Nolan’s Interstate Transport proudly goes purple to support special cause

With a rich transport history spanning more than 100 years, the Nolan family has welcomed their fair share of prized trucks to their ever-expanding fleet at Nolan’s Interstate Transport.

But it’s safe to say few – if any – can match the emotional wallop of their latest addition, a stunning Kenworth T610SAR, towing a 28 pallet FTE split quad trailer that’s lighting up social media feeds in head-to-toe purple. 

Dedicated to the Icon Cancer Foundation and the importance of its cancer research, the first in the fleet without the company’s traditional green is also a tribute to the role Icon played in patriarch Terry Nolan’s brave fight with renal cell carcinoma (a form of kidney cancer) before losing his battle in 2014 – and now the ongoing challenge son Darren faces with the same disease.

Darren, 53, was diagnosed with renal cell cancer nine years ago, and recently made the difficult decision to take medical retirement from the Gatton-based family business that he ran alongside brother Adrian (aka Flea).

Given the close family history with Icon – Terry and Flea also helped with fundraising over the years – the Nolans jumped at the chance to collaborate again and help raise awareness of the crucial work that Icon does.

Nolan’s partnered with the foundation in 2016, donating one half of an FTE B-double trailer set to the cause, but this year the family raised the bar on every level with the help of a big cast of project partners.

They included Scott Coleman from Brown & Hurley Trucks Darra, Bernie from truck accessory company Blaze Industries, trailer signwriter Fleetmark, FTE trailers, Icepack and Sam’s Signs, for the hand painting of the stunning prime mover artwork.

The final element of the big reveal – none of the Nolan’s staff knew that the prime mover would match the trailers in Icon’s signature purple – was deftly coordinated by Flea’s daughter Caitlin Nolan.

Nolan’s buys all its trucks out of Darra but decided to keep the truck and trailer under wraps at Brown and Hurley’s Toowoomba branch where Caitlin works so the Icon staff from Toowoomba could attend the official unveiling.

“We broke tradition with this one – and we’re all pretty excited about it,” Darren said.

“Deviating from the Nolan’s green to a purple truck is at completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but we felt it was important that the colours matched the overall feel and theme of the trailers.

“Flea made the decision to team the colours together which I think was the right decision. He was the one who put all the blood, sweat and tears into it. It certainly stands out and it’s fantastic advertising.

“I was pretty stoked to see it and share the moment with some of the long-term staff we’ve had at Nolan’s. It was certainly a proud moment and I’d quietly like to hope that Dad is proud of it too.”

The Nolan family was honoured to be able to help drive home the important message. [L-R]: Sandie, Flea, Daphne, Caitlin and Darren.

Icon Cancer Foundation is a not-for-profit charity that works with Icon Cancer Centre’s national network of doctors and healthcare professionals to fund their vital cancer research.

Both Terry and Darren have had very personal ties with Icon Cancer Centre, as it’s where they both underwent their cancer treatment.

“You can’t underestimate the value of clinical trials because you’re trialling drugs that are later researched and released for wider distribution,” Darren adds.

“I would recommend that if anyone has any type of cancer and they’re offered treatment, ask if there are any clinical trials available.”

They have been a lifesaver for Darren whose initial tumour, a 6x3cm growth that cost him a kidney later spawned new cancers, known as metastasis, in other parts of his body.

“Currently I’ve got three metastasis in my rib cage; I’ve got some in my lungs. They will pop up in different locations, so the drugs really maintain, if not reduce, the metastasis load.

“It’s terminal. I have stage four cancer, which is the last stage, but my prognosis has been like that for a number of recent years.

“Through the medication, different trials, and other things, and now that I’ve medically retired from the business, it gives me a larger opportunity to focus on health and wellness – otherwise the prognosis is not that great.”

Although thrilled he now gets to spend more time with 15-year-old daughter Adelaide and wife Sarena, not a day goes by that Darren doesn’t think about the business that has been such a big part of his life for so long.

It was more than 30 years ago now, while travelling and working outside the industry, when he first got the call from Terry to come home to help revered workshop manager, the late Craig Roseneder, get the company’s fatigue management and TruckSafe program up and running, among other projects – and he never left.

With Flea running the day-to-day fleet operations, and Darren the back-of-house compliance, Nolan’s Interstate Transport has grown into one of the biggest family-run operations in Australia. It boasts depots in Bowen, Gatton, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – and a trophy cabinet stacked with awards, including Woolworths Group’s Large Carrier of the Year for 2019.

“There’s been significant changes and there’s a huge amount of credit I give to my father for that, and my mother [Daphne] – she’s the silent assassin behind the scenes,” laughs the always humble Darren.

“She still works there every single day, and she probably gets there around 5am in the morning and finishes at 6pm at night, so she’s instrumental. 

“But, yeah, when Dad passed, all of the roles changed. He took it to a certain point, but I really have to give a huge shout-out to my brother Flea because he was the one who wanted to grow the business, and making sure it was achieving what we needed to achieve. We started to look at it from a different strategy point of view, and things started to just get bigger and bigger.”

ICF chairman Dr Jonathan Ramsay, right, presents an appreciation certificate to Flea and wife Sandie Nolan at the truck’s official launch in Toowoomba. 

Pushed for highlights, Darren says he’s proud of the role he played in implementing a new national transport management system and engaging with industry bodies and associations in a bid to push governments for better outcomes.

But nothing tops the people he’s met along the way, says Darren, who also won the prestigious Don Watson Memorial Award in 2022 for conspicuous service to the Australian trucking industry. 

“The people make the workplace, and the customers. It was a pleasure to come to work every day in the family business where you walk in, you get to say gidday to the workers, and also to your mum and brother.

“I walk into Flea’s office, no appointment necessary. We all operated on that same premise. If you wanted access to our offices, you just walked in, and I don’t think there are too many businesses out there today where you can do that.”

It was also that open-door approach that meant concerned staff always felt comfortable enough to ask Darren about his ongoing health battle.

Often, Darren would also end up helping them as a result: “Many times, I encouraged them to go to the doctors to get tested, and some of those tests confirmed that they were dealing with cancer themselves.

“You really have to be your own advocate in all of this. In our industry, men don’t talk to other men a lot, they keep things really close to their chest and in a way a doctor is almost a forbidden word.

“But I really encourage them to speak up and go and see someone about it. If you let these things linger, they turn from something that is manageable into something that is not.

“Don’t bury your head in the sand – if something’s not right, go get it checked.”

How you can help

Icon Cancer Foundation (ICF) is a not-for-profit charity that works with Icon Cancer Centre’s national network of doctors and healthcare professionals to fund their vital cancer research and clinical trials. Its mission has always remained the same – to promote and fund innovative research to give patients longer, better lives.

“As a family, we really wanted to give back to an organisation that has helped us and others. Terry never felt like he was just another number, and everyone at Icon were extremely caring during his treatment,” said Flea’s wife, Sandie Nolan.  

“We believe if we can help with funds for ICF to continue with their research and clinical trials, it may just help give cancer patients and their families some hope, or at least a little bit of extra time to spend together.” 

For more info, visit iconcancerfoundation.org.au where you’ll also find details on how to donate. TruckSafe has already pledged $5000.

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