The locker built into the driver‘s step and the fuel tank toolbox on the left-hand side keep practicality high and aesthetics on point. The fit-out on the truck was also done at Koromiko Engineering, and managing director Derek Haywood said his crew was excited to work on the Bennett project. “Kane likes customised units, and he had input to the build, especially around the stainless and ‘bling‘. We made the whole thing look as cool as we could. Everyone‘s happy.” “Jarvis Harrison in the Hawke‘s Bay was doing his at the same time,” said Kane. “We‘re mates and often chatted about them. People think they‘re alike, but they are actually very different. We‘ve done our own thing totally, and they‘ve both come out great. We‘re both rapt.”


Photo: Not much room for anything else on that dash.

It‘s what‘s inside….
Tumai has one of the ‘fullest‘ dashes we‘ve seen for a while, even on a Kenworth. Kane spec‘d the full gauge suite in silver bezels, with silver switchgear to boot. He also put a big red cross through the smartwheel option. “Bloody smart wheels! No, not me at all,” he says. “Steering wheels are for steering. Chasing buttons around a steering wheel on a narrow winding bush track does nothing for me. Those switches are always right there,” he says, pointing to the dash. “Evidently, it‘s not that common spec‘ing the full gauge pack, the data screen, and no Smart Wheel. It caused a bit of headscratching at the factory, they reckon.” (Yes, you did read right, there‘s a data screen in a 909… more in a mo.) It‘s no standard ‘buttonless‘ tiller either, or shifter-head for that matter. Tumai‘s steering and cog-swapping furniture are aftermarket mother-ofpearl jobbies courtesy of Pearl Craft in Australia. We have to say they‘re just delightful against Kenworth‘s Charcoal trim interior. Like the outside, there‘s a lot of thought gone into how this office looks. For us, what sets it all off in terms of looks and lineage is such a simple wee touch. Kane got rid of the normal red Kenworth badge on the dash in front of the passenger, and replaced it with the coolest wooden ‘custom built for‘ plaque. Designed by Darryn Caulfield – who else? – and etched in Rotorua, it in itself speaks to so much – the family profession, trucks of the past… . We‘re not going to say much about ride and ambience. Firstly, if you complain about the ride in a long-wheelbase 6×4 bonneted truck, you‘ll complain about anything. Secondly, it‘s a Kenworth T909 cab. You either are, or you aren‘t, and nothing that we or anyone else can say will make you change camps. Noise? Yes, it makes noise, a fantastic noise – 74dB of it, in fact. This truck is not your tool, it‘s your workmate. Trucks like Tumai aren‘t somewhere you‘re paid to be, they‘re somewhere you‘ve paid to be.


Photo: The glove compartment built into the driver‘s step


Photo: The blank diesel tank configured as a toolbox. Superb touches.


Photo: It took a couple of attempts to get these scrolls just how Kane wanted them.

The long and winding road
Trailer off and hooked up, the height of the bolster beds – or lack thereof – on the Koromiko trolley became apparent. “I wanted to keep it low and stable. I notice it when I‘m chaining up though, you have to bend down to get to everything,” laughs Kane. Built with Hendrickson INTRAAX AANL ZMD 19.5” disc brake shockless axles, the underside of the trailer seems incredibly clean. Errant sticks and bits of slash are going to have a hard time finding something to annoy. Being a Low-Boy, it‘s two inches lower than the standard Koromiko build. Stanchion height on the rear three is 2.1m meaning Kane didn‘t have to worry about extension pins. All this simplicity makes using the unit so quick. Load on, it was time for Tumai to get to work properly. Coming down of the skid, it was textbook Kenworth, Cummins, Jacobs, Roadranger, with the full in-cab sensory experience. A proven combo for tree extraction in New Zealand. “I honestly didn‘t discount an auto without a second thought, and I wouldn‘t discount it again, I‘d always have a think and then decide. I drove one at Linfox in the Argosy, and hey, it probably wasn‘t me, but it wasn‘t all bad either. When the time came to spec this though, I just ticked ‘manual‘, done. But they‘re coming further all the time, and yeah, I‘d still have a think. If I were buying it again tomorrow, I know I‘d tick manual, but down the track, you‘d have to consider all options.”

