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Owner-Driver  /  November 3, 2017

Being a diesel mechanic and specialising in heavy vehicle recovery has helped Stuart Klints easily find work on both the east and west coasts of Australia. Peter and Di Schlenk write

Think towing in south-east Queensland and you naturally think Barnes Towing. After all, they have been providing a service to Brisbane companies since 1903. Today the company has 26 various trucks on the road operating out of five depots.

Barnes lays claim to being the largest dedicated heavy recovery operator in the Southern Hemisphere.

Stuart Klints drives a 2014 Kenworth T409 8x4 for Barnes. The last time Owner//Driver caught up with Stuart it was during the Lights on the Hill convoy a few years ago. Back then he was behind the wheel of a Scania.

"I loved that Scania but two years ago my partner Yvette and I decided on a change and we moved to Perth where I worked for Swan Heavy Towing," Stuart says.

Stuart and Yvette returned to Brisbane this year, although he’s no stranger to Western Australia. He’d previously worked for Mitchells as a qualified mechanic, but was drawn back to Queensland by the weather and to be closer to his family.

Stuart was born in Brisbane where he lived for 13 years before the family moved to the Gold Coast. After leaving high school, he did an apprenticeship working on coaches and then went straight into heavy recovery.

"I had always liked trucks and Rodney [Hill] at Knight’s Heavy Towing gave me a foot in the door.

"There is an advantage to being a diesel mechanic and a tow truck driver at the same time, just the knowledge of how things worked and how things go around," Stuart adds.

Back when Stuart began with Knight’s, he was driving a rig with all the old chain gear.

That first tow truck was a 1976 Kenworth SAR with an 8V92 Detroit Diesel and a 20-speed Spicer ’box.

"It was a screamer. It had a beautiful cab and sitting up there so high, I definitely thought I was king of the road," he exclaims.

Kenworth to Scania

After the SAR, Stuart spent a short time in a W model before getting into a Kenworth T650. The W had the first under-lift that Stuart had ever used and he’s operated them ever since.

Stuart then started with Barnes in another T650 which progressed to a brand new Century Class Freightliner and then came the Scania.

"I was a Kenworth fan for years and years, especially as a young bloke and the SAR and T650 had it all.

"When Barnes was looking at buying a second 8x4 Scania to be based on the north side of Brisbane, they asked me what I thought of the Scania. I replied ‘no way’!

"Anyway I ended up taking the Scania for a drive to see what I thought of it. I did that and returned with a smile from ear to ear.

"I told [owner] John Dent that he had better get me one of those Scania things," Stuart laughs. "It was just so quiet, comfortable and easy to drive."

Stuart rates its off-road abilities as one of its best assets. The Scania had full airbag suspension; front and rear.

"With the variety of our work, you have to go onto properties or off road to certain jobs," he continues.

"Just recently I had a job that surprised me. A private bloke rang and said his bobcat was in a sinkhole on his property. It was literally in a sink hole. He had been trying for two days to get it out.

"There was hard ground all over his property except for this sink hole that was twice the size of the bobcat.

"It was hard to access because of the size of the truck and the domestic driveway. It was a bit of a project but we got it out and he was tickled pink."

Stuart runs out of the Gold Coast depot where two under-lift recovery trucks are based, in addition to a tilt tray and semi tilt tray.

"Some days you could be a bag chucker all day. You do one job in this and then you jump in the semi-trailer and then the tilt tray. On other days you will just be in this all day," he explains.

Heavy recovery

The Barnes’ T409 8x4 is fitted with an Ekebol under-lift.

"Barnes run a full Ekebol fleet as they are Australian built and engineered and will do the job.

"You can’t beat the Ekebol stuff and it is manufactured locally at Buderim on the SunshineCoast.

"It’s great for Barnes to be able to buy all of the various pieces of machinery from one shop."

The under-lift on Stuart’s 409 is a TS20v2 model and rated at 100 tonnes, which means he can hook onto 100 tonne no problem.

"This little Kenworth is a good truck and having a bonnet out front helps," he smiles. "In the heavy towing side of things, the more weight you’ve got out front of your truck the better.

"When picking up vehicles with the under-lift, it keeps your weight up at the front and it gives you the advantage of being safer and more stable."

With five depots in and around Brisbane, Stuart says Barnes provides great coverage and top service.

"As a company, we will go literally anywhere but here on the Gold Coast I try to be kept around the local area to provide that local service," he explains.

"If something is over the border that is going back to Brisbane they will run a Brisbane truck, whereas the Toowoomba trucks will go way out west to recover a vehicle."

While the traffic can be very intense running around the Gold Coast all day, Stuart doesn’t get too stressed.

"A lot of people can’t handle it but I just go with it. If it’s moving, it’s moving. If it has stopped, it’s stopped.

"At the end of the day, the sun goes down and the traffic thins out and you get there in the end."

Previously, Stuart and Yvette operated a couple of shops on the north side of Brisbane. One was a carvery and the other a convenience store. Handling both proved too difficult so after two and a half years with the carvery, it was sold. This allowed them to concentrate solely on the convenience store.

"When we sold the store, the money we made was put towards a motor home; a 40ft Greyhound Denning coach. It pulls a 20ft trailer.

"The idea was to go west and then when we had had enough, we came home.

"So now we have a home on wheels so we can became grey nomads," he smiles.

Stuart has been a heavy vehicle recovery operator for over 23 years now and still loves it.

"I’ve been with Barnes for 16 years in total over the two stints, and I love good looking gear.

"Barnes have top equipment and they allow me to take it to truck shows so I couldn’t happier."


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