Growing up in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley and watching the countless road trains go past was enough to inspire Chris Pearson, 30, to follow the same path.
“The Lockyer Valley is predominantly a farming community, so as a kid, I’d spend my summers on farms picking vegetables and what not – back then you’d see Refrigerated Roadways, Nolan’s and Lindsay Brothers come in and load. Some of the drivers would see me looking and ask if I wanted to take a look in the truck,” Pearson recalled. “Mum would always yell at me to get out of their trucks because they had to go!
“My brother James is also a truck driver for the same reason. As kids, we saw trucks here, there and everywhere, and we grew up idolising the guys that ran to Darwin with three trailers on the back.”
And these days, Pearson is doing exactly that, travelling the 3600-kilometre express run from Brisbane to Darwin, driving two-up for Shaw’s Darwin Transport – where he’s been for the past few months.
But it was back in 2015 that his foray into trucking began. “I worked at a meatworks for two and half years but had enough of that – so that’s when I went for my truck licence,” he said.
Trying to get his foot in the door, he began working for Brisbane Isuzu. “I started as a yard person, taking cab chassis and new trucks to body builders so they could be fitted out. It wasn’t a real truck driving job but I figured you never start at the top, so I knew I had to start somewhere.”
He moved onto Nolan’s Interstate Transport in 2016, where he stayed for about two years, working as a local driver – and it was here that he secured his MC licence.
That was followed by time spent working at Bulk Granite Haulage, where he honed in on his tipping skills, and then Baskett Transport in 2017.
“I had a friend working at Baskett Transport and he asked if I wanted to come and learn to drive road trains, so I drove for him for about six months, learning all the basics about road trains like maintenance, servicing, washing and what-not. The work here was from Brisbane to Darwin as well as remote parts of the Northern Territory and Queensland. There were flat tops, tautliners, gates, ropes, tarps, straps – it was a really good experience,” explained Pearson.
But it was his next role that had the biggest impact, working for transport legend Phil Hannant, who served as a mentor.
Hannant was also this year inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame.
“I started with Phil in 2018 and worked for him for about four and a half years – it would have been longer but he decided not to continue his business so he could retire,” said Pearson.
“He had a nice 4800 Western Star and then when I started with him, he told me he had ordered a new T610 which would be there in a few months, so I had that from brand new. It was tow contracting for Nolan’s – road trains, B-doubles and B-triples. I did 1.26 million kilometres in the time I worked with him.”
The son of transport operators, Hannant took over the family business, Hannant’s Transport, in 1981. Then in 2005, he began working as transport operations manager for two different companies, before working for Nolan’s Interstate Transport, where he was until his retirement – if you can call it that, as Hannant still hits the road almost daily.
“I have a lot of time for my previous employer Phil. I worked hard but although I worked hard, he looked after me. Working for that type of one truck company, when you present yourself to be an asset like the truck itself, they look after you like family. He wants to do a trip up with me to Darwin, so that would be great to do with him.”
Pearson’s next role was with Rushway Transport, before securing his current job with Shaw’s.
It turned out that Shaw’s had a long-serving two-up team retiring – husband and wife duo Garry and Liza van der Heide, who were known as the ‘A-Team’ and had been with the company for about 15 years.
“I’ve started doing two-up but eventually want to go into a solo role. When I started, we had the A-team’s old truck – a five-year-old T909 – but in early November were given the keys to a brand new T909,” said Pearson.
He and his co-driver transport general, chilled and frozen goods to Darwin; with seafood, mangoes, melons and general usually carried on the return leg.
The team usually sets off on a Monday evening and returns home by Saturday morning, if all goes well.
Pearson takes a great deal of pride in his rig and washes it every week in Darwin. “I make sure it’s all cleaned up and shiny. A quick job of washing the truck takes me over two hours, but a proper wash takes me four or five hours,” he revealed.
Though the trip is all on sealed roads, he says some of the highways are in a pretty sorry state. “The Gore Highway is absolutely trashed, as it has been for a long time. And the Peak Downs Highway, once you get past Moranbah, it gets quite bad.”
At only 30, Pearson still has plenty of years on the road ahead of him. “And I can most definitely see myself doing road train work for a long time,” he said.
He is also a father of three: eight-year-old Sophie, six-year-old Lucy and four-year-old Zac. “In the past, with previous companies, I could take the truck home and they loved playing in the cab and tooting the horn. Every now and then I’d take my eldest with me at Rushways too. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t happen very much anymore, because this is something I’d love to share with them.”