It was a short trot down the hill from the skid and out onto the road. If there‘s a weak point in the Kenworth‘s log truck armoury, it‘s the turning circle – which appears to resemble a frigate more than a truck, not aided to be fair by Tumai‘s 6.6m wheelbase. “The old Western Star would run rings around it, and it was an 8×4. It would almost turn inside it,” said Kane. Off the track and it was out onto Waingaro road, a typical North Island rural, shoulderless, hilly, and winding affair that log truck drivers have to deal with every day. Poutu in the North, Flat Point in the Wairarapa, or here in the guts of the Waikato, they‘re all the same, and with a second‘s inattention, lethal! As such, a log truck must be sure-footed and feed back to the driver exactly where they are and what they‘re doing. Kenworth in this configuration probably sets the standard here, and Kane knows exactly where the truck is every second. Predictable and stable with no surprises. According to Kane, Tumai‘s stability is aided by the Hendrickson PRIMAAX 462 in the back end, suggested by Southpac‘s Scotty Haberfield. “I bought it through Scotty. He said the Hendrickson for a truck of this wheelbase, saying it‘ll offer increased stability. I found him great to work with; he knows the product so well. He said, ‘we‘ll build you the truck I‘d build for myself doing this work‘, and I can‘t fault it.” Obviously, the power to weight ratio is great in this set-up. With 448kW (600hp) on tap, that‘s 10kW/tonne (13.3hp/tonne), it‘s in the same league as the Talley‘s Scania in the Dec 20/Jan 21 issue. Torque comes in at 2779Nm (2050lb/ft) between 1200rpm and 1600rpm. On road, all that means great progress, handy when the Kaimais are a regular call on Kane‘s weekly – if not daily – work schedule. The tightest pinch on the western climb was rounded up in 5th high, at 1800rpm and 35kph.


Photo: The Kaimais are almost a daily visit for Tumai.

Kane‘s style is akin to Craig Kelly on the Uhlenberg T610 we went for a strop in back in April 2019, suffice to say when it‘s game on, Tumai is kept spinning north of 1600rpm. The downside of all that climbing … meaning the roller-coaster eastern flanks of the Kaimai range, was kept well in check by ‘Mr Jacob‘s‘ famous engine brake. Tumai glided down happily with the engine able to deliver as much ‘whoa‘ as ‘go‘ at a hearty 447kW (600hp). Kane‘s need to intervene with service brake input was minimal. No, it‘s not in the league of the modern retarders, but then he might just be able to stop for the stranded car in the middle of the lane around the blind corner. Fuel burn in the truck‘s short 40,000km life sits at around 1.92kpl, which sets it up well for a better than 2.00kpl as things settle in. How did we get that number from a Kenworth not fitted with a data interface like that T610 or 410? Glad you asked. Tumai has a Cummins Data Display. A fantastic piece of kit developed to replace the Road Relay 5. The unit fits right in aesthetically and delivers everything from realtime engine stats, fuel burn, faults, fuel and DEF levels, trip times, engine-life operational numbers, as well as service information based on user parameters set by the owner. The unit will also go into the 9870 International. “It‘s great,” said Kane. “I have it showing speed and RPM gauges most of the time, it‘s more accurate than the main gauges.” With the load off at the Mount, it was a quick dash out to Pine Logging Ltd who were clearing a small woodlot in the bottom of a nasty wee gully behind an orchard in Te Puke. Yes, it was a steep access road, but it wasn‘t settling down either, and a few of the trucks had needed a hand getting out. Being the classic configuration with the appropriate locks engaged and the drive tyres in climb mode, Tumai had no trouble.


Photo: The classic look of a Kenworth log-skid departure.

