When it comes to supporting charitable causes, no one does it better than the truck industry.
Saturday, November 4 was no different when Andrew Lattin and his wife of two weeks, Sandy Davis, put out the call for truckies to come to the Bendigo Showgrounds and show support for their brainchild, Truckies Against Bullying.
The idea to stage the event began in June when the couple talked of their children’s experiences.
“Both our son and daughter have been the victims of bullying and harassment and we were wondering how we could make a stand,” Lattin says.
“Then we thought, hey, we’re part of a huge trucking community. Let’s make some noise and organise something. This would be a double first – as in a show dedicated to truckies against bullying, and also the first truck show to be held in Bendigo.
“I’ve gotta say I was a little worried three weeks ago when we had all of four trucks registered. Even last night we still only had 25 confirmations, so to stand here and see over 45 truckies, their families and of course their pride and joys here today, as well as the public who’ve attended brings a tear to my eye. This is only the start and we can build on it from here.
“In addition we have The Victorian Brotherhood and Headspace, as well as Tim May, an Ambassador for BEEFitUP Australia, here to offer their expertise. Then there’s the stallholders who’ve come to support us, not knowing if it would be worth their while.”
Lattin says Truckies Against Bullying is not just about kids but all who’ve suffered at any age – men as well as women.
“We have to push the fact that there’s help out there for the blokes. There’s far too many who go down the suicide path and the trucking industry is not immune – in fact I’d suggest quite the reverse.
“We have guys spending 14 hours a day driving down the highway for days on end. It’s a lot of time to think, and negative thoughts can build up pretty quickly with sometimes dire consequences.
“Forty years ago this industry was a brotherhood. We used to have gutter parties; a truckie would break down and there’d be 40 trucks pulled up behind him. You’d be sitting there having a couple of drinks, a barbecue on the side of the highway. It doesn’t happen now. Everyone’s on a schedule and it makes for loneliness big time. The UHF can’t substitute for face-to-face human interaction.”
Of course Truckies Against Bullying would not have been possible without the attendance of those aforementioned trucks and their drivers/owners.
Shane Martin, owner of Macway Logistics at Sunbury arrived with driver, Shaun Smith and two Freightliner Cascadia’s – a 60” cabbed DD16 and a 36” DD13. An unabashed fan of the brand, Smith also owns an Actros which he loves, but was looking for more space for his drivers.
“During Covid I said to my wife I’m done eating in service stations. I wanted something where I can have a meal and prepare it in there. And this DD16 – the first one on the road in Victoria – has everything in it. It’s got big a fridge, it’s got the microwave, it’s got everything. It was that good that I got the DD13 as well.
“The 13-litre DD13 is unbelievable! It’s got the smaller bunk but there’s still plenty of room. It’s got all that the big cab has, but on a smaller scale and the fuel economy is fantastic.”
While the DD13 is double rated, both trucks only pull singles, carting hanging meat from Melbourne and Murray Bridge to Auspork at Derrimut and Wilmeat Cut Meat in Sydney.
Why did Smith turn up on this day?
“I’ve got two teenage boys. And one was bullied back when he was a young fellow too. I saw the Facebook page and I just thought, this is great so I jumped on the bandwagon. Then, when they said they were going to do a truck show, I said, yeah, no problems at all, mate. Let’s do it.”
Tim May is a mental health ambassador for BEEFitUP Australia who do charity work for Australian Horizons Foundation based in Far North Queensland. When May speaks, he is worth listening to as he’s been to the edge of the precipice, having attempted suicide two and a half years ago. He’s also been in and out of trucks for the better part of 30 years.
“People need to know that there is help out there for bullying – which can happen at any time and at any age – as well as mental health,” May says. The biggest problem is nobody knows how to talk about it.
“Nobody knows how to say I’m having these problems, I’ve got these things going inside my head, I’m being bullied and I don’t know how to talk about it. I don’t know who to talk to. And the biggest thing is ‘I’m a man so I don’t want to appear unmanly’. A lot of men don’t know how to say, ‘Can I talk to you? I need to talk to someone’.”
“Truckies face a lot of problems: the loneliness, the distance. We know it’s not conducive to happy families. You’ve got to be a certain type of woman to put up with your partner being away for a week or sometimes weeks on end. And the kids have got a dad that they sometimes hardly know.
“Then there’s the reason we’re here today – bullying. It doesn’t matter your age, it doesn’t matter your gender. Bullying needs to be stamped out. If you’re a bully, please go and talk to somebody, see if you can get through what’s going inside your head. Stamp out the bullying at the source, stamp it out at the bully.”
