Two trucks, 14 days and 10,863 kilometres travelled have made for an unforgettable journey for this husband-and-wife trucking duo.
Though she’s spent a lifetime in the industry, 53-year-old MC driver Karen Hawker only made the move to being behind the wheel a few years ago.
She chatted with Big Rigs while on the last leg of a 14-day journey across Australia with her husband Simon Hawker, 52. It’s an adventure that’s seen them cover a total of 10,863 kilometres in two trucks. The Gatton based couple both work for RCIT Holdings Group, with Karen in a 2016 Mack Super-Liner and Simon – who has been driving trucks for the past 30 years – in a 2016 Freightliner Coronado.
“There were two of us in two trucks,” said Karen. “We’ve tried two-up in the past but found it didn’t work for us as we both found it hard to sleep when the truck is moving – especially in Queensland as the roads are awful, whereas in WA the roads are beautiful. If we’re lucky enough to get two loads together, we prefer to do it that way.
“We’ve just done two weeks of driving and done the whole of Australia, so we’ll be glad to be getting home tonight.”
For Karen, it hasn’t always been an easy ride. Having tragically lost two husbands, she is also the treasurer for the Lights on the Hill Trucking Memorial, which holds a very special place in her heart. “We’re quite heavily involved with Lights on the Hill. We will always have quite an attachment to the place because I have two hubbies’ names on the wall,” she said.
Her first husband Allen Dionysius, who was a truck driver, passed away from a heart attack at the age of just 29. “I was drawn to trucks from that point. After he passed away I found I needed an income so I became a cleaner for Lindsay Brothers. I went on to work in the office for them across three different depots (Brisbane, Mildura and Gatton) over a period of about 15 years. I met someone – he wasn’t a truck driver. We got married but our marriage broke up. I then met someone else, Don Dashington, who also worked at Lindsays as a truck driver, but he ended up having a tragic truck accident 11 years ago. After that I spent 12 months doing nothing,” Karen recalled.
By 2018, her youngest child had finished school and she saw that as an opportunity to start driving. “It was a long time before I was game enough to drive a truck. I had spent a lot of time in the passenger seat which helped tremendously. Eventually, I felt confident enough to get my HR licence,” said Karen.
“Before I started working for RCIT Holdings, I worked for Nolan’s for about six months. They gave me my training wheels. I used to do Mackay change-overs for them. I also did a run with an AB triple and after that, I felt like I could do anything.
“I have five children and they all grew up in the industry. My eldest two boys both worked for Lindsay Brothers too – and one manages the company I’m working for now.”
Karen and her son Jamie Dionysius decided to purchase a truck together and started their own business. It was about 18 months after that Karen met her husband Simon. “We built that fleet up to three and the guy who owns RCIT Holdings, John Schollick, actually happened to be at the scene when my late husband had his accident. He was driving in the car next to him. After he passed away, John kept in contact with my family and I. He ended up employing us to run his trucks.
“When John decided to expand his fleet, he employed my son, myself, my son Jamie, my husband Simon and his other crew of people. We run the linehaul stuff ourselves.”
They carry a variety of products into mine sites including moving huts and gas rigs. The recent cross-country trip included delivering water pipes for a large wind farm to Crystal Brook in the Mid North region of South Australia, not far from Port Augusta. Then they travelled empty across the Nullarbor to Kalgoorlie and straight up the middle of WA to a mine site near Newman to pick up some 15.8m oversize/over length huts from a mine. From there, it was over to Port Hedland, through various remote towns and eventually into Mt Isa before making their way back home to Gatton.
“We saw some really wonderful things and met some wonderful characters. There’s not much around in some of the communities all the way up WA, so we were just camping on the side of road. We stopped at a lot of roadhouses too – we like to support them and help to keep those services going. If drivers take their own food, you can’t do that,” Karen added.
She rates this recent big trip as one of her career highlights so far. “The trip around Australia has been the best experience ever. I’ve seen all sorts of roads, from the best to the worst. It’s given me a total overview of the whole of Australia, and you can’t get that in any other job – and we’re getting paid to do it.
“Every day is a different challenge. You don’t feel like you’re stuck in a job. This doesn’t feel like work at all for me.”
When asked about a favourite town to visit, Karen rates Cardwell on Queensland’s Cassowary Coast as a top spot. “It has the most spectacular views and you can just pull the truck up right next to the water and go across to the pub for a meal, then you go back to the truck and wake up with the view right in your face. That is one of my favourite places – I always stop there if I’m going through that way.”