Top Truck – One truck – two ticks

In Top Truck7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 20, 2018

The arrival of Liam Hawthorn‘s new Kenworth K200 meant he was able to tick two big things off his bucket list. 

Liam Hawthorn typifies everything that‘s great about Kiwi blokes; he‘s genuine, humble, good humoured, and has a glass half-full approach to everything. “I‘ve been reading the mag for as long as I can remember with the dream of owning and running my own flat roof sleeper cabover Kenworth, and one day having it on the poster,” said Liam. “I thought this just might be the truck to do it.”

Son of well-known Northland truck driver and diesel mechanic Greg Hawthorn, 31-year-old Liam was truly born with trucking in the blood, never missing a chance to ride around with his father when he drove for Bachelor Log Haulage, SEMCO, and United Carriers. After leaving Kamo High School Liam worked for a year at the Carter Holt Harvey LVL sawmill near Marsden Point before taking on his first driving job at Kaitaia Transport. “I was only 19 at the time and I started out on a 390hp flatdeck Mitsi going anywhere from Whangarei to Auckland and even Gisborne. It was full on.”

Photos: Liam‘s workplace and standby accommodation. Not a bad place to call your own.

A year or so later Liam went to Te Kauwhata Transport, based in Whangarei, for a short stint and then his first job on a log truck with Paragon Haulage Ltd, again based in Whangarei.

“Paragon was a great job, I really enjoyed my time there,” recalls Liam.

As with most young folk the OE called and Liam headed for Australia to try his hand over there. He got a job with Brisbane company Armesto‘s Transport Pty Ltd, driving a Freightliner Columbia truck and dog combination on local tip work, with the occasional interstate general freight trip in a Kenworth B-double thrown in.

After a year Liam came home, taking a job with Steve Bachelor‘s Aotearoa Haulage driving a 420hp Scania initially, then a 470, progressing on to a Western Star. “Steve‘s a great guy and I have huge respect for him. I‘ve known him all my life since Dad drove for him back in the day at Bachelor Log Haulage.”

Photo: Liam Hawthorn has loved trucks for as long as he can remember, and doing what he loves to build something of worth.

Three years at Aotearoa and it was time for another stint in the big island to the west, this time in the far far west with Karratha-based company Hansen, part of the Heidelberg Cement Group. The gear was bigger too. Liam drove Western Star 6900 series side-tipper combinations, but it wasn‘t your usual Australian side tipper story. Hansen cart the aggregate and stone for concrete into the mines being developed, not the ore material out. “I never left a mine loaded, I arrived loaded instead,” laughs Liam.

Three years into the adventure Liam received a call from Steve Bachelor offering him a position as a subcontractor in his Aotearoa Haulage operation. Liam took the plunge, buying an ‘06 Freightliner Argosy with a Cummins 620 Signature and Koromiko 4-axle trailer off Steve, and got stuck in. A change in workflows found Liam needing to spread his net further in the hunt for work. He contacted Northland operations manager for Aztec Forestry Transport Developments Ltd, Ian Newey.

“Ian was a tremendous help and extremely supportive. Another top bloke.”

That was two years ago. Liam was taken on as a contractor early last year in their Northland operation. In his own words, “I‘ve not looked back. It ‘s a great company with a really good team culture. It ‘s going really well.”

Following their investment in him, Liam returned the gesture, retiring the old Freightliner and commissioning the new Kenworth and trailer under his NLH Ltd (Northland Log Haulage) banner. That fulfilled the first of his two bucket list dreams.

The truck was bought through Mark Tucker at Southpac Trucks, who Liam said was great to deal with. “It‘s a bulletproof spec all the way through. The advice I got was not to try anything too fancy and innovative, just get something that ‘s proven, so that ‘s what I did, and it‘s paid off, with the odometer approaching 93,000 trouble-free kilometres already.”

Spec on the Kenworth is the venerable Cummins e5 engine rated at 461kW (615hp), 18-speed Roadranger manual gearbox on Meritor 46-160 axles and KW 8-bag Airglide suspension. The truck tows a brand new Patchell 5-axle trailer on Hendrickson running gear. Chris Stanley in Silverdale saw to the shiny bits and Darryn Caulfield in Rotorua worked his magic on paint.

A normal day ‘s work sees Liam carting two loads of export out of the Pouto Forest to Marsden Point. And as for the second tick, meaning is it good enough to make the Top Truck grade? That needs no answer other than open the poster and take it all in!