Diesel, Features, New trucks

The $1000 punt changing truckies’ lives

Venerable WA operator Peter Whytcross was no stranger to the legendary Hepburn Football and Netball Club’s $1000-a-ticket truck raffle.

Over the last 20 years, or so, he’d opened the wallet a couple of times in the hope that he’d win a brand spanking new Kenworth for a fraction of the sticker price, all to no avail. 

But he quickly recouped those outlays – and a whole lot more – when the footy club’s vice-president Jason Dooley rang on July 2 to say it was his name that was first out of the barrel this year.

“I’m pretty stoked, let me tell you,” Whytcross tells Big Rigs, with the news still sinking in that he’s won the keys to a new $413,085 Kenworth Legend SAR, a truck so exclusive that it was only on sale for one day.

Peter Whytcross was out driving his triple road train when he got the call from Jason Dooley and shared this shot of the celebrations.

Whytcross had splashed out himself in 2021 on a commemorative SAR, released in conjunction with Kenworth celebrating 50 years of manufacturing trucks in Australia, but he’s still awaiting his order. 

“I’m just over the moon, I couldn’t believe it.” 

There are only 1000 tickets in the famous Hepburn draw that has been changing lives in the trucking industry since the unique fundraiser’s inception in the early 1990s.

And those are pretty good odds, if you ask Whytcross, who didn’t hesitate to chance his arm with another $1000 when he discovered there was a SAR at stake, a truck he ranks alongside the T650 and T658 as his all-time favourite. 

“I knew of it [the raffle], but it wasn’t until my brother rang me to say he’d got a ticket and joked that he was going to be picking up his new Kenworth that I got mine [about three months before the draw],” adds Whytcross.

“Normally you’re struggling to have any loose change, but I thought, I can afford it, and I’ve got to be in it to have a chance of winning it.”

[L-R] Ron Ludbrook, Peter Whytcross and Jason Dooley at the truck handover at Kenworth DAF Melbourne.

 The windfall couldn’t have come at a better time for the 63-year-old hands-on operator, who was supposed to be retired by now on his dream property just out of Bundaberg.

A founding member of the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA), along with recent OAM recipient Mick Pattel, the former treasurer, and now life member, has fought for much of his working life to help small transport operators get a fair go.

Just a year after he formed the NRFA in 2008 with Pattel, Whytcross was a name that transport ministers wouldn’t forget in a hurry. In 2009 he was instrumental in a push to replace the heavy vehicle registration system with a 7-cent fuel levy deducted from the fuel rebate when operators submit their BAS statements. 

Two years later, Whytcross and Pattel were back in the industry headlines co-organising the Convoy of No Confidence to Canberra, a 2011 protest against the Gillard government’s banning of the live cattle trade. It was Whytcross who organised all the routes for the eight convoys that converged on the capital, all while still based in Port Hedland. 

After so many years of advocacy and building up his own transport business, Whytcross, thought his driving days were now largely behind him. 

But because one of his drivers left, he was back behind the wheel of his triple road train, half-way between Port Hedland and a mine site, when Dooley’s call came through.  

“I’m trying to retire over to Bundy, but it doesn’t seem to be working,” said Whytcross, who has been plugging away in WA for the last 13-14 years.

“I used to have nine trucks working here once upon a time, running a lot of stuff off the wharves, but Covid knocked all that on the head: we just couldn’t get drivers.

“We’re down to the one truck here now working every day of the week driving dangerous goods out of the Burrup [Peninsula].” 

Whytcross has a 2008 Kenworth T658 on that job, but it’s due for a rebuild. He’d just brought a 2010 T658 out of retirement to hold him over until the SAR Legend he bought in 2021 arrives. 

For Dooley, it never gets old making calls that can be life-changing for operators like Whytcross. 

“That’s the best bit,” said Dooley, who runs his own transport company, Oz Trans. “That’s the part you look forward to when you’ve been working on a raffle for two years. 

“To be able to call someone and tell them that they’ve just want to truck of their dreams is fantastic. And that’s why we always Facebook Live, or video the calls, so that we can put it out there to everyone and let them see it as well and hear what’s said on the other end of the phone.” 

The stylish new interior of the Legend SAR.

Dooley says it’s hard to single out winners over others, but one of the most feel-good stories for him came in 2019 when the club raffled a Legend 900. 

“The winner of that one was a battler, a guy who had been working his whole life. He could no longer work, he’d had a stroke, and he wasn’t well. He was on a pension, and he just saved and saved until he could afford to buy a ticket. 

“He sent the truck to Grays auctions and got a really good dollar for it, and he’s set for life now.”

For the sports club, a volunteer-run organisation, the $500,000-plus left after the cheque’s written out for the truck, is also a godsend.

The money goes into the day-to-day running, but just since the most recent raffle Hepburn has been able to put in an electric scoreboard and make major inroads into building new changing rooms. The proceeds will also go towards renovations of the social rooms and kitchens. 

“We’re always tipping it back into the community, that’s where it ends up.” 

As for the next one, Dooley isn’t sure of the exact date, but you can bet on it being something special. 

“We’ll just wait until the right vehicle comes along.”

Whytcross, meanwhile, now has an enviable dilemma on his hands.  

Because the raffle prize isn’t spec’d up for the triple road train work that he’s current doing in WA, Whytcross had toyed with selling it. 

But since picking up the keys from Ron Ludbrook at Kenworth DAF Melbourne and taking the flashy new SAR for a short spin, he’s having second thoughts. 

Whytcross, who has a 1981 SAR restoration project also under way, has been a devoted fan of the model since the mid-70s when they first rolled off the Bayswater assembly line.

 “We were carting cattle with 350 Cummins in them and used to drive for McIvers before they were ever painted green and white. 

“They’re just a mighty truck and I just love them. I just reckon they are the best thing since sliced bread, but to win one is something else.

 “It’s just a real good boost. You work your guts out all your life and to see something like that come along at the end, it really makes you appreciate the hard work that you’ve put in.”

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