Outback, Truck driver, Truckie Profiles

Outback truckie travelling here, there and everywhere in a job he loves

After being in and out of trucks for much of his life, 54-year-old Jason ‘Grump’ Payne says he’s landed a job he loves.

As he chatted with Big Rigs, Grump was behind the wheel of a brand-spanking new Kenworth C509, travelling the M1, heading towards Wollongong.

He was handed the keys to the impressive new rig less than two months prior, which replaced another C509, that was only three years old.

Grump currently works for Camlin Investments. He’s been there just on 12 months and says he’s enjoying the role.

“I’m really happy with it. It’s a great job with a great Australian owned family business, great support network and great co-workers – it has been a real pleasant change compared to some of the past roles I’ve had. They’ve been a ray of sunshine, I can’t fault them,” he said.

“They keep a really good fleet that’s well looked after.”

Travelling across the Strzelecki Track in South Australia. Image: Jason Payne

Camlin Investments specialises in the delivery of specialty gases, right across Australia. “I run out of our Tamworth depot, we have four 509s that service our road train work. We travel anywhere, Australia-wide. We really do go all over the place,” explained Grump.

“They do have set runs but you could end up in WA one week and Darwin another week. We also do a lot of work to Queensland and South Australia too.”

Grump first began driving trucks when he was 20. “I got stuck in and around trucks, so I taught myself out of necessity due to other roles I was in. I started out in smaller gear and worked my way up,” he said.

Throughout his career, he has also tried his hand in various other areas too, including working in earthmoving, oil and gas, and in the mines, which is where he got his nickname ‘Grump’.

“The name really stemmed from back in the mining days. I used to drive some of the biggest diggers on the planet – up to 800 tonne. About 18 years ago I was mining in WA and we had a really good crew of people,” he recalled.

“You’d just get really stuck into the work and get fired up so they started calling me a ‘Grumpy bastard’ and then it just stuck.

“Now most people don’t even know me by my real name. The only people who use it is my mother and my missus when I’m in trouble!” he laughed.

For Grump, he says he’s now sure that trucking is where he wants to be and what he wants to do. Since returning to trucks, he’s been driving full time for the past five years. “You head out on your own and enjoy your own time. But obviously I enjoy the time I get at home with the kids and the missus too.”

Grump was actually brought up around trucks. “My step-father was on the road from when he was 15, he started out carting hay and ended up with a grain road train. He only retired at 82. He sadly had an unexpected health turn shortly after and passed away at 84. And my mum drove school and tour buses for over 35 years, she only retired after his death.

“I’ve always loved travelling. I think it’s in my blood.”

When asked what he enjoys most about the work, Grump says it’s a combination of things: “I love being on the road and I love the mateship and working with other people on the road. Every day is something different. It’s a lifestyle, you either love it or you hate it. And I really do love it.

“There isn’t an area of Australia that we don’t cover. I just love being out there. It doesn’t matter where the work takes you, you make the most of every day and I get to see Australia – I don’t care where I’m going.

“The longer the runs, the better. I love going up north and into the Territory. It’s different country there that you don’t get to see anywhere else.

“This week I’ll be heading south of Sydney and then onto north Queensland, and back to Tamworth.”

He drives a new C509, carting specialty gases. Image: Jason Payne

Though it’s usually pulling A-doubles or triples, Grump also does the occasional ABAB quad work too.

Asked about his least favourite roads, Grump explained, “There are a lot of really bad ones, but one I’ve been doing a bit of lately is Goondiwindi to Moonie. It’s particularly bad, and there doesn’t seem to be any roadworks being done on that road at all. And from west from Moree and Mungindi out to St George and beyond there, those roads out there are pretty ordinary too.”

The work can see Grump off travelling for up to a month at a time, as was the case with a trip to the Northern Territory earlier this year, which was his longest run to date. “It was good work on that run, I really enjoyed it. But we did get stuck in the middle of the cyclones and floods, and they shut the Barkly Highway,” Grump explained.

“That run dictated that we would be up there for that long anyway, going in and out of the NT, but it has been shelved for now, due to the weather and what-not.”

“That’s the first time I’ve had a big run like that but tomorrow’s another day and we could end up in WA, SA, back up the Territory or somewhere in Queensland. It all just depends and always changes.

“Sometimes I can be away for a few weeks at a time, but other times I’m home once a week.”

Although he says his employer is really flexible too when drivers need time off. A case in point is ensuring Grump can be home for his little girl’s fifth birthday in June.

And while he says the job itself isn’t hard, because he enjoys it, what can be difficult is the time away from his kids. “It’s being away from family and friends, and missing things like birthdays, anniversaries and things like that. That’s the only hard part about this job. You hear blokes whinging about living in a truck, but I love being in my truck. They’re a great bit of gear and are really set up well for us and what we do.”

Parked up at the Threeways Roadhouse when the highway was closed. Image: Jason Payne

The C509 is indeed well equipped with nearly everything he needs, but when he heads into the Northern Territory, one of his favourite places to stop is the Threeways Roadhouse, which recently held a free barbeque for truckies caught up there when the Barkly was closed. Grump was among the truckies to enjoy a great feed. “They held a barbeque when we were stuck there and it was really appreciated. Things like that mean a lot to those of us on the road,” Grump said.

“And we try to support places like that as much as we can. I know damn sure that I’ll be stopping there and spending some money there next time I’m up there. What they do at Threeways is just awesome and the way they support the industry is a real credit to them.”

While Grump has only been in his current role for a year now, he says he’s in it for the long haul – pardon the pun.

“Camlin is the best company I’ve ever worked for and it makes life so much easier when you’re out on the road,” he said.

“I can’t really praise these guys enough. And the gear they provide us, it’s built so we can do the job and do the job well. They encourage you to be the best operator you can be, and provide you with the equipment to do that properly.

“I’m absolutely loving it here and don’t plan on going anywhere else any time soon!”

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