For Victorian-based Robert Bean, life is a tale of travelling through six states, driving for Services Australia in trucks called Mobile Service Centres.
These travel to rural and regional Australia, from which people can get information and assistance regarding Centrelink and Medicare queries.
Bean, 53, lives at Narbethong in Victoria and has a full-time job driving these trucks, which travel through Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, NSW, SA and WA.
Narbethong is a town in central Victoria, located on the Maroondah Highway, 87km north east of Melbourne.
I saw one such truck, an FM Volvo with a 460hp motor and a 12-speed automatic gearbox, when it was parked at Bicheno in eastern Tasmania in late October.
Bean was the driver, and sitting in a shaded area behind the Volvo were three Services Australia workers who were helping locals with any Centrelink or Medicare enquiries.
We all know just how annoying it can be when you call a number to seek such information or assistance and get put on hold, often waiting for long periods before an answer.
“We travel to places where there isn’t an office,” Bean told Big Rigs.
“After leaving Bicheno we travelled to Swansea, Campbelltown, Ross and the lakes area of Tasmania.”
Bean works full-time on a fly in/fly out basis and driving trucks has taken him to many other states.
“The only place we don’t go to is the Northern Territory,” he said.
“We go as far as Port Headland in WA and Cooktown up in north Queensland.
“I have been with the organisation for more than six years and had been part-time.
“Since Covid I have been full-time for the past two years, and love it.”
Services Australia has three other trucks – a Mercedes Actros with a 350hp motor, which operates in WA, and two Isuzu lighter rigs.
“We get to many places after natural disasters such as floods or bush fires, when people are seeking emergency relief payments.
“Services Australia used to be called the Department of Human Resources.”
Bean has an ideal pedigree for the job and has driven trucks, including big road trains, for more than 25 years.
“I used to drive B-doubles along the Hume Highway in NSW and road trains out of Darwin in the NT from a depot at Humpty Doo,” he said.
He has a genuine passion for the work, having been severely affected during the Black Saturday Fires of 2009.
“We were burnt out on the property and all the farm, our workshop business and home.
“So, as you can imagine when we assist people throughout whatever disaster – such as the fires in 2019/20, the black summer fires on the east coast of Australia in 2021, the fires east of Perth, then all the floods in 2022 – I have a bit of understanding what they might be going through.
“We also offer assistance to farmers, with farmhouse assistance during drought and other disasters.”
This experienced truckie lives on his Victorian farm and also runs a mechanical business. Being a qualified mechanic holds him in good stead for the job, even though the Services Australia trucks are well-maintained.
I asked him what he considered to be the worst roads he had driven on during his long career.
“It would have to be parts of Queensland’s Bruce Highway. I would say generally that WA highways are the best,” he said.
“Victorian roads used to be, but there doesn’t seem to be much spent on them now.”
As for rest areas, Bean said that most major highways around Australia are well catered for, whereas the back roads are not.
He nominated the roadhouse at Tallen Bend in SA as amongst the best ones he has been to.
“There are good facilities for drivers and the food is also good,” he said.
When he gets time off, Bean enjoys spending time on the farm and also does a lot of fishing and camping.
“I have caught rainbow trout in fresh waterways and also bream, salmon and tailor fish in the saltwater ones,” he said.
You can tell that road transport is in Bean’s blood, and he told me he has two old trucks on his farm.
They are a 1953 Morris Commercial and a 1982 W925 S2 Kenworth, which he intends working on to fully restore.
Sandra Clark, the Mobile Service Centre Manager for Services Australia, said staff travel in Mobile Service Centres trucks to rural and regional areas to help people with our services and payments.
She was glowing in her praise of Bean and the integral role he plays in the community-minded operation.
“Our MSCs allow us to take government services to people who wouldn’t usually have access to them. If you live in a part of Australia that’s far away from a traditional service centre, this service means we can provide a face-to-face service to you,” Clark said.
“Our staff help people with payments and services for Medicare and Centrelink. Qe also provide information about
Department of Veterans’ Affairs programs and support services for veterans and their families. During natural disasters and emergencies, our MSCs can provide on-the-ground support for disaster recovery efforts.”