Jul 17, 2023

Working work of art

By: Warren Aitken, Photography by: Warren Aitken

Date: 21.08.2023

From a one-truck setup in 2007, Auswide Transport Solutions has grown to be one of the most professional long-haul outfits around, despite having to negotiate a barrage of keyboard warrior negativity.

I’m the first to admit I have a bit of a magpie personality. I get distracted and obsessed with bright shiny things from the result of years of my trucking addiction. It is what sees me being hypnotically drawn toward big shiny trucks, stacked with stainless and coated in chrome.

There is hardly a trucker out there that doesn’t have a similar personality flaw, and I know several truck nuts whose addictions make me look like a rank amateur. However, today’s feature attraction is a little different. There is no stainless to shine, there is no alloy rims to rub and there is no bumper to buff. In fact, it is every anti-polisher’s wet dream. It is also every photographer’s worst nightmare.

Although this stunning anniversary show truck is dressed in a sleek black number from stacks to steps, it is also coated in layer upon layer of clear coat. Those multiple layers of clear coat aren’t there just to make photographing Auswide Transport Solutions’ 150th truck hard to shoot, they are there to protect the amazing, airbrushed artwork that adorns the entire unit.

There has been time and dedication put into this truck; this anniversary model is an acknowledgement and reward for all that has come before it.

The ‘Karma’ T909 is a rig built to celebrate the success story that started with a 10-pallet Fuso nearly 20 years ago. A rig built to reward a company and its workers that have endured a mountain of keyboard warrior criticism from ill-informed people. A rig that acknowledges the efforts Auswide Transport Solutions (ATS) has expended in not just becoming a leading transport operator, but a company that leads the way in safety, innovation and family values. All of that as well as it being a rig that just looks amazing.

Before we get onto this stunning truck and the fancy Frenchman that decorated its black panels, we need to run a bit of a timeline on how we got here. It’s a difficult story to tell if I am being honest. Not ‘difficult’ in terms of ‘I don’t know the story’ which revolves around good people, resilience and lots of hard work.

No, I mean ‘difficult’ because the young man responsible for this anniversary truck and Auswide Transport Solutions as a whole is extremely shy and humble about his success. I damn near had to let the tyres down in his car to stop him long enough to get his story. Thankfully I also had his top tier team on hand to trap him for an interview. That team consists of Tommy Pausic, Auswide’s CEO, Gabby Singh, Auswide’s general manager and Jeff Wright, Auswide’s safety and compliance head.

These guys play a pivotal role in the success of the company and most importantly played a pivotal role in getting the extremely shy managing director to sit and tell me his story. Amrit Kankar is the man in question.

Amrit is the man with the keys to the front door and the managing director of Auswide Transport Solutions. It is a role he has grown into, not applied for. Before he was managing director he filled the role of a driver, mechanic, technician, payroll clerk, recruiter … in fact, since he started the company there probably isn’t a job there he hasn’t taken a hands-on approach to. These days,, however, he can leave all that to the good people he has fostered, and he focuses on the big cheese’s jobs. Like looking after his workers.

Like many Australian success stories, Amrit is an immigrant that chose to chase his dream in the land of opportunity. The fresh-faced 21-year-old engineer landed in Australia back in 2007. He set up house in Melbourne where he applied for his HR licence and set about building himself a new life.

"It took about six months before I finally got a job driving an eight palleter for a Toll subbie," recalls Amrit. He jokingly adds, "I reckon I was doing about 150 drops a day."

Amrit spent a couple of years working for that subbie, doing local drops as he honed his driving skills and fine-tuned his patience with Melbourne traffic.

In 2009, with help from his boss, he took the leap and bought his very first truck. A 10-pallet Fuso tautliner. Two years of running local and working his butt off afforded Amrit the means to jump on the owner-driver opportunity when his boss suggested it. Amrit had already established a reputation as a hard worker when he was on wages, that work ethic only strengthened when it was his name on the bank loan.

Within another two years Amrit would double the size of his fleet. Well, he bought a second truck. It just sounds more impressive when worded like that. The 10-pallet Fuso was joined by a 14-pallet Fuso. Amrit placed a driver in the 10 pallet truck and it continued to run under Toll colours, while he took the wheel of the 14-pallet Fuso and started working for Wettenhalls.

