Truckie Profiles

Two decades on the same 8200km weekly run

Veteran outback truckie Adrian ‘Slurp’ Schlieper, 54, has been doing the weekly 8200km round trip from Sydney to Darwin and back again since he joined Scarcella Transport 22 years ago. “They’re a great company to work for, it’s a great run and I love doing it – I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said.

Schlieper got into trucking after he left the army in 1989. “I started driving trucks and I’ve been here ever since.”

He got his truck licence at 21 and then progressed to his MC at around the age of 28. “I was working for a mate who has just bought a B-double and he needed someone to drive it, so he conned me into doing it for him,” he joked.

Schlieper and his two-up partner Ian Marsh (pictured) have been mates for over 20 years.

Nowadays you’ll find him behind the wheel of a gleaming new Scarcella Transport 2021 Kenworth T909, pulling a 125-tonne quad road train, with his two-up partner Ian Marsh. They’ve been sharing the truck cabin for 15 or so years and Schlieper says they’ve been great mates for over 20.

The duo transport express freight up to Darwin and carry produce or seafood on the return.

“It was great to get a truck last year – it’s a home away from home and the opportunity doesn’t come around often,” he said, singing his praises for his employer.

“Scarcella Transport is a brilliant company to work for. It’s family owned and the owners are great – you couldn’t ask for a better group of people.

“We’re away five days a week. I do really enjoy it, and my wife enjoys not having me at home even more,” laughed Schlieper.

But what is it he likes most about the job I ask? “It’s being out in the middle of nowhere, being your own boss and the peace and quiet. It’s better than running up and down the east coast any day.

“Every now and then we get to go to Kununurra in WA’s Kimberley and we love it over there. And we get to see Darwin every week, which ain’t a bad thing, it’s a beautiful city!”

Schlieper nominated the Landsborough Highway in Western Queensland as one of the toughest he gets along. “It’s a goat track. You get nothing but bashed around. For a main highway, it’s a joke.”

On the topic of roadhouses, the Dunmarra Roadhouse in Birdum, NT, is a favourite. “They offer friendly service and Gary the owner always looks after truck drivers. The food is pretty good there too, probably the best on the highway.”

As much as he loves the work, it’s not without its challenges. Especially with ever-changing border requirements due to Covid. “There were quite a few issues in the beginning with getting across borders – and being put under arrest at about 12pm one morning in Camooweal.

“Police escorted us to Mount Isa due to a silly border permit change. They had us there for about half an hour until they realised there was no big deal and let us go.

“There were a couple of times they wouldn’t let us over the border into the NT too, so we were stuck at Camooweal. Then there were times a border permit change would come through and we’d be trying to get it sorted but couldn’t get any internet service.”

Having spent over 30 years in the industry, Schlieper has seen many changes. “They’re trying to bring in safety stuff but are going about it the wrong way and things are going downhill instead of progressing forward,” he said.

“A lot of the comradery has gone They’d rather go past you if you had a flat tyre than stop and help. It’s every man for themselves now. Though on this run, you do still get a lot of blokes who will pull up and help. It started changing about 2007-2008, with blokes trying to keep up with their logbooks, whereas in the old days, if someone was in need, you’d always stop and help.”

Despite its challenges, Schlieper couldn’t see himself doing anything else. When asked what the future has in store, he says, “If my boss John Scarcella has his way, I’ll be here until the day I die.”

‘Truckin’ in the Outback’ is proudly supported by Loadshift, Australia’s largest freight marketplace for individuals and businesses seeking to buy and sell road transport services.

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