One of nine brothers who, along with their father, were all involved in the log transport industry, Dave Siddle, 76, knows the roads that lead to the APM Mill at Maryvale, in Victoria’s Gippsland region, like the back of his hand. After all, he’s been going there ever since he was 17.
These days you’ll find him behind the wheel of a 2019 Kenworth T909 he drives for ANC Forestry Group, which runs a fleet of 37 log trucks in Victoria’s high country, from its base in Morwell. The truck has 400,000km on the clock now and Siddle says it’s a joy to drive.
“When I first started on the log trucks I didn’t have a licence because I was only 17, so I had to have a licenced driver go out with me. I’ve been flat out ever since. We had 6ft billets when I started and we had to load ourselves back then. It was hard yakka. Now you go out to the bush and there are machines and excavators. It’s a lot easier now or else I wouldn’t be still doing it at my age. I’m 76 but I don’t feel it, I’m pretty fit and still have a bit in me now,” said Siddle.
“My brothers had trucks and I ended up having three of my own in the 1980s too (an Acco and two Dodges) but there was a bloke who wanted to buy them, so I sold them. I was with Aus Timber for 15 years before ANC bought their trucks.”
Managing director at ANC Forestry Daryl Hutton says he’s proud to have Siddle on his team, “He’s been with ANC for about eight years and has done all sorts of different runs with us over that time. He used to do Victoria-wide but in the last few years stays more local, carting plantation pine,” he said.
“Daisy is like your dream employee, because he just comes to work every day and gets the job done. He’s been doing it for so long that he can foresee any issues, and he can drive any truck and trailer combination. He really is an inspiration to the younger generation too. Everybody that’s worked alongside him can take something out of what Daisy does and contributes, and the way he conducts himself. He’s a no bullshit employee that doesn’t bring outside problems to work. Old school.”
While most people are generally warm and cosy in their bed, Siddle is already halfway through his day. Each morning, he’s up at 12.30am and by 2am, he’s at the yard and ready to go.
“I’ve been doing that for years. I make my lunch, have a coffee and leave home at about 1.20am. I come in and start at 2am every morning, do four loads every day and go home. I love driving trucks and the people I work with. It’s the office staff too – I get on well with everyone,” Siddle said.
Born in Traralgon, Siddle now lives in Glengarry. Growing up, his father worked for Tyers Sawmill, where they would cut the timber into 6ft billets and cart four to five loads each day.
“My brothers and I all used to go with him, and on weekends he’d have us cutting wood with the axe. He’d take one of us in the truck at a time. I was mad on trucks,” Siddle fondly recalled.
“I went straight into the log trucks and my brothers were all the same, but two have passed away now. My oldest brother is 80 and still working. And my brother Les works for Aus Timber too, with a tipper of his own. He has five vintage trucks too.”
After 60 years in the industry, Siddle has developed many great memories. “There have been some tremendous friendships developed – with the weighbridge blokes and the blokes that unload you too,” he said.
“I love doing it. It’s a job and it’s a good job. Sure, you go through hard times when you’re stuck in the mud but you just get over it and carry on. I’ve been doing this for so long, I know what the roads are like and how to tackle them.”
To celebrate Siddle’s 60-year milestone, ANC held a special celebration. “We had a barbeque and a few beers, there was a beautiful cake and they gave me a jumper and a going out jacket. It was magic, it really was, it was an unreal evening,” he said.