Open country
Such is the diversity of Kane‘s work, the next day we find ourselves high on a hill above Mercer, on another farm woodlot loading out of the Kreuz Logging operation. We discuss the purchase and set up of Tumai. “The Star was getting on. It hadn‘t missed a beat and I‘d had the engine opened up and looked at because I was getting paranoid that something must be going to happen. It was mint and the guys doing it said there was nothing wrong. But AZTEC also have a 10-year age limit on the contractor trucks, and that‘s fair enough. I thought long and hard. There‘s a lot of cost that comes with 9-axle HPMVs and there‘s still an element of work trucks like this are ideal for; woodlots on secondary roads, that sort of thing. I put a proposal together for what I thought would be productive and affordable. Ken Angus [AZTEC Forestry Transport Developments co-founder and director] was great. He supported my case, and it was approved.” Kane‘s right. In this line of work not all roads lead to HPMV nirvana and a 6×4 and 4-axle can be the gnarly woodlot king, heading up ‘Whereever Road‘, leaving HPMVs to do their thing. Anyway, HPMV is open to interpretation. If you have a 9-axle truck carting out of a road that prevents it loading to capacity and another truck built to optimise payload on such a road, who‘s the HPMV? Running at 45 tonnes with a tare of 16,300kg gives Tumai a 28,700kg payload. That‘s handy considering there‘s nothing special needed on the paperwork front, two fewer axles, and six fewer tyres. With the right permitting, the unit could go to 51,000kg, but routes become an issue again. Aside from one gateway, the skid wasn‘t difficult to get to and another superb grapple operator had the unit loaded in no time. Kane pulled away across the farm, had a bit of jiggle at the tight gateway, and progressed toward the road.

Life is a highway…
…and we don‘t doubt, given his pedigree, that Kane Bennett is going to ‘ride it‘ for a long time indeed. Many of those kilometres over the next few years at least will be spent looking down the bonnet of the T909 Kenworth he‘s bought and dedicated to his late uncle. Harking back to the start of this part of the story, his Dad Russell commented on Kane‘s inner side, a thinking man‘s man, and while he‘s built a machine that in artistic terms is an expression of his love of the industry, it‘s also a truck that makes sense. No configuration has ever proved itself in the bush to the extent a 6×4 and 4-axle trailer has. No powertrain has ever proved itself beyond Cummins, Roadranger, Meritor, and Hendrickson, especially when it comes to bang for buck. And in terms of chassis, Kenworth has nothing to prove when it comes to negotiating a truce between longevity and torturous. Built to cart as many logs as possible, from anywhere, with minimal fuss, and as cost-effectively as possible … yep, this man‘s definitely the next generation of the Bennett legacy in every way.

WHAT A PEARLER!
The moment we climbed into Tumai‘s cab the Pearl Craft steering wheel and shifter head stole the visual impact show. Pearl Craft is owned today by Pat and Sam Cawfield from Rowville in Victoria, Australia, but its roots go back over 70 years to the late 40s world of post-war cars and trucks. The original owner Bill Clarke sold to Wayne Basinski on a handshake in the 70s, and he focused on the cars of the post war to 60s era as the trucks of the time took on a spongier type steering wheel. Just over seven years ago Wayne was looking to retire but was keen to see the process and craft handed on and not lost. Enter Pat and Sam. “We could see most trucks were nowadays running a VIP or polyurethane wheel (smart wheel), and they are suited to our process.” “For trucks we offer a supply and pearl option using quality wheels like VIP. We can also pearl the Kenworth Smart Wheel including the new T610 smart wheel. “A matching Eaton shifter sets off the interior nicely with dash panels and knobs also an option.” pearlcraft.com.au

GREEN FOR GO
Like his dad, 32-year- -old Kane grew up in Bethlehem in the Bay of Plenty (See Pathway and passage further on). He went to Bethlehem Primary, Tauranga Intermediate and then Tauranga Boys College. And like his dad, Russell, he too started an apprenticeship in an attempt by his parents to demonstrate opportunities beyond the truck cab. This time it was plumbing. But like his dad and uncles, the desire beneath the surface was to get behind the wheel. When the GFC started to bite, his employer couldn‘t keep him on and the apprenticeship ended, releasing Kane to the industry he really wanted to be in. “You‘d be on the plumbing job and hear a Jacobs brake or engine and you‘d look up. It was always going to be trucks,” Kane says. His parents wanted him to get some work and life experience in other firms, so his first job was with Bay of Plenty Asphalts on four- and six-wheelers. “Like all young fellas, I wanted to get on the big gear, but you end up a better driver starting on the smaller stuff.” Once he had his trailer licence in hand, he started looking beyond truck-only work, eventually taking a position at Taylor Brothers Ltd in Katikati driving a Mitsubishi Shogun chip liner truck and trailer. It was all precious experience. Then a first big break.


