Hero outback truckie receives Highway Guardian honours

A heroic outback road train driver who saved the life of a man in trouble in blistering heat has been formally recognised, with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) naming him a Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian.

Lowes Transport’s Michael Thompson, who Big Rigs spoke with earlier this year following the ordeal, was enroute to a fuel delivery to the Cordillo Downs Station, near the Queensland/South Australia border, when he came to the rescue of a severely dehydrated Terrence Stewart from Sydney.

A change of plans saw Thompson make the decision to deliver the load a day early, and there was also a last-minute route change due of weather, which put him on the path to discover Thompson.

The outback truckie first encountered the man’s car on the road into the station, with a note signalling his intention of walking the 30km to Cordillo. After following foot tracks for 13 kilometres in the scorching near 50-degree heat, Thompson discovered the man in a bad way off the road and quickly organised help by calling his wife on the satellite phone in order to facilitate assistance while he administered first aid.

With help from those on the station, the man was transported by road to the station within an hour while the Royal Flying Doctor Service was dispatched and subsequently transferred to hospital for treatment.

This life-saving intervention is credited with saving Stewart’s life. Lowes Petroleum has praised Thompson for understanding the danger of the situation, having the knowledge and skills to administer the required care, and applying initiative to dispatch the required emergency services.

Stewart says he is full of gratitude towards the man who saved his life, with the two developing an unshakable bond.

“Michael saved my life, so it is a massive thank you. He read my note left on the steering wheel, contacted Cordillo and advised them of the situation and drove towards Cordillo. He could not find me so he got out of his truck and started following my footprints till he found me,” Stewart explained.

“He put everything together to give me what I am enjoying today and that is life. In my mind, he was determined to find me and do the best he could to save me and I greatly appreciate all the things he has done. It is not just finding me, but he put all the bits in place to make sure I survived. I would like to think he is a family friend for life.”

The ATA says the Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian is one of the highest honours a member of the transport industry can receive, with the accolade highlighting truck drivers who have gone above and beyond when faced with adversity.

According to ATA chair, David Smith, Thompson’s story highlights the importance truck drivers play in remote Australia.

“Truck drivers operating in the outback and on remote routes are vital for stations to receive the goods and services they require to operate, but Michael Thompson highlights the critical role that our industry plays in looking out for others on the roads as well,” Smith said.

“Terrence was subjected to some of Australia’s harshest conditions through no fault of his own, but had there not have been a fuel delivery scheduled that week, it could have been a very different outcome. We’re fortunate to have people like Michael Thompson with the instincts to identify that something’s not right and who can apply the initiative to facilitate the assistance needed at that moment.”

The Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian accolade is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Australian Trucking Association. If you know a member of the industry fitting of the title, you can nominate them here.

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