To celebrate his 60th birthday, this retired coal miner and his Kenworth T950 have embarked on a 16,600km trip around Australia, with a shipping container he’s converted into a mobile home.
For Glen Lewis, this trip has been more than two years in the making. Starting at Maitland, in NSW’s Hunter Valley region, he hit the road on Monday June 26 – the day after his 60th birthday – and expects to spend 41 days exploring some of the most beautiful locations Australia has to offer.
Lewis purchased his 1993 model Kenworth T950 about nine years ago. Though his career was in the coal mines, his passion has always been in trucks. This is the fourth truck he’s owned and he’s named it ‘Addiction Four’. “All my trucks have been called Addiction, because for me, it definitely is an addiction,” he said.
“The first truck I bought was in the late 1990s and I had it for three years. Then I didn’t have another one until 2008 when I bought a Freightliner Argosy. Then I bought a Western Star in 2012. I sold that and bought this show truck in 2014.
“The T950 is pretty much fully rebuilt. I did most of the work on it. It’s not a working truck, but I take it to all the shows and volunteer for hay runs. I’ve done a few hay runs with Need for Feed.”
Lewis says he’s only the third owner of the 30-year-old truck, which has been very well looked after. “It spent its first five years at Fred’s Interstate Transport, running up and down the coast. The company bought five of these all together and kept them for five years, before trading them in. Then McKibbins Livestock in Victoria bought this truck and had it for 16 years with one driver all that time. That driver wouldn’t let them sell it, so he kept it until that bloke retired, and that’s when I bought it.”
According to Lewis, the truck has done over 2.7 million kilometres. “This engine has about 650,000 kilometres on it though. It’s only single rated, so it’s never pulled more than one trailer. A lot of these 950s were used for road train work, but I didn’t want one that had pulled all those trailers. Road trains can stretch the chassis due to the massive weights on them. Anyone who gets in my truck can’t believe it’s 30 years old – it’s a credit to Kenworth and to the previous owners. Anything I’ve replaced has been either in preparation for this trip or to bling it up.”
Lewis was a coal miner for 44 years, working his way to being the managing director of a mining company. He retired in 2022. “I started my career as an apprentice electrician in 1980 and retired as a managing director of a coal mining company. I came up through the ranks and really enjoyed it. Trucking is something I’ve always done separately. I casually drove trucks and have had drivers on my trucks as well. The first truck I owned was a truck and dog set-up,” he said.
“I’ve never driven full time, so it’s never been a job to me – it’s always been a passion, so I’ve never gotten sick of it.
“I was probably the only mine manager in Australia doing Tarcutta changeovers on a Friday night.
“I’d do it when a mate of mine wanted a night off.”
This passion for trucks was sparked by his father. He was a coal miner too but before that, he started out in a concrete truck. And like Lewis, he continued to drive trucks on the side.
As a 10-year-old kid, Lewis would wash trucks in his hometown of Cessnock, charging $10 a truck. “I’d wash about six or seven semis every weekend. It was $10 cash-in-hand in 1974, so I can assure you it was a lot of money back then. As I got older, by about 13, some would pay me an extra $10 to grease their trucks too,” he recalled.
“I used to get to drive the trucks around the yard a couple of hundred metres each way – I used to love it!”
When Lewis first thought of doing a trip around Australia, he had considered doing it on his Harley. Though he settled on the truck as a better option.
“For my 40th birthday, I did a Variety Bash, then for my 50th, we did two cars and went with a heap of mates. I wanted to do something different for my 60th. I was going to ride my Harley but there are too many animals you can run into out on the road – so I decided to take the truck which has a big bull bar!”
He has spent the past year converting the shipping container into a home. “I bought the shipping container in Newcastle. They sell them as single use containers, so it’s only ever done one trip,” said Lewis.
“I got them to put two small windows in the side, right up high for ventilation; and it has a sliding glass door and screen door to get in and out. I started with that, an empty container. Then I insulated it all and built a solid timber frame that’s bolted to the structure of the container, then lined the walls like you’d see in a caravan. And then I put all the electronics in.
“It took about 12 months to fit out the shipping container because I drove a couple of days a week in a truck and dog for a local concrete company, so I would spend about a day and a half each week on the shipping container. I do the driving because I love it – I can’t be retired and not do anything. I used to drive on the side even while I was working full time.”
A home away from home, the shipping container features air conditioning, a kitchenette with an oven, fridge and microwave, a laundry sink, hot water system and beds.
“I’ve added a bunk bed so in future I can take the grandkids if they want to come with me for a run. Because the trailer is a drop deck, I also have two 1000-litre containers of water, a generator and a few spare tyres. I have a Suzuki motorbike on the back too, in case of a breakdown,” Lewis added.
As for entertainment, he’s created a Spotify playlist called ‘The 60th lap’ which features 14 hours of his favourite tunes from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, with plenty of sing-along tracks.
When Lewis spoke with Big Rigs, he was one week into his trip.
The entire 16,600km route was mapped out on an app called WikiCamps Australia, which is designed as a camping and caravanning travel tool.
On day one, he left his home base at Maitland at 6am together with a mate named Dennis Jones, who he describes as a “truck freak” too.
They travelled up the coast, along the Bruce Highway to Cairns, where Jones then flew home.
Lewis travelled solo across to the Atherton Tablelands. From there, he followed the Savannah Way to Karumba, headed south to Cloncurry and then made his way across to the Threeways Roadhouse.
From there, he had planned to detour to Alice Springs to see visit the National Road Transport Museum. “It’s about a 600-kilometre deviation but I wanted to see the Wall of Fame and get a photo of my truck out the front there,” said Lewis.
But unfortunately due to heavy rain and local flooding, he had to cancel that part of the trip so headed straight to Darwin instead.
From there, the third week will see Lewis head down to Katherine, across to Kununurra and onto Broome, where his family will join him.
“I’m on my own from Cairns until Broome, then my wife Maree, four kids and three grandkids will fly over. We’re all having a holiday at the halfway mark and it’s also our 22nd anniversary while we’re there.”
His wife will continue with him for the run down to Perth, with numerous stops along the way.
During the fifth week, the couple will travel from Perth via Albany and Esperance to Adelaide, travelling across the Nullarbor.
“Then my wife flies home and another mate will come back with me on the way home,” Lewis added. “The plan is to get home on Saturday August 5, if all goes well.”