Striving for excellence

While not having a formal engineering background, Ken Vorwerk learned a lot from his father – a mechanic and plant operator who had lived his whole life around trucks and machinery. Having transported livestock for many years, Ken came up with several design improvements to enhance the utilisation and reliability of the equipment he used.

Ken Vorwerk was born and raised at Mount Gambier and has remained living there ever since. In February 1979 he fulfilled his dream to become an owner driver when he and his wife Judy purchased a livestock carrying business.

In 1989, after buying a second-hand International T3070 tipper, Ken and his dad designed a quick release system to detach the tipper body and bolt on a turntable to pull a stock crate. This enabled Ken to use the same truck as a tipper doing local work as well as subcontracting for Belmonte Transport hauling sheep and cattle to AMH at Portland. In addition, during the winter months, Ken worked as a tow operator for Associated Transport carting general freight.

In 1990 Ken replaced the T3070 with a Ford Louisville LNT after acquiring the contract for AMH and later transported Myora Farm pigs for the JH Ralph abattoir in Melbourne. The LNT was eventually replaced by a newer LTS Louisville and Ken maintains it was the best truck he owned.

After AMH closed, Ken continued to transport Myora Farm pigs for 17 years until he and Judy sold their business in 2013.

Ken also had a great run with Shanks stock crates, having purchased three new units between 1996 and 2008. The last unit had a water tank and pump system supplying irrigation nozzles along the middle of the trailer that sprayed a fine mist of water to keep the pigs cool during transit in the hot summer months.

Another of the modifications Ken made to his Shanks crates was so successful it ended up being incorporated into the builds of all new Shanks stock crates.

“They were using roller bearings for the slam-shut gates and they weren’t lasting very long so I spoke with father about using nylon bushes instead of the steel bearings,” Ken says.

“He went home and turned some up on his lathe and they worked brilliantly and lasted much longer.”

Ken says the next time the Shanks salesman visited he saw the nylon bushes and immediately rang the business’s owner Ron Shanks to tell him about it.

Ken jokingly adds that he and his dad didn’t receive any royalties from Shanks for the invention.

Having an all-encompassing passion for the trucking industry, Ken was a long-serving committee member of the Livestock Transporters Association of South Australia and, in June 2008, was awarded Life Membership for outstanding service to the Association.

Then in 2015, the ultimate industry accolade was bestowed upon Ken when he was awarded a place on the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at the National Road Transport Museum at Alice Springs.

Industry Icon
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers. Industry Icon is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.