The sun was burning the skin when Big Rigs stopped after spotting Gardner toiling hard to do what looked like a major repair on a broken down Western Star Constellation.
Picture opportunities like this are few and far between and I was mindful that such workers are rarely recognised for their out-of-the-spotlight and behind-the-scenes efforts to keep trucks running and Australia supplied.
“There is a problem with the batteries and I am fixing it,” Gardner said.
Gardner is the fleet project manager for Seymours Transport which is based at Toogoolawah in the Brisbane Valley and despite the heat and steamy conditions could even see a positive side to his task.
The company is a family business spanning four generations. Seymours started in 1928 with Wilfred Seymour buying the local blacksmith business in Toogoolawah.
Gardner has held that vital position for the past 10 years and he has a full MC licence and is a qualified fitter. His duties involve looking after the machinery and employees of the company.
“Yesterday I had to change tyres on a truck and it was 41 degrees, a fair bit hotter than today,” he said as sweat poured down his face.
I asked Gardner what is the most uncomfortable job he does on a regular basis and his answer was swift.
“It would be when I get called out to a repair and have to get on the ground under the truck which has picked up road kill,” he said.
That occurs regularly and on my trip throughout the region I saw scores of dead animals beside the highways and byways including kangaroos, birds and even a few feral pigs.
Having done a few stories in the past on council road gangs, which are tasked with picking up such dead carcasses for disposal, I could relate to Gardner’s experiences.
I asked Gardner for a few examples of such repairs and he didn’t take long to reply.
“I climbed under a vehicle and there was this horrible smell. I found half a dead roo on a crossmember above an axle and the stench was horrible. Two days later after several showers I could still smell it on my body,” he said.
There was another occasion when a pig was stuck to the under body parts of a truck.
“Dead pigs stink to high heaven and they are greasy as hell,” he said.
Gardner said he has even come across the remains of dead horses or cattle under vehicles during his work.
The 54-year-old enjoys the job and gets to travel far and wide when he gets a call out. It could be in the middle of the day or late at night and this knight in shining armour is off to a job.
“I work 10 days on and four days off. A call-out could come at any time of the day, or night, even at 1am. Every day is different and that is what I like, the variety. When a truck breaks down I have to get it back and running and as quickly as possible,” he said.
With apologies to famous Australian poet Banjo Paterson, Gardner is a modern-day version of one of those long gone dray drivers who travelled the country before motorised transport such as trucks.
Why such a comparison? readers may ask. Well the explanation is simple – he takes a swag with him when on call-outs often to remote locations.
Born at Theodore, Gardner lives at Mount Morgan and travels as far away as Roma, which is 450km in the distance, and to Dingo, Wondoan, Chinchilla, and others places.
He may have to change batteries or tyres, weld up trailers or do any other repair required by a fleet of Western Stars, Kenworths and other machinery.
Being an optimistic type I thought that in winter, Gardner would in the words of the late cricket commentator Tony Greig, “enjoy a good player’s comfort level”, but that is not always the case.
“I did a job at Taroom in winter and was under a vehicle with my legs on the ground and ice formed on my pants and skin. It was freezing,” he said.
When the trucks are all running, Gardner spends time in the office and amongst other duties does comparisons between what is written in logbooks and checking them against other data.
The first truck Gardner drove was a White 4000 he bought from Milmerran doing rock protection work when he was aged 17.
Gardner spent six years in the NT between 2004 and 2010 before returning to his beloved central Queensland.