Feature, TOTM

Agitating for excellence in a Kenworth T360

FEBRUARY TRUCK OF THE MONTH: Growing up around trucks in South Africa provided the spark for Gona Govender to enter the agitator business in Melbourne. Now, with his two sons in the family business, Gateway Logistics is identifiable as a cleanly run, professional operation with its two-year-old Kenworth T360 the pride of the gleaming fleet.

 

This stunning Kenworth T360 can be found trudging in and out of muddy, messy Melbourne worksites five to six days a week. The reason that it looks this good though is that it also spends plenty of time being sponged down and hosed off. That dedication is ­compliments of its driver Joe and the amazing Govender family that runs Gateway Logistics. This is one of a fleet of insanely clean concrete trucks.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Gona Govender and his son Renaldo to find out just how in the world they have ended up here with a concrete agitator that could easily double as a show truck.

The Kenworth T360 is the first of three pimped-out eight wheelers the family is adding to their fleet of 20-plus concrete trucks. It was the first truck where Renaldo and his brother Keegan had finally been given free rein in the design and build process, following years of slowly wearing down their father’s resolve.

“My brother and I always wanted Kenworths. As kids we loved them but Dad being older and looking at it from a business perspective said they couldn’t justify paying all that money,” Renaldo explains. With a grin, he admits that after years of badgering from him and his brother they wore him down.

“In 2010 we convinced him to buy one, a twin steer T359. That first one we weren’t allowed too much on it. Since then, with every new one, we chipped away at Dad and kept wearing him down, adding a few more extras each time.

“Now with this one my brother and I were left to set it up as we saw fit.”

Renaldo Govender (left) and his dad, Gona Govender

It is a long way from the family’s first ever truck, a 2224 Mercedes-Benz that wouldn’t even start. And it is a long way from where Gona and the family began when they first emigrated here.

Gona and his family are originally from South Africa. Yes, that place that beat my beloved All Blacks in the 2023 World Cup Final (but we will not mention that). Back in his home country, Gona worked for the South African equivalent of Telstra. While his job was in the ­telecommunications sector, there was plenty of trucking and transport within the family. His sister-in-law ran quite a few concrete trucks and his father-in-law had one of the largest driver training companies in the area. This meant Gona and his boys grew up around trucks and machinery, cleaning, driving and servicing all manner of vehicles.

The family shifted over to Australia when Renaldo was still a baby and Gona undertook a similar line of work to what he had been doing back in South Africa, this time for Telstra. While that was paying the bills, ­telecommunications just wasn’t ticking the boxes for Gona. He tried a couple of other options but somehow always ended up coming back to transport, eventually via the driver’s seat of an old ACCO, doing recycling work.

Then one day things changed for Gona when he happened to pass an old Mercedes for sale on the side of the road. “I’d driven past the Mercedes a few times and couldn’t believe he only wanted $4000 for it,” Gona says.

“I stopped in and asked what the catch was and he told me it needed a new motor.”

Having grown up around Mercedes, a prominent brand back home in South Africa, and with years of mechanical tinkering under his belt, Gona couldn’t help but be interested.

“I told the guy unfortunately I don’t have $4000 but if he’d allow me, I’d pay it off at $500 a month. I then spent most weekends around there getting it going and once we paid it off, we were able to get it around to our place where we could do more to it,” Gona recalls.

Once the old Merc was parked up out the back of the family home, it then became a talisman for Renaldo and his indoctrination into the industry.

“When Dad bought the Mercedes, I would have been around three to three and a half. It was a project truck that was in our backyard. Whenever I was allowed to go outside, I would be inside that truck playing around,” Renaldo laughs. “I just loved it.

“Apparently, if you ask my aunties, when I was only a couple of months old, I’d go with my mum who worked at my grandfather’s driving school. They’d put me in the truck and trailer, and I’d spent all day in that. Seems I’ve been brainwashed from way back then.”

That brainwashing only got worse when Renaldo’s Dad bought his first concrete truck a couple of years later and the foundations for Gateway Logistics began. “It was 2003 and I was looking for something different to do and I saw an ad for a guy selling a concrete truck with work,” Gona recalls. That particular deal turned out to be full of more holes than a soap opera script but through the contacts he made, another Mitsubishi FV418 concrete truck was soon purchased and Gateway Logistic began.

It is a testament to the Grovender family that the back end of this hard-working agi looks as good as its first pour, two years ago

Gona, with the help of his two boys, got the old Mitsubishi back up to mint condition and proceeded to build himself a reputation for professionalism and quality. Whenever he could, he would have one or both of his boys alongside him.

“I used to spend Saturdays in the truck with Dad,” Renaldo says. “That was in the days when you could take your kid with you. Then he’d bring it home on the weekend after work and me and my brother would help with it.

“I was still small so I’d do the cleaning and Keegan would help do the servicing and stuff. Back then you did everything yourself.”

The pride the family took in their little Mitsubishi, both aesthetically and mechanically, would soon pay dividends, notably the opportunity to add another truck to the Gateway Logistics fleet.

