Big Pete cruises ‘Sesame Street’ with classic convoy

“Well, I don’t think those fellas that sell AdBlue will be getting much business out of this lot today,” said Malcolm Leech with a big grin as he fired up the Cat Diesel in his Peterbilt 379. 

‘This lot’ was the diverse contingent of around 300 historic heavy vehicles that were taking part in the 2024 Crawlin’ the Hume in early April, which made its way from Melbourne to Albury running the old Hume Highway. 

In an event that drew participants from as far afield as Queensland, Malcolm had kindly offered me a lift on the roughly 100km stretch northbound from the lunch stop at the Winton Raceway near Benalla to the end of the run at the Albury Racecourse. 

Hailing from Newstead, near Castlemaine in Victoria, Malcolm and his family operate Fouremile Trucking, with the company trucks running all manner of general freight across the country. 

The fleet comprises of three Peterbilts, two Western Stars, two Ford Louisvilles and a couple of Kenworths, and Malcolm’s 379 has been a faithful servant for over 20 years. 

“She’s a 1988 model, ex-Freestones, I believe it was bought out as a glider kit. It’s been a colossal truck – she has had a couple of whacks and a bit of cosmetic surgery, but she still holds together. 

“The motor seized about 12 years ago and we put a new head on it and have swapped the 13-speed out for an 18 double over box. She only tares around 9 tonne full of fuel. I wouldn’t have a clue what mileage it’s done over the years, but she still works each week, it’s got good legs and its good on fuel.”

With the Cat rumbling Malcolm eased the big Peterbilt out through the gates of the Winton Raceway past the ruins of the Winton Roadhouse and onto the old part of the Hume, bound for Glenrowan. 

The old Hume is a long way removed from the double-lane freeway of today and as we headed along Malcolm reminisced about his first forays into trucking many years ago. 

“The first truck I bought with my brother was an F8000 Ford which we did with Cubico work to Sydney, and then I got a 1968 Diamond T with a 6/53 GM in it – I could hardly hear myself think in it!  

“I bought it from a wrecker’s for about $3000. It had been working as a log truck, so I shovelled the dirt out of it and got it working.”

Malcolm Leech with his mighty 379 at the Winton Raceway lunch stop.

 Along the way he has also had stints driving for Thompsons and Parsons Transport and then taking the plunge again as an owner-driver working for Colin Rees (CRT) – with the blue CRT colour carried over to the Fouremile fleet. 

Heading up and over the current Hume Freeway the convoy wound its way into Glenrowan and with the town famous for all things bushranging, it was no surprise to see the six-metre-tall statue of Ned Kelly with shotgun drawn overseeing the passing procession through the town. 

The new Hume in a lot of places runs parallel to the older version and saw a number of towns including Kilmore, Broadford, Seymour, Euroa and Wangaratta all progressively bypassed. 

Today the modern Hume could be regarded as somewhat of a boring drive with Malcolm having experienced what many would consider the best era of the Hume in the 1970s and 1980s, which saw faster trucks and a greater spirit of adventure amongst those making their way up what was fondly known as ‘Sesame Street’.

“It was really good on the old road, but you had to be on the ball and be across what you were doing. The towns used to break it up a bit too, coming through places like Benalla and Wangaratta you had to slow down and then get going again. We used to travel in groups of 10-15. You would be yacking on the CB radio and before you knew it you were at Holbrook” he said.

With the convoy heading into Wangaratta the lineup of trucks making their way through numerous sets of traffic lights allowed many people to enjoy the slow-moving procession, and also provided Malcolm with only his second visit to the regional city since the bypass was completed in 1993. 

Fast forward 31 years today and it is hard to imagine the once constant flow of trucks changing down and making their way through the town centre at all times hours of the day and night. With plenty of chatter over the radio and the Peterbilt building up speed we picked up the ‘new’ Hume highway out of Wangaratta headed towards Springhurst and Chiltern. 

Along the way we pass Malcolm’s daughter Haley headed southbound behind the wheel of one of the company trucks, and with Malcolm’s son Joel and brother also driving for the Fouremile operation, it’s a real family affair. 

Back at home Malcolm is restoring his father Gary’s 1969 AT-4 Dodge which is a labour of love.

“She used to go real well on the old road. It’s got a 6/53 in it, which he did interstate with. Once you got her wound up she was good for about 78 mile an hour (125km/h) so she was pretty quick.”

With the Jake brake slowing the Peterbilt, Malcolm wheels off the Hume once again and into Chiltern, a town that has embraced its Highway 31 heritage with one of the largest turnouts of people to wave and greet the trucks headed through town with the crowd spilling out of the Telegraph Hotel and Conness Street. 

With a few blasts on the horn to the people waving and aiming their cameras at the trucks passing, Malcom shook his head in wonder at the number of people.

 “For the whole event it’s been awesome with the turnout of people – it has been massive right along the way.”

Slowing through Barnawartha, the last of the small towns that used to be on the old Hume, once again the new Hume is crossed over as we approach the Murray River and the end of the trek at the Albury Racecourse. 

“That’s one thing I remember about Albury on the old road, there were a lot of sharp left and right turns,” said Malcolm as we turned onto the Lincoln Causeway, known to many as the ‘Mad Mile’ linking Wodonga to Albury. 

Indeed, there was, with many trucks coming to grief at the infamous ‘Rollover Corner’ at the Viscount Motel. The 17km internal relief route through Albury, after having been first put on the drawing board in the 1970s was finally completed in 2007, in the process removing around 18 sets of traffic lights for trucks heading through to negotiate. 

Once again navigating the corners and traffic lights, one final right turn puts us onto Fallon Street which signals the end of the trip and a dinner and social gathering with no doubt many stories to be told well into the night. 

For Malcom, the trip has been a great day out and he is looking forward to the next one in 2026.

“I reckon there will be some thirsty people here tonight,” he smiled before continuing.

“You don’t get the full grasp of how big this event is until you see them all sitting on the pad there ready to depart  Melbourne this morning and here again now. This was my first Crawlin the Hume, and I will be definitely doing it again.”

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