Horsham truckie Tim Driller, 50, should be hauling another oversize load about now, but instead his prized 1998 Peterbilt 379 is parked up at the local workshop when Big Rigs calls.
The stunning big-bonneted behemoth is in for a new cylinder head and turbo, and Driller is bracing himself for a $20,000 bill to get him rolling again, but all things considered, it’s a minor bump in the road.
After taking five years out from the driver’s seat to “follow a different pathway” and focus on spending more time with his three children, Driller, aka Drillbit, is back with more enthusiasm than he’s ever had in his 30, or so, years behind the wheel.
A long-time grain farmer around truck-driving duties, Driller had tried his hand at a few other things during his break – including welding – but no matter what new road he ventured down, his thoughts always turned back to his first love of trucking.
“My heart wasn’t in the farm, and I always had the urge to get back into it – it gets under your skin – and I wasn’t happy in what I was doing and needed to get back in a truck again,” explained Driller, who also credits partner Sarah and her children Aiden and Lexi for support in helping him chase his dream.
“I knew I didn’t want to go carting grain – that’s what I mainly did before that – too much waiting around.
“Around this area there really wasn’t anyone doing oversize cartage, so I thought there’s a bit of an opening there, so I decided to go full-time trucking driving again. So far, it’s worked out quite okay.”
A Peterbilt had always been on Driller’s wish-list so when he spotted one for sale on Facebook, running a 12.7 Detroit premium out at 570hp, he bought a one-way ticket to the seller’s place in Brisbane, and ended up driving the truck home.
“I’d always kept my eye out for a Peterbilt – always wanted one – but when I rang up the bloke he said he had it sold but the buyer was waiting on finance.
“He’d been waiting for three months – being an older truck it was a bit harder to get finance.
“I knew I was probably going to before I even got up there. I didn’t even take it for a drive to be honest; I just looked at it and said, ‘Yep, we’ll take it’.
“It had a rebuild 15,000km before I bought it. It had a chassis/engine rebuild, a brand new gearbox and two brand new diffs, so I thought it was a pretty safe bet.”
Aside from minor setback with the aforementioned head and turbo, the distinctive Peterbilt with the equally eye-catching Drillbit rego, has soaked up every task Driller has thrown its way in the 70,000km he’s clocked up.
The week he has his children at home, that’s mainly doing local work, but every second week Driller heads interstate, either to Perth, Brisbane or somewhere in Queensland.
“I prefer more the outback places. It’s just not as busy and you get to see a bit of the country.”
Driller hauls a lot of headers, but also self-propelled boom sprays for Agrifac Australia all over Victoria, into South Australia and as far afield as Townsville in Queensland under the company banner, Driller Transport.
In his spare time, he also races a speedway truck at the Blue Ribbon Raceway, 18km north of Horsham, the only track of its kind in Australia.
Driller races a mean machine called Optimus Prime, which boasts a Dodge chassis and a 1973 Kenworth S2 cab that he has grafted on to it – everything has to be pre-1975 to comply with race rules.
Inspired by a mate who painted his speedway truck as Tow Mater from the Cars movie, Driller opted for the Transformer theme to play his part in helping to entice kids along to race nights with their parents.
The truck used to be powered by a 327 Chev engine but because he “keeps blowing up engines”, this year Driller has a customised 350 Chev being built, running a two-speed Powerglide transmission.
Driller has been racing now for around seven years all up – three before his break and four since – and admits it was a steep learning curve, even coming off second best in a collision with a wall at one stage.
He credits Wes Bell, a farmer “up the road” who was like a second father to Driller in his younger days, for giving him the push to try.
“I started in one of Wes’s, number 11, a Dodge, same as what I’ve made my truck out of, but one of the first trucks on the track ever.
“I crashed that one in a big way and pretty much wrote it off down in Hamilton, so I rebuilt it all for him.
“I enjoyed doing that, so I decided I was going to rebuild my own and build it to my own specs. It was an out of chassis, no-expense spared rebuild.”
The race season kicked off again on December 2 with the next event on the six-month calendar scheduled for January 6, 2024.
As for enticing his children into his burgeoning transport business – he’s looking to expand the operation in the new year – Driller reckons his youngest son, Harry, 17, has his mind set on a career as an electrician after just starting an apprenticeship.
But daughter Nellie, 14, is mad-keen on trucks and jumps into the cab every chance she gets, and oldest son Jack, 19, has indicated he might switch from welding to follow in the old man’s footsteps.
“He’s nearly finished his apprenticeship as a welder and then he’s looking to travel a bit first, but when I mentioned to him this other job that might be coming up that might suit him as a learner-driver, he said he might be a bit keen to have a go.
“Kids like the big glory stuff these days,” Driller added when asked what the secret is to entice more youngsters into the industry.
“The first truck I learnt to drive in was an old Volvo G88. It wasn’t a very good-looking truck but back then we didn’t care what it looked like, it was more about getting out there and experiencing it.”