Fate has played a major role in young road transport enthusiastic Cameron Hillard gaining a job as a truck driver.
When he was attending William Ross High School in Townsville, Hillard did a two-year course at Tec-NQ with the aim of becoming a diesel fitter.
“The coal mine where I could have worked was a big part of the Townsville economy and when that closed it drove the economy down and it made it very hard for young people like myself to get an apprenticeship,” he said.
But another opportunity came along which enabled Hillard to start work at a major road transport company and work his way up to being a driver.
Now aged 25, Hillard is among the younger drivers around and has worked for Blenners at their Townsville depot for almost six years.
How that came about is a lesson for every youngster wanting to get a job as a truck driver.
Hillard used to go to Dimbulah on the Atherton Tablelands during school holidays to help out at his uncle Alvise Barzzale’s mango farm.
“Blenners used to pick up the mangoes and deliver them to Sydney and Melbourne markets and I got to know the drivers and asked one of them about getting some work with the company,” he said.
Hillard was given the contact for Blenners boss Les Blennerhassett who referred him to the manager of the Townsville depot.
“The manager of the Townsville depot at the time was Les’ son Ben Blennerhassett and a big thank you to Les and Ben for giving me a go. I got a job there two days a week at first doing various jobs such as cleaning and helping to load and unload and when I got my HR and MC licence, I started driving their trucks. I can’t thank the company enough as they kicked it off for me,” he said.
Hillard gained his MC licence about two years ago and hasn’t looked back.
I saw Hillard early one morning, ready to drive a Kenworth K200 B-double to Tully and Cairns with a load of produce.
“I have to pick up bananas as a backload and deliver them to Townsville here and then go onto Brisbane markets with other drivers,” he said.
Hillard gets as far away north to Mareeba on the Atherton tablelands, south to Proserpine, Airlie Beach and Mackay, and out west to Charters Towers.
“I deliver groceries to the IGA and Foodworks supermarkets in Charters Towers and also cardboard to the mining town,” he said.
Standing at just 163cm tall, Hillard said that wasn’t a disadvantage at all.
“Actually I built my body up early on working for Blenners at the depot and I am a lot stronger,” he said.
The worst road Hillard has travelled on in recent times was a detour off the Bruce Highway, near Crystal Creek on the way to Ingham. “Roadworks were being carried out and there was just enough room for my B-double,” he said.
His favourite roadhouse is the BP Cluden on the outskirts of Townsville and the Mackay BP just past the bypass.
“They both have good food and my favourite meal is steak, chips and salad,” Hillard said.
I asked what he loves about the job and he promptly answered, “It is the freedom on the road and the different people you meet. I never thought I would see a Big Rigs reporter,” he said.
Hillard qualified that comment by telling me he had been a fan of Big Rigs for years.
“I follow it on Facebook all the time and love reading the print edition in the driver’s rooms,” he said.
Hobbies outside the job include fishing and restoring old cars. He is working on a 2006 Commodore at present.
“I don’t own a boat to go around here to fish the creeks and rivers or get out to the Great Barrier Reef. But I like going fishing with family at Chillagoe where I have caught fresh water black bream and sleepy cod,” he said.
Hillard doesn’t follow a football team however as a boy in Cairns he did have a run at Australian Rules football as a rover.
I told Hillard that statistics reveal the average age of Aussie truck drivers is over 50 and that young guns like him are the future of the road transport industry.
Many companies are still reluctant to hire younger drivers because of the additional insurance costs.
“I can’t thank Blenners enough for giving me a go and would recommend the job to young people wanting a career,” he said.
Naturally this contented young man reckons he will be in the industry for the long haul.