Features, Truckie Profiles

Veteran driver looks back at life spent on the road

Veteran driver Doc Holliday has the same name as a famous American gunslinger, and he became emotional when a friend gave him a copy of Big Rigs which featured a DCO-F International.

The 85-year-old Holliday was sitting near his caravan at Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory on October 13 when he phoned me about a story by David Vile which had appeared in our May 12 edition.

“I used to drive one of these back in the ’60s and have loved reading this. These trucks were very few and far between,” he said.

Then Holliday spoke about his long career as a truck driver and later a coach driver, working all around Australia.

“In the ’60s I drove for Dyer Transport out of Renmark in South Australia, delivering oranges and driving a three-cylinder Commer. I have been in transport most of my life and still do part-time work as a bus driver in SA for some of the year. But I come up to the NT the other times to escape the cold down there,” he said.

In the '60s, Holliday drove for Dyer Transport.
In the ’60s, H0lliday drove for Dyer Transport.

A genuine character, Holliday was born on December 28, 1937 and said coming into the world so close to Christmas day had its disadvantages.

“I generally only got one gift for Christmas and nobody had any money left for a birthday present as it was three days after,” he said with a laugh.

He recalls that in about 1965, he drove the DOC-F International from Renmark to Sydney markets and was behind the wheel of various trucks from SA well into the ’70s.

“The best truck I ever drove was a 1418 Mercedes-Benz with a single drive. It could carry a heavier load legally than a bogie drive Mack and it was really comfortable,” he said.

After that he got a job driving trucks at the Lajamanu aboriginal community in the NT and loved the work.

“After about two years I got promoted to run the general store there and the people were so friendly and good to me,” he said.

From there, Holliday got a job in the early ’80s with a company called FBI Transport out of Adelaide. He drove to Alice Springs and even further afield to Perth in WA on buses.

“The roads were bloody bad back then and I used to stop at a roadhouse regularly along the way. But nowadays with the roads better and the speed limit higher, it doesn’t take as long to get to destinations and many of the roadhouses have disappeared.”

Doc Holliday as a young man.
Doc Holliday as a young man.

I asked Holliday what his favourite roadhouses have been over the years, and he nominated two in the NT.

“They would have to be at Daly Waters and Dunmurra,” he said.

The worst road he has ever travelled along would have to be the notorious Tanami Track.

“It was bloody terrible and still is, from what I am told. There are some shockers in Queensland too,” he said.

After that, Holliday was offered a job as a coach driver. He enjoyed the work and it even snared him three trips to the USA for seminars.

I asked this true gentleman what his real first name is, and he had to think for a moment.

“Gee whiz, yes, my real name is Don but nobody knows that. Everybody calls me Doc, after the American gunslinger,” he said.

Married for 56 years to his wife Marlene, Holliday said she stays in Remark on the River Murray in SA while he’s in the NT.

“She can’t stand the heat and I hate the cold,” he said.

Holliday has worked for many different companies over the course of his long career.

We spoke about the differences truckies and van drivers can have on the roads and with experience in both he was an apt person to ask.

“Some of the van drivers are not so good but there are also truckies who need manners. In my day we were courteous to each other and had signals well before UHF radio,” he said.

Holliday may be in his twilight years but still is as sharp as a tack and I reckon he still has some good years ahead driving the roads in SA and the NT.

In the meantime he is enjoying reading back editions of Big Rigs, which he said took him for a welcome trip down memory lane.

Footnote: The story Holliday was referring to, by David Vile, was about the only known DCO-F still on the road in Australia along with its owner, which did the hard yards on the Nullarbor between Sydney and Perth when the road was not much more than a dirt track.

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