Legendary ‘chaser’ reflects on colourful career

MICK Simpson is no shrinking violet, and I am sure a cast of thousands could attest to that statement.

With 50 years in the industry, young Mick has worn a lot of hats during his time, from government clerk, to Telecom heavy vehicle driver, to accident chaser for truck smash repairers.

The last job is the one he is most well known for, with over 25 years working on the worst side of the industry.

Still, Mick has managed to come out the other end of it all with a smile on his face, and a spring in his step that people a quarter of his age don’t possess.

It seems from that day Mick was born back in 1950, he hasn’t stopped. Finishing school in third form (year 9) in 1964, he took on a job working in a warehouse, followed by a position as a NSW Government clerk.

In 1967, Mick obtained his driver’s licence, working part-time as a tow truck driver to supplement his income. From there, the young driver obtained his rigid licence, working with Johnston’s Transport in Southwest Sydney.

There isn’t much of Australia that Mick hasn’t seen through the windscreen of his camperbus.

The freight company carried out deliveries to petrol stations, with hand unloading 44 gallon drums off the tray, onto two truck tyres a regular occurrence. Mick stayed with Johnston’s until 1971, obtaining his semi trailer licence before parting ways with the company.

In February 1971, Mick got a start with McVicars Bus Company, on the local route around Bankstown and Strathfield, working with them after they were bought out, but parting ways with the company in 1978 after a disagreement with his new boss.

Or, as Mick puts it: “Some bosses are just mongrels, you have to tell them because their mum and dad never took the time to tell them”.

Mick had sporadically worked for Fleet Towing, with Wayne Moran hiring him whenever he could to fill vacancies.

Not one to sit still for too long though, Mick started up in Telecom in 1978, and by 1983 was working in the heavy vehicle division, running equipment and loads out to rural Australia for the telecommunications giant. In August 1989, the offer of redundancy was put on the table at the Greenacre depot where Mick was based. Mick made sure he put both hands up to take the payout, in case they didn’t see his first hand go up.

Back in 1989, after taking the chance to move on from Telecom, Wayne Moran from Fleet Towing set up Mick with a job interview at Buckley’s Smash Repairs, as a field rep, or in industry terms, a ‘chaser’.

Taking to the job like a duck to water, Mick obtained a reputation as an exceptional operator, able to troubleshoot and rectify issues in the heat of the moment.

A disagreement in 1991 led to jumping ship to Royans Truck Repairs, where Mick stayed until 1995, when he did not see eye-to-eye with his new boss.

With his heart set on staying a chaser, Mick called Darren Wales from Wales Truck Repairs, looking to sign up with the small family operation, but also wanting to “do some damage” to the competition.

When Mick started with Wales, it had nine staff and no field reps except for Darren Wales. Mick was signed up on the proviso that is was to be a six-week trial, with either party able to walk away if it wasn’t working out.

The first day Mick turned up to work, at 8:20am an ex-government VR Commodore rolled through the gate.

Barry Wales gestured towards the car and said “okay mate, what radios do you reckon it needs?”

Wondering out loud what had happened to the trial period, Barry told him, “don’t worry about the trial, you are hired.”

From there we just moved forward,” recalled Mick. “It was beautiful to watch it grow over time, to become what it is today.”

When asked about Wales’s success, Mick told us, “I introduced Wales to more work, that’s all I did. If it wasn’t a quality operation, then they never would have been able to build up to what they are today.”

Working as a chaser is not an easy job though, mentally or emotionally, with Mick owing his success to his ‘backstop’, his wife Edie and kids, Belinda, Darren and Paul.

Mick and Edie have been married 48 years, and according to Mick has survived so much that other marriages wouldn’t have.

We have only really had one fight during our marriage. It started in 1973 and we still haven’t finished it yet,” he joked.

Mick can’t praise Edie enough for the support she has given him, and Mick has brought his work home with him in more ways than one.

On one occasion, Mick was called to an accident on Henry Lawson Drive at Milperra, where a BMW had come across the front of a Louisville car carrier, causing a fire.

In the following chaos, the truck driver managed to unload the entire shipment of cars he was carrying, but in doing so missed a chance to grab anything from the cab of the truck before it burnt to the ground.

With nothing but the scorched clothes on his back, Mick spoke to the driver’s boss, and took the driver home to Edie to allow him to recover from what had happened. After a good night’s sleep, Mick sent the driver on his way with a left over Telecom uniform that was still in the box, including the Telecom duffel coat that was part of the uniform.

One week later, Mick and Edie received a card from the driver, saying ‘a friend in need, is a friend indeed, and it brought tears to both their eyes.

Mick pulled the pin in 2015, retiring from Wales and purchasing a Nissan Civilian camper bus. Unfortunately, since retiring Mick has been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a by product of decades of smoking.

I had so many people tell me not to smoke, but everyone handles trauma differently, and smoking was my way of handling my job. I have been to accidents where the ambos and coppers had counselling afterwards. We had none of that.”

This hasn’t slowed Mick down though, since retiring he has been a regular at truck shows all over Australia, making two round Australia trips in the big Nissan, pulling the Wales signwritten trailer.

All over this wide brown land, Mick has touched the lives of many folk, both from inside and outside the transport industry, and is still doing so by continuing the community work he spent the last five decades taking part in.

A true gentleman of the industry, Shell Rimula Hall of Fame inductee, and yarn spinner, next time you are at a truck show, keep an eye out for Mick Simpson.

You really can’t miss him – he’s the 70-year-old who will always have the glint of a cheeky teenager in his eye.

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