Photo: He finally got there.

Then operations manager at Linfox Bulk, Pin Te Huia, offered Kane a berth on a Freightliner Argosy Bi-fold. “That was great experience, and the fittest I‘ve ever been,” he laughs. “Covering was a daily part of the job. I was pretty lucky to be in a truck like that at 22 years old. They kept the work up to you and I made real good money for my age.” Following the log-deck came a tractor and flat-deck quad. After three years at Linfox, it was time to move on and he took a position with Ray Lincoln in Tokoroa. With a couple of years under his belt there driving a Western Star truck and trailer, the plan was for he and partner Simone to do an OE in Europe for three years. That became four months when Ray offered a new Kenworth T409 truck and trailer on chip and bulk tip work. But then came the call from home. Russell needed surgery on a shoulder that wasn‘t co-operating, and so Kane jumped on the Western Star, Matariki. “That was supposed to be temporary until Dad got better. We had intentions to go to Aussie for a while after that, but the shoulder was so buggered the surgery wasn‘t going to work. “I started driving for Dad in 2016 and we began discussions about succession soon after that.” In 2017, Kane took over Matariki, transitioning at that time from Challenge Carrying Company, which his parents had been part of, to AZTEC Forestry Transport Developments.

“The Challenge work had a lot of short leads and I was looking for more.” A friend who was contracted to AZTEC pointed Kane in their direction. “There seemed to be better opportunities and my mates there [AZTEC] spoke very highly of the place.” He discussed it with his parents, and applied for a position. “Man, it was the right decision to make. I mean Challenge is gone now, and AZTEC have been everything I was told. It‘s got a great culture, very energised and keen people, keen to work. “Plenty of variation too, we go to lots of different places. I can‘t fault them, and the growth in the place over the time I‘ve been there is testament. Peter [Phillips], Ken [Angus], and Steve [Segeten] have all been and done it, you know? That makes a difference.” It‘s the old story over again. Hard work and energy yields results. Kane and partner Simone have a brand new asset in Tumai that will serve them well, and Simone herself is completing a law degree; suffice to say, two-year-old Isla will not be short on work ethic. I wonder if they‘ll make her do an apprenticeship before she starts driving?




Photos: If you dream and work for it, it will come. (Gotta love the stance in the first pic. It‘s all there, c‘mon – Ed)

PATHWAY AND PASSAGE
He was born into it‘, ‘he was only ever going to be one thing‘, you hear it often in trucking, and like fishing, farming, and forestry, it‘s a vocation not a job. Looking at the family photo album, there‘s not a shadow of doubt the Bennett driving legacy was alive and well in Kane. Through the pages, as each truck pops up, there‘s Kane, growing bigger and bigger, proudly standing beside each new arrival. As is often the case, it‘s history repeating itself. Kane‘s grandfather Gerald Bennett drove for Norm Andersen‘s Andersen Transport at Mount Maunganui. He and his wife Hera had 12 children, including five truck-crazed boys. “Dad didn‘t want us to be truck drivers,” says Russell. “As kids, me, Murray, and Michael would meet the trucks after school when they were transferring stock at the old council depot after the Wednesday sale. We‘d pair up with the drivers and go to Auckland and back, hose out, then straight to school again, smelling like stock trucks! We‘d drive the trucks home sometimes while the drivers slept. “Charlie, Wayne, Michael, me, we all worked at Andersens, it was only Murray who didn‘t. He went to Jack Shaw Ltd.” Russell started a timber machinist apprenticeship for CA Odlin out of school but that only lasted until he was 18; heavy traffic licence in hand, he was gone! “I got my HT on a Friday afternoon and was in a truck Saturday morning.” It was 1970, and he got his first driving job for Kirk and Graham driving a D-Series Ford delivering metal and building supplies around the Mount and Tauranga. From there, he went to Bitumen Distributors driving KH Bedfords and Commer ‘knockers‘ before landing the job he wanted, on the stock trucks at Andersens. “I loved the stock, it was all I wanted to do.


