Third generation truckie inspiring the next generation through new mentor program

The Orange family name and truck driving have gone hand in hand for decades. Owen Orange, 63, began learning to drive a truck as soon as his legs were long enough to reach the pedals.

Having grown up in Toowoomba, his grandparents had a farm in Flagstone Creek, in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley, where he spent a great deal of time.

Owen was taught to drive by his late father Lawrie Orange and late uncle Cecil Orange – and they were taught by their fathers Norman and Joe Orange.

Owen (centre) with his father Lawrie and mother Eunice. Image: Owen Orange

As Owen explained, “I came from a farming background and was already driving our little farm truck, a 4 tonne Bedford, by the time I was 10.

“But my first time driving solo was in the tractor when I was about nine.

“I’d always go in the B Model Mack with dad. I spent plenty of time curled up around the quad box sticks – and I loved it,” Owen recalled, adding that his mum Eunice had her truck licence too.

“My father and uncle only ever taught one person how to drive a truck, and that was me.

“So I thought, if I don’t pass that on to these young people coming into this industry, all that knowledge will be gone.”

And so, Owen was seen as a perfect candidate for South East Queensland Hauliers’ (SEQH) new professional driver mentor program. He’s been with the company since March 2023, operating a side loader – but he’s had his truck licence since the age of 21 and has driven professionally for over 40 years.

Owen says his Mack Superliner, combined with the latest Hammar side loader, makes a statement wherever it goes. Image: SEQH

“Back then, you were supposed to wait two years with a single before you could upgrade to double road trains. But Uncle Cecil took me to the police station and told them he needed me to drive double road trains, so they upgraded my licence straight away,” Owen said.

Owen’s uncle Cecil and father Lawrie. Image: Owen Orange

“When the transport department testing officer saw my name, he asked if I was any relation to Lawrie and Cecil Orange. When I said one’s my father and one’s my uncle, he said there was not much point in taking me for a drive, so we just went around the block.”

Over the years, Owen has worked in various areas of the industry, travelling right across the country and clocking up millions of kilometres.

Prior to his current role at SEQH, Owen had spent 22 years doing long distance general and refrigerated work with Hillman’s Transport, travelling from Toowoomba into Darwin.

It was actually a very major health scare that forced him to give up travelling long distance with Hillman’s.

“The only reason I left Hillman’s was because I got diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer. I got that news on July 1, 2021. Things were looking extremely dire. The surgeon told me to sit with my family and get my affairs in order,” but thankfully Owen defied the odds and made a full recovery, with PET scans showing no signs of cancer throughout his entire body.

Owen says it was his family and closest friends who got him through, including his beautiful wife of 37 years Leanne.

“Then I just got better and better. I never gave up and remained positive.”

After two surgeries and 18 months recovering at home, Owen was ready to return to work. “I just got stronger and stronger. The oncologist said I was fine to return to work so long as I didn’t go back on the big runs, so Hillman’s offered me the Toowoomba to Mt Isa run which I continued doing until my second surgery.”

But at 1700km each way, it meant Owen was still spending a lot of time away from home.

“I needed something a little bit easier,” Owen admitted, “and my wife Leanne wanted me to find something closer to home. She said you’ve been away all your working life, and now I need you home, so that’s when I got the job here at SEQH.”

And it’s been a great fit for him too. “It’s been very good here. I work Monday to Friday now and Leanne is tickled pink that I’m home a lot more now,” he added.

When Owen first started with SEQH, he drove A-doubles from the Toowoomba depot (where he’s based) to Brisbane. “Then they had a side loader driver leaving so they me asked if I was interested in learning that. I’d done a lot of different things but had never operated a side loader. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered, because I get to drive my trucks, which I love, and I’ve learnt something new.

“It’s a real thinking game with the side loader, because you need to position everything correctly. With the Hammar side loaders we use, you could throw a 20 cent coin on the ground and get the container right in place. The hydraulics on them are unbelievable.”