It was the bigger Fuso that became the catalyst for all that came afterward, including this incredible 150th-anniversary truck you see before you. More specifically it was the act of purchasing the second Fuso that would lead to where we are today.

See, when Amrit went shopping for the Fuso his gaze also fell on a tractor unit sitting alone in the corner waiting for a new owner. "I’d always seen the big MC trucks on the road and just loved them," Amrit says. "When I bought the 14-pallet truck there was a Freightliner Argosy for sale as well. It was a beautiful looking truck."

He recalls the salesman asking if he wanted to buy it and Amrit admitted he would love to, but he didn’t have the work for it. He also skipped over the fact he also didn’t have a licence for it. "It was a dream for me though," he says. "I knew one day I was going to drive that truck."

With two HR trucks already, and an unflappable determination, Amrit let neither a lack of work nor licence stand in his way. A few months after seeing the truck, Amrit had it sitting in his driveway, still without work or an MC licence.

"It sat for a few weeks then I got some work for it," Amrit recalls. "I had already gone for my HC licence but put a driver on the truck and I spent six months sitting beside him training."


That original Argosy, which is still in the ATS fleet by the way, went to work towing for Total Logistic Solutions, or TLS. The performance and professionalism shown by Amrit ensured that when he purchased a second truck, there was work there for it as well.

"Once the trucks got busy, I would just buy another one," says Amrit. "Mick at TLS used to say, ‘nope, we don’t need another one’. But I would get another truck and then they’d call me up asking if I could do a run."

It was this kind of pre-emptive approach that stands behind the success of Auswide Transport Solutions, with ‘solutions’ being the keyword in the company title.

Coming up with solutions to assist customers’ logistical issues has been the platform ATS is built on. Amrit knew from the beginning if he did the job well and had the gear there when customers need it, then the work would come.

In 2014 he saw that it wasn’t just about having the trucks and drivers to pull customers’ trailers, it was also about having trailers there for when customers needed them. Sure, it meant sometimes he had units parked up in the beginning, but it also meant he was able to help his customers when issues arose. That kind of forward planning has seen rapid growth in the company, led by customer demand. At one stage ATS were running as many as 160 prime movers on the road. Currently, they are sitting at 120 among their total of 700 moving parts in the whole fleet.

Another aspect of the Auswide team now is their manufacturing side. With such a shortage of equipment within our industry, Auswide is now investing heavily into Australian manufacturing by designing and building their own trailers here. This is a clear sign they are forging ahead to meet their customers’ needs and continue to build their business in Australia for the long term.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing of course. No success story is without its trials and tribulations. Unfortunately, a lot of the issues that have tested the strength and resilience of the ATS team have come from that other illness thriving in our industry at the moment – keyboard warriors with too much time and very little knowledge.

Auswide’s CEO Tommy Pausic addresses the issue very well. "In recent times few, if any, companies have been subjected to what we have been put through with social media. If there was an incident running across the paddock it was falsely attributed to Auswide, anything involving a European truck, it was an Auswide. It didn’t matter if it was false, photoshopped or wrongly attributed. Social media drove public perception and with that came reputational damage and also harm to hard-working people and their families."

In the face of all the negativity, Amrit and the Auswide team set about planning and chasing the company goals, developing systems and protocols that put maximum emphasis on driver well-being and company efficiency.

"Becoming the biggest isn’t a problem," Tommy says. "Becoming the best is where we want to be, and our focus is steadfast." As the company approaches its 15th anniversary next year, it’s well on track to do that and much more.

Amrit admits achieving these goals has been made easier by having the right people in the right positions. A case in point is Auswide’s general manager Gabby Singh. Prior to starting with Auswide in 2015 as an operations manager, Gabby had done his time behind the wheel of everything from rigids to road trains. Driving was in his DNA and a manager’s position forced him to hang up the keys, trade in the work boots and high vis for shiny shoes and Chinos, although he always considers things from a driver’s perspective.

"One of the best decisions we made was to cut downloading and unloading by the linehaul drivers. Everything is now done by local drivers. The only expectation is to do your Ks safely, report any issues to us and manage your fatigue," Gabby says.

Managing fatigue isn’t left solely to the drivers, as Amrit points out. "We have a team of 28 staff, working 24/7 that just monitors and checks on the drivers. They are trained to know the fatigue signs and are always checking the welfare of our drivers."

