For experienced MC truckie Ben Stamatovich, 48, the sky has become his playground and the open highway his canvas.
Driving his weekly 5400km two-up run from Adelaide to Perth and back again, together with wife Jacinta Brennan, 49 – and of course, his drone – Stamatovich captures some of the most breathtaking views from above.
Stamatovich began driving trucks in his early thirties. For the past eight years, the couple has been with HPS Transport, a family owned and operated business that specialises in produce and refrigerated transport from Adelaide to Perth. Last year they were handed the keys to a new Freightliner Cascadia, which he says is beautiful to drive. “These trucks are built for comfort. The Cascadia is my absolute pick out of the trucks I’ve driven. At HPS, they’re a really good bunch of people who really look after you. That’s what you want at work, to know that you’re not just a number,” he said.
Stamatovich’s foray into trucking started when he got a job as a forklift driver at the age of 25. “That’s when I started to get my shit together – and I worked my way up. I’ve been driving trucks for about 15 years and in road trains for the past 10. Jacinta actually got her MC licence before me and started doing the run to Perth. I jumped on board and then we began doing it together. She’s having six months off at the moment to do some stuff with her horses, so I’m doing two-up with a mate for now.
“Jacinta and I get along really well and are really good mates. If you’re not getting along, then you’re not with the right person.”
Stamatovich says he and Brennan enjoy the time they get to spend together. “I love getting in the truck. We know what we have to do, it’s such a great job and we get to do it together. It’s good work, good pay and I get to take some great shots out on the road. So it’s a win-win. Two birds, one stone. This is the best job I’ve ever had.”
He bought his drone about four years ago and shared a photo from his travels online. The response was overwhelming. With that, The Drone Way was born, with his Facebook page very quickly racking up a strong following, which now sits at over 105,000 followers.
“My wife wanted a drone to follow her on the horses. So we bought a drone and it sat in the cupboard for about a year and a half. Then one day I thought I might as well take it with us. I took a shot of the truck and posted it on Facebook and it went nuts, so that prompted me to keep doing it. I look back at that photo now and think it’s horrendous,” laughed Stamatovich.
But in his younger years, it wasn’t an easy ride for Stamatovich. He did it tough growing up but thankfully, he overcame his demons and was able to turn his life around. Now, through The Drone Way, he continues to give back to those who are struggling. “I was on the streets for nine years when I was a young fella, so I did it tough and I know what it’s like. I also got into drug addiction. When I started The Drone Way page, people started asking for prints, so I decided to donate a large portion of the proceeds to support those who are homeless or struggling,” Stamatovich said.
“When I started doing charity work, I put my heart on my sleeve. People trust me and know that if they buy something, I’m giving the majority of it back. It’s a good feeling to be able to give something back. When I’m having a down day, I’ll do a giveaway and it makes me feel good.”
There are two chosen charities he likes to support, which he says are both doing great things: Community Pantry in Melbourne and Breakfast Bellies in Adelaide. “They do so much great work. I support those guys and do my other stuff too. I try and do a good deed every day that I’m home. Whether it’s paying for a holiday for someone who needs it or buying someone a coffee,” he explained.
Stamatovich’s aerial shots are simply breathtaking and they’ve become a hot-ticket item. As you’d expect, driving across the Nullarbor offers some great subject matter for his drone work. But on one occasion, he got much more than he expected.
“We were driving along the Nullarbor cliffs and my wife woke me up to get the drone out. I asked why. Then I saw about 40 camels walking about 30 metres from the edge of the cliff, in single file. It’s about an 80 metre drop down to the ocean and a fall is certain death!” he said.
On another occasion, Stamatovich said he was asleep in the back when he woke up almost hitting the gearstick. “We were crossing through Balladonia just over the WA border when my wife had to the hit brakes after a bunch of camels ran out onto the road. When I looked up, I saw the last of them running across. That woke me up quick-smart,” he said.
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