An SEQH AB triple, which is used to transport freight to the company’s large network of customers. Image: SEQH

Owen was lucky enough to be given the keys to a new 2023 600hp Mack Superliner about six months ago. As he explained, “I could go anywhere out in the bush. It could be a road train to Mungindi or an AB triple pulling grain out of Carpendale near Goondiwindi.”

Then earlier this year, Owen was given the opportunity to be part of SEQH’s mentor program. The company currently employs around 120 drivers across its Brisbane and Toowoomba sites, with four of its highly experienced truck drivers serving as mentors.

As SEQH human resources advisor Carolina Bayona Piñeros explained, “The mentor program was developed so that we could provide support to our drivers who don’t have a lot of experience. We invite experienced drivers to participate through an expression of interest and they need to have a desire to teach others too.”

Already, Owen has taken several newer drivers under his wing. The first driver he trained through the mentor program was Rubens Borges, who had spent 22 years working in an abattoir in Oakey just outside of Toowoomba prior to getting into trucks. “He wanted a life change,” said Owen. “Rubens was driving singles but lacked some confidence. He came with me for a few weeks and now he’s like a different bloke, he’s backing dollies too and has gained a lot of confidence.”

Owen also provided the support that was needed for another driver named Glenn Annetts, who wanted to upgrade to his MC. “His head was filled with all of the knowledge he needed. He was on a side loader with me for a week and learned it really easily but he had never backed a B-double. A couple of days practice in the yard and I thought he was good enough to get his MC licence. He went for his licence test recently and called me straight after to say he got his MC!”

[L-R] Deputy managing director Nathan Craner, company driver Glenn Annetts who recently upgraded to his MC, Owen Orange and Toowoomba depot manager Shane Jakobi. Image: SEQH
Glenn is currently doing A-double work for SEQH, predominantly from Toowoomba to Brisbane, along with side loader work.

He says the training he received from Owen was invaluable. “When I first started, I could hardly reverse the prime mover, let along the prime mover and the trailer – but now I’ve gotten the hang of it,” said Glenn.

“Owen taught me how to reverse a B-double, which was incredible. He’s got a way of instilling confidence in you and letting you learn for yourself. He really has a unique style,” he added.

“After being with him for just one week, he gave me incredible confidence.

“Owen also taught me how to use the side loader too, which I’ve picked up very well.”

After decades spent working in other industries, for Glenn, making the move into trucking was a long time coming.

“When I was about eight years old, I climbed into my Uncle Laurie’s truck – he drove trucks his whole life and used to travel all over Australia. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a truck driver and that’s when the passion for trucks started but my life took me on a different path,” he said.

“It wasn’t until my better half said that’s what you always wanted to do, so why don’t you give it a crack. And then I went to SEQH and they were willing to give me a go.”

Owen says the amount of time each driver spends with him depends on the training they need. “You can’t just throw people in the deep end and sink or swim. People can go to a driving school and get their licence in a short amount of time but then they need fine tuning. Now you’ve got these automatic prime movers and all of these safety features to assist drivers. Yes they are easier to drive when everything is good and going well, but you still need the skills and the knowledge to know what to do when things don’t go as planned!”

Looking ahead, Owen is hoping to get his formal qualifications as a driver trainer, while continuing his role behind the wheel.


  1. I learnt to drive in a 1940 X-army truck (upgraded to 3 ton with dual single axle & more springs) on Dad’s farm on Northern downs when I was 13, after having spent many hours following a furrow on the IH tractors. Have always loved trucks, carted grapes from Jandowae to Rocklea Markets, and general goods on return journey.
    The hr combinations have me puzzled, maybe something to explain the difference, just read one in this issue about “A-double”

    Big rigs makes very interesting reading.

    Edwin Gooderham

    1. An A double is a semi trailer towing a dog trailer with a dolly whereas a B double has a trailer attached to the A trailer without a dolly.

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