Outback, Truck driver, Truckie Profiles

‘It’s always interesting and always different’ for this veteran truckie

Having spent three decades in the industry, this WA-based road train operator says once transport gets in your system, it’s pretty hard to shake.

Sometimes spending up to five or six weeks out on the road at a time, for Gary Morton, his truck really is a home away from home.

Gary, 53, has been working for Australia Wide Haulage for the past 18 months, driving a Kenworth T659, which he’s had since brand new – after being given the keys to the rig in January last year.

“I jumped out of another T659 and straight into this one. It’s a new truck and I absolutely love it. It’s a pleasure to drive and has everything in there – a tv, microwave, a big bunk. She’s very comfortable on the road,” Gary said.

He drives a Kenworth T659 for Australia Wide Haulage. Image: Gary Morton

His work generally takes him throughout Western Australia and into the Northern Territory, delivering general freight and stock feed. “There are no set runs, it’s wherever the freight takes us. We do a lot of work into Darwin and Kununurra, delivering into the stations and the mines.

“It’s always interesting and always different. In transport the years just go by so quickly.

“For me, I’ve been driving most of my life, so I’m a veteran of the road, but you never stop learning.”

Gary grew up in Perth and spent time living in Darwin around 20 years ago.

Though he got his HR licence at the age of 19, Gary started his working life working on boats out at sea, before the road came calling. “Even back then, I knew I’d get into trucks at some point in my life. I loved the look of the Kenworths, the road trains, and had a love of travelling,” he said.

After a stint spent sea diving for a living, Gary returned to land, buying a house and getting into transport at the age of 23. “And I’ve done it ever since.

A stop on the Nullarbor Plain. Image: Gary Morton

“My first gig was doing overnight express up to Port Hedland, which was two trips a week. I’ve done a bit of everything since then – whatever will go on a trailer really. I’m a bit of an all-rounder I suppose.

“Once transport gets in your system it’s pretty hard to shake – it’s like a bad addiction. You can try to walk away from it but it always draws you back. And it’s something you have to have a strong passion for too,” added Gary. 

“But that passion also comes with a lot of responsibility. A responsibility to the general public, to yourself, to your employers and to your clients. Ultimately when you are out on the road, the buck stops with you.

“You need to have thick skin and a bloody good sense of humour too!”

As he chatted with Big Rigs – while dropping in and out of service – Gary had just left Darwin on his way back home to Perth.

After working across various roles behind the wheel, Gary has been in road trains full time for the past five years.

As he reflected on what’s changed in trucking over the last 30 years, Gary explained, “I worked my way up like the old guys. You had to be competent in every combination you were operating in back in the day, before you could move into something bigger.

“Now everyone is screaming out for drivers – and it’s getting a bit dangerous out there, when you’ve got people coming at you at 100 kilometres an hour.

“You’ve still got the mateship to a degree but everyone is in such a hurry. No one has the time like they used to back in the day.

“Times have changed but I still enjoy a roadside barbeque or feed occasionally. I’ve done that a few times with some mates but you don’t see it much anymore.”

The work takes him throughout WA and the NT. Image: Gary Morton

Gary says Australia Wide Haulage has been a great company to work for – including when a health scare saw him off the road for about two months late last year. Though he’s thankfully back to good health, it resulted in a new nickname.

As he explained, “I got an infection in both my feet and legs but I just kept going for a few months as you do, until it got to a point where I really had to stop. I was out of action for about two months, in and out of hospital.

“I spent my last Christmas at a hospital in Broome. I could hardly walk, let alone drive. I came close to losing my feet. But being a truck driver you just keep going. I don’t even know how it started – it could have been a dodgy shower or something. But I’m back to 100 per cent now.

“My mates started calling me Happy Feet – and that name has stuck. We have a laugh about it now.”

And as for Australia Wide Haulage – a family business which has depots in Perth, Port Hedland, Broome and Karratha – Gary couldn’t speak more highly.

“They had my back through all the hospital stays and everything – that was really refreshing to see.”

In his work, while Gary does the occasional shorter runs, he usually heads further afield. “I have some family in Darwin too, so if I ask for some time off when I’m up that way, they’ll give me a few days off. They’re really good like that.

“And if there’s freight to go out, so long as I’m within my fatigue management, I’ll often load up and head right back out again after I return.”

He says many of the roads he travels on are fairly quiet. “It’s not like in the Pilbara where you have all the quads and mining traffic.”

When asked about the most challenging roads he gets along, he nominates Victoria Highway, which he says is pretty rough; and the Great Northern Highway between Kumarina and Newman.

“That stretch of the Great Northern is a really narrow bit of road with a lot of traffic. Although they are starting to widen a lot of these sorts of roads now.

“When you look at it, the roads are our workplace as well as being for use by the public, so the government needs to have that duty of care and get these roads fixed.”

He captures many great shots on his travels. Image: Gary Morton

Gary adds that he enjoys the fact that no two days are the same in his current role. “My work takes me through the mining areas and into Darwin, so that mixes it up a bit and gives you that variety.

“I enjoy the lifestyle and getting to meet people in the regional areas, who are fantastic. I enjoy camping by the side of the road when I can too.

“This company looks after me – I’ve got this great new truck and I’m left alone to do the job. It’s a really good company to work for.”

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