At just 20 years of age, young gun Jake Hearn is already living his dream of pulling triple road trains – running two-up with his father Fred Hearn, 63, who taught him everything he knows.
From behind the wheel of a 2019 Kenworth T909, the father and son team do the 3500-kilometre trip from Brisbane to Darwin each week for Shaw’s Darwin Transport.
“The industry is definitely not easy to get into at such a young age but with being taught by my father who has been in the industry for 45 years, it definitely helped,” explained Jake, 20.
“I’ve been in trucks since I can remember and the passion has just grown from there. It’s definitely in the blood, which is why I decided to become a truck driver. I just never thought I’d be pulling triples to Darwin at my age.”
Fred, 63, comes from a big family of truckies – his mother, uncles, brothers and cousins were truck drivers too. “I actually have 18 uncles that drive trucks as well,” said Fred. “I started out in a Road Commander, driving trucks at 17 in Melbourne doing local. I bought a truck and did that for a couple of years, then bought another truck and did interstate for about 15 years. I had two trucks at that point and my brother drove the other one,” he continued.
“Jake was in the truck with me a lot growing up, but I sold the trucks while he was at school and became a roofer. I stepped away from trucking for 10-12 years so I could get a job where I could be there for him. But I really did miss it – once it’ in your blood, you’ve got no chance.
“Every now and then I’d do a Friday night changeover to Sydney to help a mate out and Jake would come for a drive. Then on the school holidays I’d organise for Jake to get some practice driving road trains.”
And those memories growing up are something that has really stuck with Jake. “Dad’s cousin in Atherton had a transport company and we used to go there and do road trains to Brisbane for him. I would have been about 12 and that’s when I started getting more involved in driving the trucks and practicing backing up the trailers,” Jake explained.
Jake grew up quite literally surrounded by truck drivers. On his mother’s side, his uncle and grandfather were truck drivers too. Eager to get his start behind the wheel, Jake got each of his truck licences as soon as he legally could, obtaining his MC in October last year. “Ever since then I’ve been doing two-up with dad,” he said, adding that doing so has opened up so much more opportunity in his career.
“It’s hard to get a job like this when you’re under 25 and haven’t had your MC for two years, but doing two-up has made it a lot easier. With Dad doing this for over four decades, I think it keeps the insurance companies happier too,” added Jake.
“There’s definitely been some employers that are very apprehensive about my age, but I’ve never had a problem with any of the other drivers I’ve met. They’re all really supportive and happy to see a young bloke out there giving it a go.”
And as for Fred, well he couldn’t be any prouder of his son. “It’s absolutely great to be able to do this with Jake, I’m so proud of him. He’s fairly confident and smart, and he knows how to drive. He’s been driving road trains since before he drove cars. He’s only 20 and he can fix almost anything – and we get along well,” he said.
Throughout his career, Fred had worked predominantly as an owner driver, and Jake was on a similar path. After completing his schooling and studying engineering, Jake bought his own truck. But as Fred explained, “We were using it to run to Perth and then there was a problem with the truck, so Jake brought it to a mechanic in Rocklea and while it was there the repairer went underwater and it got stuck in the floods. So that was a bit of a setback.”
Jake and Fred started working for Blenners Transport in December, running Brisbane to Perth. “Going from Port Augusta to Norseman across the Nullarbor was definitely the best bit of road in the whole 11,000-kilometre trip we used to go on, especially from the Nullarbor to the border, because when you’re driving along that road you just look out and can see the ocean right there,” said Jake.
They finished up at Blenners in July and took on the position at Shaw’s Darwin. On their approximately 45-hour drive, they usually carry chiller goods up and produce on the return leg. “Once the mangoes start in Katherine, it’ll be lots of full loads of mangoes too,” Jake added.
Though there’s one particular stretch that he says can test the patience. “From here at the top of the Toowoomba bypass all the way to Roma has to be one of the worst roads that we drive on. It is a disgrace and there’s that many trucks travelling on it every day – it’s just horrible. And it’s not getting any better, they’ll fix a bit and it’s good and well for a few months and then it’s back to being the way it was,” said Jake.
Despite being so young, Jake’s already very well travelled in the truck. “The only places I haven’t really been are Darwin down to Adelaide, and Darwin to Perth around the coast. Those runs are definitely on the bucket list!” he said.
As Jake and Fred have such a great relationship, being together so much of the time hasn’t been an issue at all.
“Shaw’s were telling us they’ve had heaps of two-up teams coming in, even good mates and then they do three trips, and they’re always bluing. It makes it easier because we get along so well. One is always sleeping when the other one is driving,” explained Jake.
“As long as Dad can still drive, we’ll keep doing two-up. This is good for him too as he’s not a spring chicken anymore, so I can keep an eye on him and make sure he’s looking after himself. He’ll never stop driving until he really has to and I can definitely see myself doing two-up with him until that happens. Once he’s too old to be driving, it’s a career I want to continue to pursue.”
On the contrary, Fred added with a laugh, “The only issue I have now is that Jake makes me eat all this healthy food when we’re on the road. But I guess he’s a lot smarter than me, you know!”
For now, Jake says he’s loving every minute of the job. “I think the best thing is getting to see the country and going to different places and experiencing so many different things.”