“I did come off the road and got a factory job that lasted two and a half days and I went back driving again. I couldn’t hack being inside four walls, so I never went back.”
A pretty simple statement that speaks volumes for the choice of career for Garry Williams as he reflected on a 48-year involvement with road transport.
Today, Williams works locally around the Albury-Wodonga area for Lieschke transport of Jindera, and it would be fair to say that while the kilometres don’t tally up as they once did, he still gets a buzz out of driving a truck which commenced with Albury Border Transport as a 17-year-old.
“My old man, Frank Williams, used to work for Albury Border Transport which eventually got bought out by Ansett Freight Express – he worked there until he retired. I was just going to school, and I started working with the trucks around the yard, washing them and so on.
“When I first got my licence, I was running around town, back then Albury Border was the distributor for Castrol, it was my job to unload the trucks coming in and do all the oil deliveries around town,” he explained.
Needless to say it wasn’t long before he ventured further afield, first taking to the highway in a V8 Dodge along with other trucks of the era including Commers and the ever-popular 1418 Mercedes, with the trucks getting bigger and more powerful as the years ticked by. While working for a few different employers along the way Williams has carried a variety of freight across most of eastern and southern Australia.
Throughout the 1980s Williams clocked up a lot of kilometres on express parcel freight with firstly The Overnighters and then IPEC which at the time were part of the Mayne Nickless organisation, with one of his more memorable trucks being a twin steer Kenworth K100E rigid, as he recalled with a smile,.
“The Overnighters had two of them on the Hume, and three drivers – one in Sydney, one in Melbourne and me in Albury. They were set up to do different jobs, the ones going running north were geared to pull through the hills better, but they would be no good on the Adelaide run for example as they would be revving too high, of course back then no one worried about fuel too much though.
“With the Detroit 6/92TTA they were a pretty quick truck, and that contract ran out around the same time the speed limiters came in.”
With The Overnighters consolidated under the IPEC banner at the end of that decade, Garry also got his first taste of B-doubles heading across from Mildura to Sydney.
“I took a single over there on a Saturday and waited for the truck to come in from Adelaide on the Sunday and I learnt how to drive it…at least it was all straight roads!” A legacy from his parcel freight days has been his nickname, ’Rover’ which he has been widely referred to as ever since.
“When I was working for The Overnighters, there was another driver there Maxie Webb who reckoned I was like a dog hunting everyone up on the road. It sort of stuck from there.”
Over the years Williams has also worked for Wadley’s hauling carbon black , and also did a stint for Kalari carting sand from Beechworth to the ACI glass plants in Melbourne and Sydney.
By the early years of the 2000s he was operating a Kenworth T650 on log haulage for Toll, which he reckoned provided a good environment to sharpen his driving skills.
“Bush work is a lot better than the highway, driving in the bush it makes you a better driver on the highway, with mud, snow and black ice you soon learn how to drive,” he said.
When the Toll log division was sold off to Greenfreight, he shifted across to Toll Regional which was essentially the former CJ Dean operation based in Adelong. Timber was again on the agenda with Williams now behind the wheel of a FH Volvo carting the finished product out of the Hyne mill at Tumbarumba.
“I had a pretty good few years and took a redundancy there which gave me a chance to get off the highway – there were a few of us there that got made redundant, but I don’t think any of us have looked back, we are all doing something.”
While the roads have got better and the trucks are now safer and more comfortable, he reckons all the changes over the years have not necessarily been for the best.
“Hardly anyone wants to talk to you anymore. Once upon a time you would have a flat tyre and 4-5 blokes would pull up to help get you going. I did a turbo one night at Bookham in the 8-wheeler – I had 4 trucks pull up and we transferred the freight so it could still get to Melbourne – that wouldn’t happen now,” he lamented.
For now, the family-owned Lieschke operation is the place to be for Williams as he winds down towards a well-earned retirement.
Keeping busy in his Freightliner Argosy loading and unloading trailers along with the occasional longer day trip, he reckons he would like to keep at it for a couple more years so he can hit the 50-year milestone.
“I’m at retirement age but another couple of years will get me over the line – where I am now at Lieschke’s I couldn’t ask for anything better…I’m happy where I am and that’s where I will stay until I finish,” he concluded.