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K200 the king of cabin space

When Volvo discontinued its XXL cabs in Australia, Detour Logistics’ boss Colin Beer looked to Kenworth’s ‘big cab’ K200 to stay in the space race, earning its place as the Valvoline Truck of the Month for November.

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Colin Beer has always had driver comfort in mind. Hence the inclusion of the Kenworth’s ‘King Cab’ K200 to his Detour Logistics fleet. Much to the appreciation of long-haul drivers such as Brisbane-based Mal Whiley.

However, let’s backtrack a little. Detour Logistics did not get its name from a comically amusing story of owner Colin Beer getting lost and encountering a wild adventure. The truth is that the ‘Detour’ in Detour Logistics came from the side of the family ski boat.

The bonus of the less exciting origin story is it’s a much easier name to fit on the side of a truck, much easier than the original company name Australian Linehaul Shuttle Express. The money saved on signwriting alone … well you can work that out.

However, it’s worth pointing out that owning, managing and driving for a transport company is quite a detour from Colin Beer’s former profession. While he grew up with his father in and around trucks, it wasn’t his first choice of career. In fact, his younger years were spent in the heat and alcoholic haze of Western Australia where Colin was building houses. Eventually he returned to the more erratic weather patterns of Victoria where he downed the tool belt and jumped behind the wheel to become a truck driver.

One thing you learn very quickly about Colin is that when he sets out to do something, he’s going to do it all in and to the highest level, whether it’s sweltering under the tools in the WA sun or driving express freight up the east coast of Australia. He doesn’t sit still long and he is always moving forward.

So it should come as no surprise that his time as a wage driver lasted only slightly longer than the shelf life of a Macca’s hamburger. By the time Colin was 31 he had his own truck. That first purchase was a Freightliner Argosy.

“I’d driven a few of them so I knew what they were like,” Colin explains. “They were a good cheap truck that made money.”

Mal Whiley drives Detour Logistics’ K200 – the Valvoline Truck of the Month for November.

In 2004, Colin and his truck were towing trailers for Wettenhalls, going wherever they needed him. I would love to tell you some stories that he shared, back in the earlier days when even the Cannonball Run couldn’t set the kind of Sydney to Melbourne times that those guys were doing, but for obvious reasons it’s best I don’t. We all know it was a different era back then. A fun kind of lunacy.

Within one year, Colin picked up his second truck as well as his own trailers and began working for IFM. By the end of 2005 there would be five trucks in the fleet altogether.

Colin picked up more subbie work, this time for Linfox, working alongside the company to establish and organise new runs. From there Colin grew to a 16-truck fleet. Building his knowledge and expertise, particularly in the refrigerated transport market.

Eventually the call was made to step out and start carting solely his own customers’ freight. He bought a location out in Silvan, Victoria that was all set up with cool stores and ongoing customers and moved from not just produce, but into the flower market as well.

His first truck may have been a Freightliner but the majority of Colin’s truck choices since then have been about as far removed as you can get. In the early years Detour was almost exclusively stacked with Volvos. In particular the XXL Globetrotters.

Colin swore by the first XXL cabs, offering increased fuel savings as well as better safety packages than anything else out there. While Colin undertakes fleet renewal quite regularly, there are still a few of the old XXLs happily earning their keep.

Colin and the team put a lot of emphasis on on-road image, as you can see by the standout imagery on two of their new fridge van sets.

Another huge reason for the addiction to the Volvo XXL cab was it allowed the drivers more room. They often spent long periods on the road and Colin was adamant they should have as much space as possible. This is also the reason why, when the production of XXLs was halted with the arrival of the new generation Volvos, Colin changed preferences. He began stacking the fleet with the ‘king of cabin space’, Kenworth’s King Cab K200. Several of these joined the company colours as the business kept growing. More customers appreciating Detour’s dedication to quality service meant more trucks were needed.

Fridge units

The company now sits at 30 prime movers, with 22 of those dedicated interstate runners. Volvos re-entry into the XXL market has Detour’s fleet starting to return back to its European influenced days, though this time it’s not just the Volvos carrying the comfy class. Detour have branched out and have several of the Next Generation Scanias in the fleet.

Keeping his fleet stacked with the cream of the crop – Kenworth, Volvo and Scania – has been a deliberate action by Colin and the Detour team. They operate in a competitive enough business on a good day. And when the industry is competitive, and the freight you cart is extremely time sensitive; you are just ramping up the pressure. So Colin has always ensured he does everything he can at the highest possible level and runs only the best gear. Trucks with solid proven reliability and performance as well as dependable back up service are key.

What they tow is of equal importance as well. All his trailers are custom made and highly tailored. Fridge vans running top of the line Thermo King fridge units allows the management staff to keep a close eye on the temperature all the time. Tyre pressure sensors also keep a close eye on the trailers’ health as they travel the highways. All the trucks and trailers are on very strict maintenance plans, which ensures very little down time or breakdown issues. Last thing you want is a load of perishables sitting on the side of the road.

Despite having over half a million kilometres on the clock, Mal Whiley’s K200 still looks brand new.

Aside from running the trucks and company like a well-oiled machine, Colin places a huge emphasis on the visual aspect of Detour Logistics as well. The company’s burgundy (Queenslanders may say maroon) colour scheme definitely has them standing out on the road. Scroll work and just the right amount of bling ensures the trucks catch the eye of everyone.

More recently the new trailer sets have been getting the colour treatment. Adding in some of the company’s long-term clients on the side offers not just promotion for the client but builds the profile of Detour Logistics. The trucks are very hard to miss with their colourful fruit and vegies plastered on the side. When it gets dark, you’ll also be able to pick the Detour trucks out of any line up as their plethora of lights ensures you could almost use them to mark a runway for low flying planes.

Cosmetically, the Detour Logistics trucks tick all the boxes; mechanically they also tick all the boxes. So it’s a safe assumption that Colin looks after his drivers inside the trucks as well, with the drivers spending vast amounts of time on the road and away from home, often on very time sensitive runs.

Along with the space provided by the big cab trucks, they all come fitted out with the extras needed to make a driver’s job just a little more comfortable.

Cummins 600hp

When I met up with long time driver Mal Whiley to photograph his King Cab K200 I had to wait while he finished the latest episode of Dora the Explorer on the trucks bunk-mounted TV. OK, I may have taken a little creative licence with that last bit, just to illustrate my point.

Mal’s Kenworth, as well as the trailers, have done around 520,000 kilometres. Powered by a Cummins 600hp (447kW) engine, the K200 has had its tanks painted and, with its custom guards, looks the goods.

The K200 in Brisbane to pick up a load before heading south.

Mal has been behind the wheel of the K200 for almost a year. He’s been with Colin for many years, but had short time off due to illness, but is now back on the road. The truck is based in Brisbane, and mainly does the Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne run.

Thankfully, when doing this interview and photoshoot I really got the privilege of seeing a wide variety of the extensive Detour Logistics fleet. I even joined Colin as he took one of the stunning K200s down to Maxitrans in Laverton to pick up a brand spanking new B-double set. The Kenworth had all the staunchness and cool factor you expect of a K200.

I would hate to be judging an all Detour truck show because I must admit, Colin and the team have got a collection of some of the best units out there. And no, I didn’t get bribed with flowers to add that last bit it.

Colin may not have an exciting, amusing or even humiliating story behind the Detour name, but we can all be thankful for his ski boat and thankful he detoured from Western Australia. Detour Logistics is definitely on the right road, and his K200 is a worthy winner of Owner//Driver‘s Valvolline Truck of the Month for November.


Photography: Warren Aitken

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