At just 24 years of age, third generation truckie Robert Hull already knows the Tanami like the back of his hand – after all, this unforgiving stretch is where he spends the majority of his time behind the wheel.
He works for Alice Springs based outfit A&F Transport and has been there for close to four years now. He started out in the yard for a couple of years, proving himself and showing his worth, before gradually working his way up to triple road train work.
A&F Transport runs a fleet of 11 trucks, 10 of which are Macks. It’s a mixture of late and earlier models, the oldest of which is a 1994 Mack CLR.
“My father is a truck driver. He works for ABC Transport in Alice Springs. We were originally from Quorn in South Australia but the family came here in 2003 for dad’s work. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a truck driver too,” Hull explained.
“As a little kid I used to go out in the truck with my father. I’d go with him on weekends when he carted fuel to the oil rigs. When I’m in the truck, I sometimes look back at those times and remember some of the things he taught me as a child and think, ‘oh yeah, that’s a good idea, I might do this like that’.
“My old man put me behind the wheel at a young age. When I was about 12, he started teaching me to drive in a Kenworth T650.”
When Hull finished school, he knew that truck driving was what he wanted to pursue – after all it was already in the blood. He got his truck licence at 19 and progressed to his MC shortly after.
“A&F Transport has been really good to me and really supportive in catering to what you what you want to do,” Hull added.
These days, he drives a 1997 Mack Titan, carting triples of general freight or cement powder to the Granites Mine, which is situated in the Tanami Desert in the NT.
“It’s about 645km each way. Depending on how bad the road is, on a good day it can take 10 hours, but on a bad day it could take 15-16 hours. The last 70km out to the mine gets pretty badly corrugated sometimes,” he said.
Recently it was announced that a contract had been awarded to seal 150 kilometres of the Tanami Road, with works to start on the first 60 kilometre section.
“I’m just on the Tanami turn-off now. About 250km of the trip is dirt. Some days it can be absolutely terrible, other days if it’s been graded regularly, it’s just as good as bitumen,” said Hull.
Speaking of the Tanami sealing upgrades, he added, “I’ve seen that preparation works are now starting on the Tanami. Once that’s complete, it’ll shave a few hours off the trip.”
Though travelling the outback can be lonely, Hull says he loves being away from the big city. “You might not see someone for a couple of hundred kilometres, but I enjoy that alone time. You get to see some amazing country while travelling the Tanami Road too.”
And Hull plans on following his chosen career path for a long time yet. He offers some advice for young people wanting to break into the industry. “If you do want to drive trucks and find that people won’t give you a go, just do what you have to and try to work your way up. Whether it’s washing trucks, changing tyres, kicking around in the dirt, do whatever you need to do to get your foot in the door.”
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