A third-generation truckie, Simon Roberts was already beginning to hone his truck skills from as young as five years old, while sitting on his father’s lap.
Roberts, 48, has been working for ABC Transport for a little over 12 months but his career as a truckie extends 30 years.
“I was 18 when I got my heavy articulated licence on a special permit, and I haven’t stopped since. I got my MC as soon as I was able to and began doing B-doubles. I got into road trains about 10 years ago,” Roberts explained.
“My grandfather had trucks. He had five kids and dad was the only one that got into trucking. When I was about five, Dad would let me steer the truck up to the road, then he taught me how to change gears. He’d whack me on the back of the head if I missed a gear and say, ‘Come on, you can do better than that’,” he laughed.
“The first time I actually drove a truck on my own, with dad sitting next to me, I was 10. It was a V8 Mack Superliner. Dad has been retired for a few years now – he stopped driving trucks when he was about 70.”
Originally from Melbourne, Roberts moved to Mildura with his family at around the age of 10, and has called it home ever since.
Despite being based in Mildura, he does the Adelaide to Darwin run each week, pulling triple road trains from behind the wheel of a 2014 Kenworth T909, which has over 2 million kilometres on the clock.
“This truck, for its age, is like a new one. It rides and steers good, pulls better than anything else we’ve got here. I don’t want to give it up,” said Roberts.
“We have a bloke working here who goes out to the Indigenous communities in Alice Springs. He had this truck for a while before I got it. They took it off the dirt, cleaned it up and got it back on the highways.”
Roberts’ trip is about 3200km each way. He carts a mixture of general and refrigerated freight. “At this time of year, we bring back a lot of produce from Kununurra like pumpkins and watermelons. Then mangoes will start in about a month or so.”
When asked what he loves most about his work, Roberts responds, “It’s just the freedom and the blokes I work with.”
Though he admits a lot has changed over the past 30 years on the road. “It’s nowhere near the same sort of comradery as there used to be, but there are still a lot of old school blokes around my age and older who are really good blokes. Once I leave Adelaide, I don’t hear from anybody unless they need to get hold of me. The good thing about truck driving these days is that we have to have our breaks, so you get your regular sleep every night, which is probably the best part about it now.”
Roberts added that it’s a relatively good run nearly the whole way through. “It’s all bitumen on this run. It’s a pretty smooth run up here but once you get up around Elliott, north of there and into Darwin, the road gets pretty rough, but I’ve driven on worse roads than this one I’m on now. At this time of year can be a little hectic with all the tourists that head up north. There are a lot of caravans around and some don’t know how to handle being around road trains.”
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