Veteran Darwin-based small fleet operator Ted Lalor, 62, parked his 1987 Scania at far off Tully in North Queensland and was delighted to talk about his long career on the road.
His business is A Adam Ant Removals, Transport and Storage, with a depot at Coolalinga in Darwin. The theme of his business is “Big enough to cope, small enough to care”.
With him was his friend Jean and much loved pet shih tzu named Cactus.
“I have come down from Darwin with a load for Gladstone and then onto Brisbane and will have a backload to the NT,” he said.
It had rained cats and dogs that morning between Cairns and Tully and visibility was poor while travelling the Bruce Highway. “You have to be extra careful when there is rain like this around,” he said.
Lalor once had 16 trucks but these days just has the trusty old Scania and a 1992 UD.
“They are very reliable trucks for carrying furniture. The Scania has more than 500,000km on the clock,” he said.
Many of Lalor’s trips have been to remote locations in the NT, SA and WA. On the back of the Scania are the names of NT towns Tennant Creek, Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine.
Starting in the transport game in 1980, he’s travelled to every Australian state and territory.
“I first worked as a driver for Barry Harris Removals at Dural in NSW. I started my own business at Blacktown in 1982 and moved to Darwin after that,” he said.
I asked about the biggest challenges facing the road transport industry and in particular small operators like him.
“The fuel cost is hideous – in some parts of WA, SA and the NT it is more than $3 a litre. It is killing so many people. But you have to have it like food and water,” he said.
A shortage of suitable drivers is another angst and that’s why Lalor is now a one-man operator. “You just can’t get drivers who do the job. But that is a problem everywhere,” he said.
Customers who don’t pay accounts on time or not at all is also a concern. “I had one client who I did a job for who wouldn’t pay and to get the money you have to take civil action or go to the small claims tribunal,” Lalor said.
He also spoke of which roads he has found most challenging. “The Bruce Highway between Mackay and Rockhampton is terrible, especially the Marlborough stretch. Also parts of the Newell and the Landsborough,” he said.
With so much travelling around Australia, Lalor was an ideal driver to question about good roadhouses. “I love going to the Mataranka Roadhouse in the NT and the lady there Wendy does everything to look after truckies. Her pastries are delicious. The food is good and the service great. Also the Daly Waters Highway Inn and the Three Ways are tops,” he said.
As for Cactus the dog, Lalor saved him from being put down at the dog pound seven years ago. “I saved him and am glad I did.”
The lack of rest areas with good facilities for truckies is another issue that Lalor spoke about.
“There needs to be more between Darwin and Port Augusta but some of the ones along it do have toilets but not many have toilet paper. We carry our own,” he said.
Jean was reluctant to have her pic snapped but is a wealth of knowledge about the industry.
“My son Mark is a truckie who does the Sydney to Melbourne run and I keep in touch with him,” she said.
I asked Lalor for a final word which would be good advice for all drivers: “If you feel tired, pull over and have a rest,” he said.