An ode to the golden years of road transport

golden years

What a great job it was, but it will never be the same.

When you looked forward to going to work every day knowing it would be hard, but the adrenaline was pumping, doing what you had to do to stay alive.

But for me, the last truck and trailers are sold, time to pull the pin after 64 years, 11 as an employed driver and 53 years as an independent contractor.

The last 20-odd trying to stop the rot that has destroyed this once great industry, with draconian laws drafted and enforced by a government body who has no compassion for those doing the job, so that a simple mistake by a driver or operator you will mean you lose everything you have worked for.

This is my ode to an industry that is past its golden era that I and many others were lucky to be part off and as second-generation transport driver, I speak for the ones before me: under-powered, rag tyres, no brakes…I remember.

To all the drivers including the legends who have passed on, who I travelled with, loaded, unloaded with, had breakfast with in a parking bay, or a roadhouse.

When we had the best of roadhouse owners looking after us, it was privilege to know you.

To the ones who didn’t survive after the golden era, and there many thousands, R.I.P.

There was a time when you would meet someone today and not see him again for five years, or more, and finish the conversation you had the first time like no time had passed at all.

To the companies from the 50s to the 90s, in the golden era who we drove for, subbied for, you paid us good money, treated us as equals before the new breed, when greed took over.

It was good to work for you; we carted some cream freight for you and you paid us well.

For us who have been there and done it, we all learnt together; owners and drivers, farm trucks fitted with home-made semi-trailers turned in to highway trucks. Ex-army tent flys as tarps, farm gates with U brackets to sit on, the 3-inch combing.

When being a driver was 50 per cent manual labour and 50 per cent driving; hard yakka, but we enjoyed it, even driving with the drivers from that time with their Commer knockers loaded with Kellogs’ tarps billowing 15 feet wide and exhaust smoke you couldn’t see past.

Brown-Sarre’s restored 1982 Kenworth W Model.

The roads were shit, the majority of highways were still dirt, others were 16 feet of bitumen, or less, if you were lucky, but we learnt to stay alive.

How they have changed in some places.

As drivers and owners in the golden era we saw our ingenuity and input in the design and build of real highway trucks and trailers, and along the way we tested every design to find the limits to them.

But most of us couldn’t have done it without finding the one person who shared the good and the bad times with us and stayed the journey, raising the family, looking after home and running the business while we had the fun, a Truckie’s Wife.

What a rare breed of women they were, to be involved and share the golden era of transport with us, and for those of us who were lucky to find one, our lives are better for it. I don’t see them around the industry today.

The golden era was also a time when owners and drivers were not frightened to take on governments bodies if we were being shafted by bad laws like speed limits, weights and such like, as we did in the ’79 blockades in taking on road tax law.

We have a new generation of people to deal with the industry conditions in this new era and who will find out as we did that associations, government bodies, unions, supply chain, etc, have their own agendas.

The days of independent contractors are numbered and drivers of today are underpaid by 30 per cent. Good luck to them fixing that.

This ode also goes out to all the drivers who will be killed in the future due to lack of knowledge and lack of proper training by a new section of the transport industry out to make a quick buck, most who don’t have the knowledge or ability to teach drivers how to drive and stay alive.

You can’t teach what you don’t know, and to quantify that statement, just look at the needless accidents happening daily, so to those drivers in advance, I say R.I.P. driver.

For me it was a fantastic job, and I was definitely part of the golden era of Australian long-distance transport, and I would do it again tomorrow.

To those who missed out, tough.

You will never know what you missed out on.

  • Jerry Brown-Sarre was inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2005.


  1. Not afraid to tell it like it is, a quality fast being lost. Our govt are incompetent knee benders. A country wide rolling stop work is sorely needed to wake them up.

  2. Spot-on, Jerry. I couldn’t have put it better myself. I recently wrote to an industry journalist; whom, despite being in his seventies, was having a go at us ‘old-school’ truckies (I’m 71, and retired). His response was basically to insult me, calling me inane, stupid, and backward-thinking; and, describing my words as ‘drivel’. This because of things such as: I prefer driving a manual transmission, and I don’t need a computer to tell me when is the best time to change gear. His basic attitude is that we ‘old-school’ drivers are just old, worn-out whingers. Give me those ‘old’ days, rather than the over-regulated, over-computerised industry of today. It used to be that, if I was on the side of the road, with the cab or bonnet up, 2 or 3 truckies would stop, bring their tool-boxes over, and help me fix whatever problem I had. Nowadays, truckies will just fly past; on such overly-tight schedules that they can’t stop to help. Good on you, Jerry; I agree with every word. Cheers, from: Roy.

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