Memories of life on the highways

Six years ago, a horrific accident cut Kristopher Mullins’ truck driving career short. Now a drawing that sits by his bed serves as a reminder of what once was.

As a kid, all Mullins wanted to do was drive road trains – and he did for almost eight years, until the night that changed his life.

Mullins drove road trains for his parents’ company Niarton Transport, which sub-contracts to Mainfreight, carrying general freight from Brisbane to Cairns. You’d find him either behind the wheel of a blue Kenworth T908 or steering a white Freightliner Argosy.

The Kenworth T908 Mullins used to drive.

On ANZAC Day 2015, Mullins was travelling through the rural town of Macalister in Queensland in the Kenworth. “It was about 10-11pm and there was a truck coming towards me. He had his spotties on and I kept flicking mine back, then when I realised he was in my lane, he was only about 100 metres in front of me. I didn’t have time to do anything. I swerved to try and miss him, but we hit each other head on, on both passenger sides. I was doing about 80km/h and they reckon he was still at 100km/h on impact,” recalled Mullins, who was lucky to survive the crash.

He was trapped inside the wreckage for about five hours before being cut free and air-lifted to hospital.

“It happened in the middle of nowhere. I don’t remember the impact, but I remember seeing a truck coming past. He stopped and I was banging on the window. My Dad was in another truck just ahead of me, so I told the truckie to call him. My Dad came down and he was the second person on the scene,” said Mullins.

The same T908 after the accident.

His injuries were significant. He suffered a shattered pelvis, broken ribs and broken arm. Mullins was placed into an induced coma for two weeks, but as a result, his kidneys shut down, requiring dialysis. “They didn’t think I was going to wake up, so they told my wife to bring the kids to say their goodbyes,” he said.

But, overcoming the odds, Mullins pulled through, though the scars – both mental and physical – run deep. Unable to walk, he spent two and a half years in a wheelchair, on top of a number of other obstacles. “I had a couple of operations in my arm, but the screws came loose, then I got an infection. It was looking like I could lose my arm, but luckily they stopped it in time,” said Mullins.

“I’ve also got a permanent foot drop out of it, and PTSD, as you do. And they took my licence off me too, which is a shame, because all I ever wanted to do was drive road trains, and that’s what I was doing. It’s put me into early retirement because I can’t work. I’d love to go back to driving trucks but can’t see it happening.”

Determined not to let the memories of his time on the road fade, he got in contact with an artist named Sam Gerry, after seeing her ad pop up on Facebook.

Gerry has been drawing for many years. After selling the hotel she owned with her husband, she found herself with more time to devote to drawing. One day a friend asked Gerry to draw a truck as a gift for her husband, and she says she’s been drawing trucks ever since.

“I got a message one day from Kristopher, asking if I could draw two trucks, although he didn’t have a photo of them together,” said Gerry. “I said I looked forward to drawing them, especially the blue one because it was a beautiful truck. He asked if I wanted to see what it looked like now and I was blown away.

“Most of the stories behind the trucks I draw are because the driver is retiring or a father wanting a truck drawn with their son – often they are really happy stories, but when Kristopher told me this story, it was just shocking. It’s unusual for someone to go through so much grief in their life and then have a reminder of it hanging on their wall.”

The two trucks in the drawing are the Kenworth T908 involved in the crash and the Freightliner Argosy, which Mullins’ father was driving when the incident happened.

“I told Sam that I wanted the two trucks together, and it turned out to be a masterpiece,” said Mullins.

“When I get older, they reckon my memory will go and I’ll eventually end up in a wheelchair again. I want to remember those trucks and what happened, I don’t want to forget it. That’s why the drawing is hanging in my bedroom, right beside my bed. It’s the first thing I see in the morning – apart from the misses of course.”

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