Proud moment for doting truckie grandfather

Twins Jordan and Ethan, 22, couldn’t wipe the smiles from their faces when they got a first look at their grandfather’s new autism awareness truck and dog.

Based at Port Kembla, NSW, the Kenworth T610 truck and dog is owned by Ross Transport and driven by Billy Gaudie, 56, who has been with the business for nearly 15 years.

His grandkids were the inspiration behind the truck. “Jordan and Ethan are the main reason this truck was designed, in support for our driver Billy, his family and of course to create awareness,” said True Ross-Sawrey, manager at Ross Transport.

“There are quite a few people in the business who have children or loved ones with autism, so it’s something a lot of people are affected by and can relate to. We’ve chosen to support Autism Awareness Australia in support of Billy, because we know of some of the challenges his family has been through.”

The boys loved having the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat of their grandfather’s truck.

The idea for the truck came from fellow driver Bryce Lambye, who saw an autism awareness truck while on a run into Queensland. When he suggested it to management, they loved the idea. 

“We have quite a lot of unique trucks in our fleet and typically do a lot of cartoon trucks. When we rang Billy and told him of the idea, he loved it and got a bit emotional on the phone,” said Ross-Sawrey.

Gaudie was previously behind the wheel of a superhero truck, which featured Jordan and Ethan’s names on it. Their names will also be added to the new autism awareness truck too.

On hearing of the design of the new rig, Gaudie was ecstatic. “How good is that, it really made my day,” he told Big Rigs.

The new truck and dog set-up features the autism awareness ribbon and jigsaw puzzle, along with the words “Autism is my superpower”. Among its regular runs, it’s used to cart glass into Melbourne and bring steel back into Port Kembla. Gaudie also carts a lot of grain throughout NSW during harvest time.

Gaudie started driving professionally from around the age of 30, but as the son of a truck driver, was behind the wheel much earlier on. “I used to drive on the farm all the time before I even had a licence, running wheat and that. Dad taught me to drive, he used to chuck me in the driver’s seat when I was only a young fella. I was driving cars from about the age of eight but he didn’t let me into the trucks until I was 14. I even used to do some runs into the silos without a licence,” he revealed. 

When Gaudie spoke with Big Rigs, his new truck had hit the road just two weeks prior. “It’s only got 10,000km on the clock so far,” he said.

Wearing their Ross Transport t-shirts, which the company had made up with their names, Jordan and Ethan were so excited to see Poppy Bill’s brand new truck; climbing in and out of the cabin and beeping the horn. Gaudie also plans to take the boys for a ride in the new rig very soon.

“They love the new truck. They were in it the other day blowing the horn and getting their photos done. Jordan kept pointing to the words ‘Autism is my superpower’.”

Jordan and Ethan were diagnosed with autism at around the age of just three or four, and continue to face daily struggles. 

“Their mother Gaynor, who is my step-daughter, looks after them as they can’t do a lot of things for themselves. One of them is non-verbal, while the other one can talk and have a bit of a conversation with you. But they know how to work computers and iPads better than I do,” Gaudie explained. 

Ethan and Jordan with their mother Gaynor and Billy Gaudie, who they know as Poppy Bill.

“It is quite a struggle for Gaynor. Their father left when the boys were young. They were still only really little. Through NDIS, they now get to do things like going bowling, or visiting theme parks, or going out to lunch. They have carers that take them so that gives her a bit of a break, but you have to be really careful because they are runners, so can easily get lost. If you’re not careful, they’ll run away on you.

“Jordan has already been lost once when he was eight years old. It was for around 5-6 hours and it felt like forever. Police found him about 6km away from his school.”

Knowing firsthand how challenging it can be to raise children with autism, Gaudie is exceptionally proud to be given the opportunity to help promote autism awareness across the highways. He’s also thankful for the support shown by Ross Transport too. 

“The company has always been great and even when I’ve been sick they’ve really looked after me. I had a heart attack about a year and a half ago and I was able to come back to work as a driver trainer until I was ready to get back into the driver’s seat. 

“Jordan and Ethan like Ross Transport and they love my truck, which they know as Poppy Bill’s truck. True and Alan Ross have always been really good to them too.”

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