Owner operator couple in the driver’s seat

Nigel Hoerler, 49, and his partner Kilarni Hyde, 45, are owner-operators who run Swes Transport based at Chinchilla, in the Western Downs Region of Queensland. While they each have their own truck, the couple often travel together for many jobs.

Big Rigs unexpectedly saw them parked up under a shaded building beside the Bruce Highway near Cairns recently.

Now a rest area with toilets and covered shade, it had previously been a papaya fruit fly inspection station some years ago.

The area where it is located receives lots of annual rainfall and the covered area is great for trucks to park under.

The rest area is popular with drivers – and attracted many that day, as there had been some heavy rain between Cairns and Tully.

Kilarni was sitting in the driver’s seat of her 2003 Volvo FH12 and Nigel was nearby.

“This is Kilarni’s truck and I have a Globetrotter FH13. We brought up machinery from Ballina in NSW for Cairns and as a backload we have to pick up a body truck in Townsville for delivery to Brisbane,” Nigel said.

Nigel Hoerler has followed in the footsteps of his father, who was also a truck driver.

They have been partners for six years and owner-operators for the past four.

“I got my HC licence a year ago and love travelling with Nigel as we can take turns driving as well,” Kilarni said.

Nigel is of PNG descent, born in the city of Lae, while Kilarni is of PNG and Aboriginal heritage (Butchulla/Goreng Goreng Peoples).

“We have travelled all over Australia except Tasmania and have recently done some road train work up to Weipa on Cape York,” Nigel said.

Nigel says he was always going to end up a truck driver as his dad Joe Hoerler drove rigs in the PNG Highlands for many years.

“Dad drove an old Mercedes and later came to Australia where he was also a truckie. He is now aged 74 and happily retired and living at Hervey Bay,” explained Nigel.

The couple said that Joe would be excited to see them appear in Big Rigs, as it’s one of his favourite publications.

The couple are boilermakers by trade and have a sandblasting workshop at Wieambilla, not far from Chinchilla.

“I have been a qualified boilermaker for 23 years and Kilarni is a third-year apprentice,” Nigel added.

He had started off with a crane truck and people would come into the workshop “wanting things moved”.

“So I bought a truck and that is how the business started four years ago and it has gone from there,” he said.

The rural town of Wieambilla made headlines recently after two police officers and a member of the public tragically lost their lives in an ambush, after attending a property in search of former school principal Nathaniel Train, who had been reported missing.

Kilarni was sitting in the driver’s seat of her 2003 Volvo FH12, when the couple stopped for a chat.

Constable Matthew Arnold, 26, and Constable Rachel McCrow, 29, were shot dead, along with Alan Dare.

Constable Randall Kirk and Constable Keely Brough escaped.

It was with extreme sadness that Nigel and Kilarni spoke about the tragedy as they were friends of Alan Dare, who lived on a neighbouring property.

“We sandblasted his swimming pool a few years back and stayed in contact ever since. He was the nicest man you would ever meet. Alan would do anything for anybody,” Nigel said.

I asked the couple about the worst roads they have been along and Kilarni answered swiftly.

“It would have to be the Gregory Development Road between Charters Towers and Clermont. It has lots of rough shoulders and only one rest area at Cape River and a roadhouse at Belyando Crossing. There is not much else,” Kilarni stated.

That section of road is 350km long and very boring to negotiate as well as being narrow in some parts.

As for roadhouses they like stopping at the Puma Cluden on the outskirts of Townsville.

“The staff are so friendly and nothing is too much trouble for them,” Kilarni said.

Several hours later as I was driving back from Cairns to Townsville I spotted the Swes Transport Volvo parked outside Andy’s Roadhouse, just south of Ingham.

Nigel was walking in and no doubt yarned to owner Andy Barra, who also runs trucks, about the road transport industry.

Kilarni and Nigel have their own company uniforms and look smart in them.

This couple are so happy and comfortable travelling together and look set for a long career as owner-operators.

Life is also extremely busy for this road transport couple. But when they are not on the road – whether it be together or in separate trucks – or running the steel fabricating and sandblasting business, they enjoy going fishing.

“My favourite spot is at the Moreton Bay point and I recently caught a big dolphin fish which made great eating,” Nigel said.

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