Pioneer’s passion for the industry still burns strong

“Just do your job with passion and don’t give up when there is a job to be done,” is the advice Frank Marley gives to those looking to join the transport industry. 

Passion is the essential ingredient in weathering the ever-evolving landscape of the transport industry and this passion is never more clear than when speaking to Marley, founder of Marley’s Transport. 

Marley’s start in transport was on the railways in the mid to late 1960s, working to build the standard gauge rail line that was to connect Doodlakine, east of Perth, to Kalgoorlie via Koolyanobbing. 

Anti-competition regulations in the 1970s meant Marley, as a road transport operator, was restricted from carting material that would otherwise be moved by rail.

Following the federal government’s reluctant and partial lifting of the iron ore export ban that had constrained Australia’s export from 1938, Western Australia relied on rail to shift iron ore from its eastern Wheatbelt region to the port at Esperance. 

Japan’s near insatiable demand for the resource meant that improving rail facilities was prioritised and there was decent money to be made by those willing to work to achieve this. 

Returning home to Nangeenan in 1969, Marley used the money he had saved to buy his first truck. This old Commer, with its 354 Perkins engine, would mark the start of over 50 years of Marley’s dedicated service to the transport industry. 

However, as he wasn’t old enough to hold a licence yet, Marley took charge of the farm work while his father Tom drove the truck Marley had purchased, carting fertiliser. Marley promptly got himself a licence and, in turn, a second truck and Marley’s Transport began its growth toward the fleet of over 70 trucks it has come to support. 

Marley’s Transport was often the first to adopt new technology, such as the first four deck stock crate.

Although Marley insists it has “all been part of the job”, Marley’s contribution to the trucking industry has been little short of revolutionary. Despite his contributions to Western Australia’s rail lines, Marley soon recognised that his machines were a more efficient method of freight, outclassing the railways in cost, productivity and dependable delivery. 

Anti-competition regulations in the 1970s meant Marley, as a road transport operator, was restricted from carting material that would otherwise be moved by rail. Marley, driven both by his disapproval of the unfair regulations and the need to ensure his business survived, did so regardless, carting bags of superphosphate by road. 

Refusing to pay the fines that ensued from this practice, Marley spent a day in Fremantle Prison. In response, local farmers staged a protest, raising the money needed to pay Marley’s fine and securing his release. 

Undeterred by his time at Fremantle, Marley made it clear that, if the Commissioner could not give him an assurance that the anti-competition regulations would be reformed, he would have no other choice but to continue to break the law. 

Marley’s defiance worked, with the Minister for Transport visiting his home to negotiate – if Marley was willing to stop carting illegally, the Minister would endeavour to deregulate the transport industry within 10 years. The Minister was true to his word and, today, road transporters reap the benefits of the fair go Marley fought so hard for. 

Marley’s Transport was often the first to adopt new technology. From operating the first four deck stock crate, to using the first 10-axle rigid truck for grain carting, in Western Australia, Marley was always looking for an opportunity to be at the forefront of the industry. 

Breaking the world record for the world’s longest road train.

In 1999, Marley’s Transport again pushed the known limits of the industry by breaking the world record for the world’s longest road train. Although the record set by Marley’s Transport has since been broken, the 45-trailer Kenworth, measuring 610 metres and weighing almost as many tonnes, commanded never-before-seen excitement and celebration in the town of Merredin. The feat raised roughly $80,000 for the town’s tourism bureau. 

Marley attributes much of his success to the support of his wife, Georgina. Marley married Georgie at age 19, recounting that he knew “she’d stick around” when, daily, she unflinchingly climbed the ladder to the first story of the house he was building for them. 

Marley attributes much of his success to the support of his wife, Georgina.

As if she was not kept sufficiently busy ensuring the business ran without a hitch, Georgie also cared for their four sons, in addition to some extra mouths to feed in the form of the many drivers to whom Frank and Georgie opened their home to as they worked to establish the business. Georgie is every bit as humble as Frank but her extraordinary contribution to the industry does not go unnoticed.

Although he was officially inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame’s Shell Rimula Wall of Fame in 1999, Marley’s impact on the Hall of Fame began well before this. Marley was not only a founding member but was part of the very first discussions in 1992 gauging interest in a national Road Transport Historical Society and Hall of Fame. 

Marley has been integral in sourcing a number of the much-loved vehicles on display at the National Road Transport Hall of Fame, including one of his own old White Road Commanders, which he purchased back and drove to the Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2012 via the largely unsealed Great Central Road. 

Marley’s untiring support for the Road Transport Hall of Fame stems from his own, first-hand understanding of the hard work it takes for the men, women and machines of the transport industry to simply get the job done. 

Marley cites the Road Transport Hall of Fame as one of, if not the most, thorough collection of Australian road transport history, playing an irreplaceable role in preserving the history of the industry’s pioneers. 

Without the Road Transport Hall of Fame serving as a running timeline of the industry’s progress, Marley believes it is difficult to truly appreciate how far transport has evolved. 

The National Road Transport Hall of Fame thanks Marley for his staunch support of the organisation, and is honoured to form part of his remarkable journey in the transport industry. 

His passion for the industry inspires us all and drives us to continue our mission to accurately and comprehensively preserve the stories that make us so proud to be a part of it. 

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