Roger Bolding turned up with his 2012, 4900 Western Star powered by an ISX Cummins through an 18 speed Road Ranger. Bolding has had to do a bit on the 1.9 million km ex-Nightingales truck with its 50” Stratosphere cab.
“I did about 8000km and it dropped a liner so I had to rebuild the engine. Not long after that I had to rebuild the front diff. It’s had a clutch, it’s had a turbo – just general maintenance but yeah, it all costs money.”
On the show, Bolding comments: “It’s not just bullying, it’s mental health, it affects a lot of people nowadays and if this can raise a bit of awareness, it can only be a good thing.”
Victorian Brotherhood is a group this writer is familiar with; my youngest son joining their Facebook page early in their formation.
“Victorian Brotherhood started in the COVID era when there were a lot of guys that were by themselves and struggling,” said member, Steve.
“A few guys got together, started the website and it just exploded from there. We’re basically just a mental health support group that’s focused around suicide prevention and support. We do a lot of outreach in the community like today, just spreading the word that there are people there to talk to – other guys – because as guys we do this really, really badly.
“It might just be a chat, some banter, or it might be a serious conversation. It sort of doesn’t matter because if you’re talking that’s a good start. And slowly, slowly we’re trying to break the stigma of men’s mental health.
“There’s a lot of men that have experienced bullying, which is why we’re here today. It can be physical, it can be verbal, and it can be really insidious. That’s the problem with bullying. It often becomes the victim’s ‘fault’, because no one else is prepared to do anything about it. So the person getting bullied believes that they’re at fault for it.”
Set up in Victoria, the Brotherhood have over 20,000 members on their private Facebook page.
“That page is aimed solely at men, but there is also a public page where men, women, and people from overseas can get to our information and our resources,” said Steve. “There’s always a sympathetic ear out there. When I say ear, there’s hundreds, if not thousands of them. And it’s just knowing that there are people out there who’ve been through whatever you’re going through. There’ll be someone in the Brotherhood who’s been there as well and has come out the other side or is working through it at the moment.”
Justin Burfurd also thought the show had great merit so arrived in his 1998 Iveco 6500. Bought for a mere $5000, Burfurd has obviously spent a lot more on the truck.
“When we bought it, it was a non-runner, a real piece of s***. My partner and I also run a mechanic business as well, so we did it up over two years. We stripped it down to the rails, pulled the engine out and all the diffs. We did a cab swap because it was a day cab and we wanted a bunk. The driveline, everything is rebuilt including the interior which now has a fridge, TV and microwave. Obviously we repainted it as well.”
Burfurd has also added a bundle of chrome to the truck.
“And why not? Chrome’s not just for Kenworth owners! And it attracts attention. Not every day you see an Iveco with so much bling. Can I give a shout out to Phil Smythe from Visual Creations in Ballarat who did the scrolling?”
Shout out done, Juz.
Headspace are another organisation who lent their support to truckies Against Bullying. Focused on early intervention mental health support for young people, there are now over 150 Headspace centres around Australia, including Bendigo.
Bendigo spokesperson, Haylee Kennedy: “We have a range of fact sheets, resources and information about so many different topics that young people actually experience. We’ve also got resources for parents, family and friends to help support young people who may be victims of bullying.”
“We also assist young people aged 15 to 25 looking at career pathways and employment,” adds Colleen Travers. “It could be casual work around school or it could be looking at long-term careers.”
Headspace offers an online or telephone counselling service that young people, parents, family and friends can access from 9am to 1am seven days a week. You can also be involved in group chats as well. To find the closest Headspace centre to where you live, go to headspace.org.au
Of course no truck show can be without its Kenworths and amongst the many present were a T610SAR and a T909 belonging to Justin Hunt of Hunts Transport out of Maiden Gully near Bendigo.
An owner-driver for five years, Hunt did his time with Keith Thompson at Castlemaine before deciding that if Thompson could do it, so could he. He now has four trucks, all Kenworths. Thompson surprises me by commenting that the 909 has just had a replacement engine.
“Really,” I reply. “It’s not that old is it?”
“2012 with 2 million km on her,” he replies regarding the truck which looks brand new. Like the others present, Hunt came to support what he regards as a very worthy cause.
Already, Andrew Lattin and Sandra Davis are organising 2024, with a two-day event taking place on October 5-6. Meantime you can show your support by joining Truckies Against Bullying on Facebook.