Of all the people working in road transport and its associated industries I have chatted to in putting together content for Big Rigs over the years, it would be hard to find a person with a cheerier and more affable outlook on life than Troy Harris.
Originally from New Zealand and with over a dozen years working in a variety of different roles for a number of transport operations, the 29-year-old today pilots a Mack Trident for Lieschke Transport of Jindera, just north of Albury in southern New South Wales.
Having shifted across the Tasman from Rotorua in 1997 and settling in Jindera, working in transport was not the first option in terms of a career path for the young Harris.
“I wanted to be a builder, so I went to TAFE but decided I didn’t want to do that, it just so happened that Helen Spittal from Albury Freight Distribution Centre was a friend of my mums and gave me a job packing freight and moving stuff about the yard,” said Harris.
“Being 17, I probably didn’t take it that seriously but to her credit she gave me a tune up when I needed it,” he said with a smile.
Further experience beckoned at Vicfast Parcel Direct where Harris worked his way up into the office after clocking up the miles around town as a van driver. When that business was purchased by Mainfreight, Harris headed across town working in operations at O’Brien Transport Services before being lured back to Mainfreight on a daily run to Griffith in a Hino rigid and trailer.
With another change working for Anthony Ryan, subcontracting to Border Express, Harris clocked up a lot of kilometres and a lot more experience in both the office and out on the road on the longer interstate trips.
“I did heaps there, Border Express work, steel, general, and also Rivet gas tankers for about nine months. I have had a few jobs along the way I will admit that, but it has taught me two things – I have gained a lot of experience doing a lot of different things and I have met a hell of a lot of people,” he explained.
There is no better place to get experience than behind the wheel, and Harris’s first foray in a semi was an interesting one.
“I learnt to drive coming down Mount Slide in an old T404 Kenworth – we went down to Melbourne to pick up a trailer and got told to jump into the driver seat on the way home, I think I missed every gear coming down the hill! Not long after that I stepped into a Freightliner Argosy with a C-15 Cat in it, it had been flogged out with two million k’s on it, but I was a proud as punch to be swinging it to Sydney by myself for the first time,” he said.
Whilst never straying too far from the Albury area, the last twelve months has seen Harris driving for Lieschke Transport, and with a young family of his own (wife Ellie, and kids Eli 5, and Thea, 2) has found his niche working for another family-run enterprise.
“I have been here just on 12 months now and I will never leave – the family-focused environment is awesome – they want you to be home at night with your kids and don’t want you to be away.
“I had two nights away this week and they were upset because I wasn’t at home with the kids.”
Working out of the Albury-Wodonga area, Harris and the Mack make a return trip to Melbourne each day towing a tautliner, with the 2015-model Trident holding its own having not long ticked over the magical million-kilometre mark on the odometer.
“It goes well, and it has been well looked after, it is serviced regularly and if anything needs fixing Glenn (Lieschke) does it straight away. It’s the first Mack I have driven but I would have another one…it’s the oldest truck in the fleet apart from Glenn’s Western Star which could almost be heritage listed he has had it that long!” he said with a grin.
The Mack is not his first experience with the bulldog breed, however.
“I really liked trucks when I was a kid. In New Zealand mum’s partner was a truck driver and he had an old Ultra-Liner – I wanted to go everywhere in that truck, it was big, it made a lot of noise and I thought they looked good.”
Along the journey Harris has formed a strong circle of friends who all work in transport and had spent the time over the Christmas-New Year break four-wheel driving and camping in the Victorian High Country.
“I have gained a lot of friends, a lot of the fellas I worked with at Border Express are really close – we are going water skiing at Lake Hume today and we go out the bush together with all our kids, its like a big family.”
Apart from his family and transport, Harris’s other passion is music and having learnt to play the piano when he was younger, has also learnt the guitar and drums, and as a member of local band Groove Addiction was playing a number of shows around the Albury-Wodonga area before the COVID restrictions took hold.
With young son Eli a regular passenger along with being a dab hand at helping keep the Mack nice and shiny, Harris reckons in time there might be a second-generation truck driver in the family, and it would seem that he will be clocking up the kilometres for a few years yet.
“It’s been great – with your mates out on the road with three or four of you travelling together that’s where you make the memories.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world, it allowed me to achieve a lot of things I didn’t think I would be able to do….I won’t stop driving trucks any time soon.”