As warm and cuddly as that all sounds, the reality of it is that it’s in everyone’s best interests. "Keeping your drivers safe and on the road makes good business sense; Carrying out the freight task safely, reliably and efficiently will keep our customers more than satisfied," Tommy adds.

Driver welfare is just one of the targets for Auswide. Another is to become leaders and innovators when it comes to transport safety and IT. A fair chunk of that task falls on the shoulders of Auswide’s safety and compliance guru Jeff Wright who came on board with the company in 2021 after four decades in policing and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. He has helped move Auswide towards the top of the food chain when it comes to safety and compliance that go beyond the required standards. He has also helped oversee some major innovations for both Auswide and the transport industry. One example are the A-B triples Auswide are now towing directly from their Adelaide depot into Perth. Another is the B-triples now running between its Melbourne and Adelaide depots.

With our history lesson well covered we should move on to Auswide’s 150th truck purchase. The stunning Kenworth T909 looks nothing like the anniversary concept that Amrit first pinned to the boardroom chalkboard back in late 2020.

"When we got our 100th truck we went a little extra with that," Amrit says. "So when the 150th was ordered we decided to celebrate it as well. We wanted not only a show truck, but a working show truck."

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Amrit’s original plan was to have a black and gold truck. Base colour black with gold grill bars, tank straps and pin striping. Then the simple concept kind of escalated when Tom, Gabby and driver Damien Toms were consulted. The black and gold idea was still a goer, but ‘a little bit of airbrushing’ was voted in. As for the gold detailing? Well, that was kind of scaled back and replaced with ‘a little bit more airbrushing’. All of this was on the board even before the truck made its way to AllStyles Customs where artist Laurent Machado added in his two cents worth. "Let’s add more airbrushing" was the verdict. While it was a touch more than originally intended, it works. Add in the whole black on black façade and it comes together nicely.

"KDM, Kenworth DAF Melbourne, must be mentioned because they were great to deal with," Gabby says. "And also Wayne Hoffman from All State Truck Repairs. Wayne put a lot of effort into this. He basically built the whole truck and did the custom interior with Pearlcraft additions. To build all the custom parts, prepare it ready for the airbrushing, then clear coated it afterward, was an enormous effort."

Personally, Wayne doing such a fantastic job made my job as a photographer extremely difficult. Taking photos of a truck with this much shine to it is a massive challenge. As you can see by the images we had to wait until all the lights were out and the sun had packed up and buggered off before I could snap some shots that are able to show the amazing ‘little bit of airbrushing’ on the big 909.

The entire process lasted almost 14 months, although a lot of that was due to the difficulties in trying to do anything during COVID lockdowns. The rest of it was due to the fact of a ‘little bit of airbrushing’ evolving into an entire working art piece.

I must emphasise the working part as well. Yes, this truck is a show truck, but it is a working show truck. Damian ‘Damo’ Toms is the man entrusted with the custom 909 and although he previously covered all corners of the country in the 100th anniversary truck, the 150th truck has him now on a set run, Melbourne to Sydney return for one of Auswide’s major clients.

"When we first got the truck, we took it to a few of our big clients and all of them asked if it could be their dedicated truck," Damo laughs. "Everyone loves it."

One of the reasons Damo has the keys is because he happily spends just as much time on the wash bay as he does on the highway. It’s almost as hard to catch and photograph this truck, dirty as it is, when it’s clean and shiny.

As I mentioned at the start, this truck is a celebration truck. Celebrating the company a young fella began with a Freightliner and a Fuso. Celebrating the small family atmosphere that has been fostered in a business with several hundred staff and celebrating the people that are able to brush aside the negativity and stay focussed on setting new standards and delivering innovation, while also setting new standards in creating working show truck art pieces.

All I ask is when the 200th comes along, can I photograph it before the clearcoat goes on?

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From a one-truck setup in 2007, Auswide Transport Solutions has grown to be one of the most professional long-haul outfits around, despite having to negotiate a barrage of keyboard warrior negativity.RELATED ARTICLE: The Mega Milk Man RELATED ARTICLE: Travellin' man You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook. Trucks For Hire | Forklifts For Hire | Cranes For Hire | Generators For Hire | Transportable Buildings For Hire