“I hadn’t intended to buy another truck; in fact, I was just planning to upgrade the Mitsubishi,” Gona says. However, management had been taking note of the state of the Mitsubishi and instead gave Gona the ­opportunity to put a second truck on the road with a company barrel behind it.

“I went looking for a Mercedes, but it was going to cost an extra $20,000 to get the bowl to fit. Sterling was part of the same dealership and the bowl would fit, so we bought our first Sterling, our first new truck in 2007,” Gona says. “We still have that truck in the fleet as well.”

A welcome sight on many sites around Brisbane, especially at night where the T360 really shines

While the company was growing, so were Gona’s sons. And so was their influence on their father. Like his older brother Keegan, getting into the family business was always the only path to follow for Renaldo.

“Straight out of school I started working with Dad. Mum and Dad made me finish school, but I never had any intention to study,” he says, almost begrudgingly. “I couldn’t get my licence straight away, even with an exemption I was still too young.

“To get your HR you had to have your car licence for a year, so instead I worked in the office learning the company and cleaning, and in the workshop.

“The day I did my licence and got signed off, I was finished by midday. Dad called and said to meet him down the road where I jumped straight into an FL80 Freightliner and worked that afternoon. It was the same truck my brother had started in as well.”

One of the worst things about modern safety requirements is those awful safety nut covers but not on the T360

That was only six years ago and since then both Renaldo and Gateway Logistics have kept getting better and kept growing. The boys have continued twisting Dad’s arms since the first Kenworth in 2010 and by the time 2020 came around there were more Kenworths than any other brand, every new truck getting just a few more extras added each time.

“When we got the first one Dad wouldn’t tick any of the boxes. Now he’s the one coming in saying, ‘well, let’s add this, did you add that? why isn’t that on it?’ And it’s me and Keegan trying to reason with him,” Renaldo laughs.

In 2021 Gateway Logistics placed their order for the first of three Kenworth T360s from Ron Ludbrook at Kenworth Laverton. With this order, Renaldo and Keegan were given the responsibility of speccing the three trucks.

“This one was the first one we were able to go all out on and we did, even though neither of us was going to drive it,” Renaldo smiles.

“Around the time we ordered it we met Rob Amenta from Rob’s Custom Truck. He’s a guy who had started his driving in an agi and he was really keen to customise an agi himself.”

Renaldo Govender has grown up around concrete trucks and knows very well how to work them and how to present them

It seems Rob was as persistent with Renaldo and Keegan as they had been with their dad and once the truck came off the line it was sent around to Rob’s Custom Truck workshop to get upgraded from a concrete truck to a custom concrete truck.

“There are certain things my brother and I knew we liked and knew we wanted on the new truck, which we discussed with Rob. Things like the offsets at the front, aerials, visor and pinstriping. We told Rob the stuff we really wanted and then gave him free rein on the rest. That’s why the truck has ended up the way it is, you won’t see another agi like this one,” Renaldo exclaims.

It was far from easy for Rob though. Take the visor for example. Renaldo admitted when he passed the truck over to Rob that he was not a fan of any of the visor options currently in play for the T360s, so Rob went about designing and building a whole new option from scratch. He also worked out how to space all the tanks out to balance the look of the truck, then built pole-less guards to stick with the smooth cool look he was constructing.

The new safety laws and VRU (vulnerable road use) requirements normally see trucks fitted with loud ugly panels to protect pedestrians and cyclists from trying to splatter themselves. On the Gateway Kenworth however, Rob designed and built brackets that push the tanks and accessories out from the chassis rail, meaning the bright yellow eyesores are not required.

Rob’s Custom Trucks build extension brackets to move a lot of the hydraulic and fuel tanks out from the chassis, keeping safety and stability paramount

However, it wasn’t just customising the truck. There were additions to the mixing bowl as well that not only adhered to the overall look but streamlined the ­workability of the truck. Rob was also well aware that the truck would be doing a lot of night work around the city and as such he ensured it was not without decent lighting, from extra marker lights to coloured under glow. The T360 can now be seen from the top of any of Melbourne’s ­skyscrapers – purely for safety of course.

Two months after Renaldo dropped the truck off to Rob, he returned with his brother to pick it back up.

“He blew it out of the park, it’s unreal,” Renaldo enthuses. He admits that even a couple of years after it hit the road, he still gets feedback from the driver and ­compliments from customers.

“For me, I love it as well because I work out of the same yard so I get to see it every day. It really stands out.”

As you look at this truck and factor in the messy, muddy worksites that it unavoidably encounters, it really is a testament to the Govender family. The whole family takes immense pride in not just the work they do, but the gear they do it with.

This is a concrete truck that you could eat your dinner off. The Gateway Logistics T360 deserves all the head-turning accolades it gets. Which is way it’s the Eiffel Lubricants Truck of the Month for February 2024.

For more on the Gateway Logistics T360, see the print edition of OwnerDriver February.

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