Photo: Te Potiki, the youngest.

Absolutely loved it. The trucks and the people, talking with the farmers, everything about it I just loved. Even now, if I go to the sale with a farmer mate of mine, they still remember me. It‘s a great industry.” But his brothers‘ careers were also fanning out in all directions. Murray was working the big gear, a W-Model Kenworth at Jack Shaw Ltd, and Wayne had found his way to the Hawkes Bay, accepted into the first intake of Pan Pac company drivers in 1971. “You couldn‘t start at Pan Pac until you were 25. Wayne gave me an application when he was home for Christmas in ‘77 and I applied and got a job! I‘d never been over the Napier Taupo or anything,” he laughs. “I started in early 1978. Alby Porteous interviewed me at his office located at on the 60/8 weighbridge on the Napier/ Taupo road. You spent two weeks with an experienced driver, and then a chap named Gordon Duff rode with you and gave you your ‘wings‘ as they said. I‘d only driven 5-speed/2- speeds and I still wasn‘t really confident with the Roadranger, or the road for that matter. When Gordon came on my assessment, I turned the heater off and wound the window down. In those old LW Kenworths the wind would come in, go behind the seat and freeze the passenger. Every time he commented, I‘d just say, ‘No, don‘t like heaters.‘ Truth is, I was numb, and couldn‘t feel my fingers or toes either. But he was so cold he couldn‘t hear or concentrate on anything.


Photo: Te Rehua, the truck that got them back in business.

He signed me off just to get out. “It was an amazing place. Heavily unionised. You got all your gear, boots, gloves, the lot. Taxis or buses picked you up and took you to work. Two a day, Kaingaroa back to the Bay, day in day out. “Talking about heaters, the Kenworths had rubbish heaters; they were useless. There was a clever bloke in the workshop and he put Simca car heaters in them. Mate, they were amazing!” In 1985 he came back to the Bay of Plenty and started with Alf Walling driving an R-Model Mack, carting similar routes to what Kane does now. In time Walling‘s was brought out by Mike Lambert Ltd. “There was a lot of rivalry between the Lambert and Wallings drivers. Macks and Kenworths and all that. Lambert was always interested in comparing the two. One day he told me what my truck was earning, and I thought, ‘Hmmm? If I can do that for you, I can do it for myself‘.” It was on a run to the Hawke‘s Bay doing a trial load in a Mack Super Liner towing an Evans folding bailey-bridge semi that Russell saw a Pan Pac White Road Boss parked behind the Whirinaki mill with a for sale sign on it. The price was $65,000 and it had a fresh motor. He and Tina took the plunge and Te Potiki came home. Of course, at this point, the origins of the famous Bennett Bronze and orange colour scheme have to be raised. “I had a Ford F100 pickup, and it came from that. Ford Flair is the colour, and the orange‘s code is KC48. “The big players didn‘t like the upstarts coming in, but there were people in Forest Corp at the time who believed there was room for an element of smaller operators just to keep the balance right. “There was a lot on the line and I received encouragement from many people.


Photo: Taku Kai Tiaki, the truck Russell bought for his brother Wayne to drive.

My first load was for Fletchers from ‘Kuri‘ to Napier, and Robbie Caulfield put my first tank of fuel in at 60/8. I‘ll never forget that. “Soon as we started though the port reform strikes happened and we were parked up for six-weeks. That‘s character building, I can tell you!” Things were trucking along nicely but continued manoeuvrings and murmuring in the background resulted in restructuring at Forest Corp and Russell and Tina were laid off. They had to sell their beloved Te Potiki. All was not lost though. Long-time contractor Bruce King was wanting to exit his business and offered the Bennetts‘ h