Features, Truck driver, Truckie Profiles

Life lessons from the passenger seat of a Mack

Scott Gillespie was born in 1972, the same year his father Jim started driving road trains for Baldocks in Tennant Creek. 

Jim began his journey in the industry unloading trailers. He soon found himself behind the wheel of a Leyland Hippo and, later, an R-model Flintstone Mack, carting freight and bagged copper dust from Warrego Copper and Gold Mine. 

Unlike many operators, Jim did not have a grandfather or father in transport to follow in the footsteps of. He simply saw an opportunity, fostered a passion and pursued the path as far as he could. What Jim did not realise as he toiled for the likes of Baldocks, Red North and Ascot Haulage, was that he was inspiring the next generation of operator in his son, Scott. 

Scott learnt how to drive, diagnose, and doctor road trains better than his colleagues who were thrice his age, or more.

Hard work was the standard for Scott as long as he can remember, his childhood spent droving cattle with his grandparents throughout remote Queensland and the Northern Territory. 

The 18-hour days in the outback heat and nights away from home in the frigid winters were preparation for when Scott, aged 10, swapped the schoolroom for the passenger seat of a Mack as an offsider for his father. Scott, before he could ever hold a licence of his own, had travelled hundreds of thousands of kilometres for a number of quintessential Territory companies. 

From Ascot Haulage to Timor Transport, and NT Fuels to Gulf Transport, Scott learnt how to drive, diagnose, and doctor road trains better than his colleagues who were thrice or more his age.  

Scott and Jim were a recognisable and impressive team, and Scott often reminisces on the quality time he was able to spend with his father during these years. He recalls carting fuel across the wet Barkly Tablelands, headed for Gallipoli Outstation north of Camooweal. Scott, shovel in hand, had been tasked with moving mud to get the bogged road train on its way. 

Jim, ready to head out, shouted to Scott, “I’m off and I’m not waiting for ya! Jump on the trailer and make sure you hold on!”. Scott knew his father would deliver on his promise so swiftly climbed up onto the drums to avoid being left behind. Although not the most comfortable perch, Scott stayed there as they travelled the next 10-15km before the rig was again bogged and he was back to shoveling. 

Scott was most proud when he first stepped out on his own, securing a role with Road Trains of Australia.

Scott, now a father himself of two sons, hopes he can one day teach them the nuts and bolts of the industry in the same way Jim taught him. At age 6, Harrison, Scott’s eldest son, has decided that he too would like to drive road trains when he is old enough. 

When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, he declares without hesitation “I want to go with Dad in the truck!”. Bevan, aged 5, has taken an interest in cattle and horses. Scott foresees they could be an effective team – “One can work the cattle and one can cart them!”. Scott urges his sons, along with other operators wanting to learn the industry, to leave ego at the door, “listen to the older blokes who have been there and done it and work your way up through the ranks”. 

By starting in the workshop and earning your place behind the wheel, Scott believes operators can gain a better appreciation of the literal and figurative moving parts that come together to keep trucks on the road. 

Starting his transport career as young as he did, Scott has watched the industry evolve in real time and acknowledges that his sons will be entering a completely different industry to the one he did. 

Aside from the overhaul of the legislation that regulates the transport industry, Scott is most conscious of the rapid developments to the technology of the machines. Recognising the skepticism that surrounds electric trucks, Scott remembers when electronic fuel systems first replaced the mechanical fuel systems on truck engines. 

The familiar arguments of “What happens if something goes wrong when we are carting to the most remote parts of the country?” were just as common then as they are today.  

Scott, for all his years in the transport industry, was most proud when he first stepped out on his own, securing a role with Road Trains of Australia.

To get his truck licence, Scott was required to undertake a driving test from Tenant Creek to Three Ways. Sat in Jim’s new truck with Jim and Scott Radke, manager of Gulf Transport at the time, Scott remembers to this day how nervous he was, despite having driven this route plenty of times without the audience. 

Scott spent 15 years hauling cattle with RTA, heading east toward Charters Towers and west as far as Port Hedland. He then transitioned to carting fuel and doing tipper work, which he believes was more straightforward than cattle. Carting fuel, Scott says he got to go to bed every night, however once the cattle were on your truck, you had no choice but to go. 

In 2016, at age 44, Scott was the youngest ever inductee of the National Road Transport Hall of Fame.

Today, Scott is still carting fuel for FuelTrans, running from Darwin to the Granites Gold Mine. He jokes that he cannot get away from the Granites, the notorious Tanami Road being a consistent thread in his driving career. He first visited the Granites via the Tanami Road at age 12 alongside his father – a visit that would certainly be against mine site rules today, but is much smoother given the widespread bituminising of the road in recent years. 

In 2016, at age 44, Scott was the youngest ever inductee of the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. He is in good company, with Jim having been inducted in 2008. Scott notes that the National Road Transport Museum, the biggest of its kind that he has seen in Australia, plays an important role in illustrating how far the industry has progressed in a short period of time, and the great deal of effort needed to do so. 

Scott believes that we have inherited a better industry due to the hardship of the operators who came before us, and that it is vital to recognise their sacrifices. 

The National Road Transport Hall of Fame is proud of the role it has played in Scott’s extensive career and looks forward to potentially honouring Harrison and Bevan alongside their father one day. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend