Paul Lake, 50, is a third-generation operator whose grandfather Percy Lake and father Pat were pioneers of the road transport industry in the Alice Springs to Darwin region.
“Dad was solo driving at 13 or 14 from Alice to Darwin, a trip that could take up to 10 days and if he was late back to the Alice, look out! That was in the late 40s to early 60s and Grandad was a co-founder of Co-Ord Transport which was started when small operators got together to take on the bigger companies that were coming up North,” explained Lake.
He is proud of his family connection and that he has been able to continue and follow them.
“Now we have a fourth generation driving and operating. I’m very proud of my nephews as well,” he said.
I get to meet some genuine and likeable characters when I randomly ask truckies from around the country if I can snap their pic and tell their story in Big Rigs.
One of these is undoubtedly Lake who I saw hooking up trailers at the Truck Staging Area near the gateway to Townsville Port recently.
Based in Mount Isa, Lake works for the Ostojic Group and was driving a 2001 Mack Titan and pulling four trailers.
“I carry minerals including zinc and coal between Mount Isa and Townsville. I have been a truckie on and off for at least 15 of the last 30 years and really like life on the road,” he said.
Lake has also worked on outback stations and told me that was where he gained his nickname “Possum”.
That tantalised my curiosity buds, prompting me to ask how it came about.
“Some years ago I worked on a cattle station near Katherine. The head stockman couldn’t remember my name, so every time he sent someone to get me to help run the horses in or go fix fences he would tell the other stockmen, “Take that Possum-eyed fella with you,” Lake said.
His quad road train is 53m in length and ensures drivers have to be skilful and careful at all times.
So which is the worst road he gets to travel along? I told him many drivers claim it is the section of the Flinders Highway between Hughenden and Julia Creek.
The busy Flinders connects the coast with Mount Isa and the outback towns in between.
“Actually they are fixing that up and I would have to say it is the Gregory Development Road between Clermont and Charters Towers but I have travelled on roads that make both look good!” he said.
His favourite roadhouse is at Dunmurra in the Northern Territory which he said looks after truckies.
Outside work Lake follows the NRL and rival AFL.
“I barrack for the St George Dragons in the NRL and the Sydney Swans in the AFL,” he said.
I asked Lake what the main issues he considers will be of interest to truckies in the Federal election.
“There are too many to list but the main problem is the bloody politicians,” he said.
On the subject of his love of being employed in the road transport industry, Lake produces a verbatim quote which I will continue to reflect on.
“If you love what you are doing you will never work a day,” he said in conclusion.