The Kenworth T909 is still one of Australia’s favourite trucks for its performance and presentation. It is also the literal driving force behind young Apinder Jawanda’s life changes over the past decade.
In early 2013, 23-year-old Apinder, or Api as he is known to his mates, was a qualified nurse in his native India. He had spent years training and did his internship working in the cardiovascular surgery ward before moving into the neurosurgery arena.
Api was born and bred in Punjab, India. It is a world away from where he is now. Just to give you all a bit of perspective. Punjab is a small state in India, roughly around 50,000 square kilometres. That’s just a little smaller than Tasmania, which is around 68,000 square kilometres. However, Tasmania manages to squeeze in around half a million people. Punjab somehow fits in about 27 million people.
Working as a nurse in such a high-density area was challenging. The hours were huge but the pay wasn’t, which got young Api looking at Australia as a place to emigrate to.
“I wanted to upgrade my skills and look for better opportunities,” Api explains. “I never had an interest in trucks back home, I always wanted to stay in the surgery side of nursing. That’s why I came over to Australia, to continue my nursing.”
As it turned out, upon Api’s arrival in Australia, his qualifications didn’t automatically transfer over as is the case for most medical professionals from abroad. Hence, he had to register for university and redo all his studies. For this reason, we can all be thankful. It was that fortuitous act that resulted in the impressive Kenworth before you.
While he was redoing all his qualifications, Api took on a part-time job working the graveyard shift at a truck stop in Cranbourne. This would be the catalyst for the career change.
“There were always these guys from TTS coming in to fuel up, in their 909s, 908s, 108s and K200s,” Api recalls, still with wonderment in his tone. “They were all so shiny and really got me thinking about trucks. Plus, on winter nights, it would be very quiet, and you could hear them coming with their Jakes on. That always put a smile on my face.”
It wasn’t just the sights and sounds that were enticing the recirculated nursing student. It was also the drivers themselves. “I’d talk to the drivers every night; I’d ask them if they enjoyed the job and what it was like.”
The positive feedback he would receive was enough to convince Api to look into getting his truck licence, which he somehow managed to squeeze in between his classes, his studies and his part-time job.
“In the university holidays I was able to pick up some work for Capital Transport driving a six pallet rigid,” Api says.
“Once I started driving I never looked back.”
Api loved doing the local delivery work and the truck driving bug had bitten him, but he still stuck to his original plan and saw through his studies. It is an indication of the character of the young man that he chose to fulfill his original commitment even though by this stage those shiny TTS Kenworths, and his holidays spent among the Melbourne traffic, had shone a whopping great light on the career path he had his eyes on.
“Basically as soon as I completed my degree, I saw an ad looking for a driver at Mainfreight and I applied straight away,” Api says.
That job involved once again driving a small HR on local work all over Melbourne. There was hardly a street Api didn’t learn and hardly a street directory page left unturned. His boss at the time, Vijay Ahluwalia, would play a critical role in the trajectory of Api’s trucking career.
“Yeah, I learnt a lot from my old boss, he really encouraged and assisted me. He was really supportive. He was the silent partner when I bought my first truck,” Api explains. That first truck would come a couple of years after he started with Vijay, and just to throw the script in the air, it did not involve an HR truck, nor did it involve general freight.
Even though he started his career in the legendary Mainfreight colours, and this current amazing Kenworth is in the legendary Mainfreight colours, the time in between was a little dirtier than you’d ever see a Mainfreight truck (pun intended).
“The first truck I bought was in October 2017 and it was a 2013 Freightliner Coronado truck and trailer tipper,” Api says. “I loved the Mainfreight work and when I’d do the country runs I’d see the big trucks and I’d be fascinated.”
With the help of his boss, Api got himself upskilled into an HC licence. In order to put that to work, he left Mainfreight and started driving truck and dog tippers.
“I started working for a guy in July 2017, driving his truck and dog, then a few months later got the chance to buy my own. Because the work was so good, and I was making money, I bought a second one in February 2018 and put a driver in that one.”
By mid-2018, with the announcement of the huge metro tunnel and a few other infrastructure projects, every man and his dog were getting into the tipping game. Dirt not footy. Things slowed a little for Api and, as is his determined nature, he set out to look for other work options.
A chance encounter with another Mainfreight driver saw Api back in the big blue offices looking at getting his own truck into team Mainfreight. Obviously, the fact the pages around us are plastered with a stunning Mainfreight Kenworth means that the meeting was successful, but please just play along anyway.
“They were looking for someone to pull a double around on local and I was happy to put a truck on. First thing I did though was get my MC licence,” he laughs.
