Overcoming challenges to get the job done

A second generation truckie, avid photographer and father of two, Dave Hely, 34, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy (MD) just after he finished high school.

“I was getting tested all the way through high school and got diagnosed when I was 18. There were heaps of blood tests and muscle testing. There are many versions of MD and the one I have is quite a rare form, so it took about five years to get diagnosed,” Hely explained. 

“For me, it affects my arms, legs and lower back. It means I’m missing a gene in my DNA that affects muscle recovery.

“I have a lot of trouble getting in and out of the trucks. With every truck, I need to find a new way to get in and out. I might look a bit stupid with the way I do things, but I always find a way. I hate the cabovers because I find them harder to get into. I tend to work best with bonneted trucks as they’re easier to get in and out of.

“Having muscular dystrophy puts a bit of restriction on me physically, I need to find a different way to throw straps over too for example, because my body won’t let me do things a certain way.”

Dave and Bec Hely with their kids Jack and Isla.

Hely got into trucking at the age of 22. “I learned how to do dark room photography at high school, then studied film and photography at TAFE. I went to Sydney and tried to crack into that industry but got into truck driving instead. But I’ve slowly been trickling back into the photography too. I was a bit of a late bloomer to the industry

“My old man has been driving for 40 years. He’d always pull the truck up at the front of the house and being a truckie’s son, I just wanted to go and drive trucks too.”

Starting out as a yard hand, he worked his way up, first driving rigids and then semis. Up until recently, Hely did mostly general and refrigerated work but says he was always intrigued with logging work – and that’s exactly what he’s been doing for the past 12 months. “I mostly wanted to get out of the city multi-drops and I prefer to be out in the bush too,” he said.

With his camera in tow, Hely enjoys travelling through picturesque forests, which provide a perfect backdrop.

Hely works for Pine Harvesters, which has two NSW depots, the main site at Oberon and a second in Bathurst.

The company runs about a dozen trucks. “It’s a big company, because on top of the transport side, they harvest the timber as well,” said Hely, who you’ll find steering a Kenworth T610 SAR.

Usually the runs are within a 100km radius of the Bathurst depot, where his truck is based. As he chatted with Big Rigs, he was on his way to Sydney. 

“Pine Harvesters have been really good to work for. It can sometimes take a while for employers to understand what my MD means, but once I explained it, they’ve been really good and have looked after me really well. They have a real good crew working for them,” said Hely.

“And Owen and the mechanics in the shed come out at all hours in the weather to fix our breakdowns. They work just as many hours as us and don’t get much credit.

“We’re all very serious about our job, but we like to joke around with each other too. We try to keep the mood a bit light. We all have our own little traits and all pick on each other to have a bit of fun.”

Hely’s work day usually starts at 3am each day, finishing at about 3pm in the afternoon – which works well for him. “By the time I finish work, it’s time to pick up the kids from childcare. Jack is almost five and Isla is two. My wife Bec is also exceptional. She’s been fantastic and she puts up with me,” he said.

A year into the job, Hely has taken to log trucking like a duck to water, but he says dealing with the weather can sometimes be a challenge.

“Out at Oberon it can be very dusty one day, then the next day you could get 20-30mm of rain and get bogged in, or get snowed in. So dealing with the elements is probably the hardest part of the job.”

Though he adds that the early morning starts are great for his photography too. “Because I do a lot of photography out in the bush, the early mornings are really good for me – you can get some great shots. And you don’t have as many idiots on the road!”

Through Big Rigs’ #PicOfTheDay posts on Facebook, Hely says he’s connected with numerous other truck photographers. “A lot of the blokes that do truck photography don’t do it with an ego. We bounce ideas off each other. I’ve actually connected with a few truck photographers after seeing their photos on Big Rigs,” he said.

“One of my good mates is Michael Roels. His dad has been at Pine Harvesters for over 20 years. He taught me how to do log trucking and now I’ve been teaching him how to take photos.”

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