The time spent putting truck and dogs into tight awkward spots meant backing the B-doubles were not the main concern for Api, he just wanted experience with the extra length. Therefore, while Api waiting on his new Vawdry B-double set, he towed a single around town and used the time to clock up B-double experience every chance he could.
Truck purchase-wise, the Cranbourne truck stop’s memories of the big loud TTS Kenworth’s meant Api’s mind was firmly focussed on a big bonnet with a huge Kenworth bug on it. “Mainfreight pointed out I’d be doing a lot of tight deliveries, and they’d prefer a cab-over for access,” Api explains. He had to agree it was a smarter approach.
In the end, Api’s first Mainfreight chariot, also his first brand new truck, was a 2018 600hp Volvo Globetrotter. By this stage in his trucking career, the ex-surgery nurse had been well and truly converted into a fully-fledged truck nut. His tip trucks were subtly pimped out and always immaculate. Hence, his new Volvo would get enough bells and whistles to carry on the mantle. But still, those truck stop recollections wouldn’t leave him. Add in the added motivation of having already built his dream truck in an online computer game and Api’s drive for a 909 was only getting stronger.
A quick sidebar here. Who is familiar with the American Truck Simulator online computer game? If you are like me and were born in the days where entertainment consisted of trying to put a stick into your mate’s front wheel as you biked down a hill, then you’ll probably not know what I’m talking about. To put it simply, American Truck Simulator is a game where you can design and build your own truck, then drive it, I presume. I gather you must be able to build them to Australian specs as well because that is exactly what Api had done.
“I really liked the Volvo, but I was still in love with the Kenworths. To satisfy that craving I started playing that game,” he says. “I was building T909s, all different ones, even in Mainfreight colours. I manifested that before the truck even came up for sale – I’d built one pretty much identical in the game. And then I found this one, but the Vision came first.”
Obviously this stunning Kenworth wasn’t merely a result of a manifestation from a computer game. This isn’t Field of Dreams. It is a little uncanny how it all rolled out though.
“I’d decided to sell my tippers to my drivers and just focus on the Mainfreight B-double work,” Api says. At the time he was driving the Volvo all week and then spending weekends maintaining the two tippers and spotlessly washing all the trucks.
“I offered the trucks to the drivers, that was in 2020, then I saw Leon Thorpe advertising his 909.” Sounds like destiny to me.
The ink was barely dry on the ad before Api phoned Thorpe and arranged to go check out the big girl. The 2017 Kenworth T909, with an X15 in it, had clocked up around 600,000km running the east coast. It came equipped with the fully customised Thorpe look, including Dynoflex Chino Stacks, Hogebuilt guards, wrapped tanks and a custom front bar. Although it was painted plain white, it was far from a plain truck.
“I looked at it and loved it,” Api laughs. “As soon as I left, I rang my broker and told him I wanted to buy it, he had all the paperwork sorted and it was mine.” It was left at Thorpe’s who took care of getting it transformed into Mainfreight colours and for a few extra lights to be added. “I didn’t want to add too many more, just some around the air cleaners and along the tanks.”
As much as Api loved his Volvo there really were no tears shed when in late 2020 he picked up his freshly revamped 909 and hit the road. He kept the Volvo for a while, put a driver on it and let it loose among the Mainfreight floaters. Building a trucking empire was never in Api’s plans though and he eventually sold it off and focussed on his T909 and getting it around town.
“It’s a great truck, I still love it. In some places I do have to do a five-point turn, but you get used to it,” Api laughs.
For those wondering about the bunk, it’s a full 28-inch IT bunk. “The size was perfect for me, I needed it to fit in front of my 34 pallet set and it is bang on 26 metres,” Api says. “I like to sleep in my own bed at night so I never really use the bunk anyway.”
That’s not to say Api hasn’t taken the big Kenny out of town to share with truck lovers around Australia. He has done a couple of trips to Sydney and Adelaide and even once ventured across the paddock with it. “It was a good experience, but with no bull bar I only drove during the day.”
As we sit in the shadow of this magnificent Mainfreight Kenworth, its shine is only overshadowed by the smile on Api’s face. In 10 years, he has come a long way from being an overworked, underpaid nurse to a prouder-than-punch truck owner. He has his dream truck doing his dream work for his dream company.
“I just love it. The more I drive, the more I love it,” Api exclaims.
It is great to see that hard work and a dream really can get you places. I can’t forget to mention Api’s wife Amreen who deserves a lot of credit for supporting him through his trucking and Kenworth addiction, not to mention the time he spent designing trucks on his computer. It really goes to show what you can achieve when you put your mind to it. Now it is Api who gets to drive into the truck stops and hopefully inspire the next generation of truckies.