ACFS Port Logistics truckie Don Sutcliffe is today being celebrated for his 50 years of loyal service – and as he reveals, he has no plans of slowing down.
Through his driving career, 70-year-old Sutcliffe has seen many changes. There have been various company acquisitions, which eventually led to him being part of ACFS Port Logistics, when he came across in 2016, following the acquisition of Patrick Port Logistics.
These days, you’ll find him behind the wheel of a Kenworth T409, which he takes great pride in. Word around the depot is that he has the cleanest truck in the fleet.
“I’m in a 2015 model 409, which I’ve had since brand new. It’s better looking than any of the other trucks in the yard and is the easiest truck to get in and out of – and the boss said he won’t sell it while I’m still here. It’s a good truck for me and I enjoy driving it,” Sutcliffe said.
He keeps the truck immaculate and has been known to get a rag out and give it a quick spot clean whenever time permits. “Usually when I finish work on a Saturday, I’ll give it a good clean to get it ready for the week ahead,” he said.
The immaculate Kenworth is a far cry from the first truck he ever drove.
Having grown up in rural Queensland, Sutcliffe was already driving tractors and ploughing farm paddocks by the time he was 10. He worked in forestry for a little while, before heading to the city to drive trucks – and there he’s stayed ever since. “My mate got me a job in Brisbane but I was from country Queensland and didn’t know Brisbane that well, so it didn’t work out. I got another truck driving job and it went from there. When I started, the trucks didn’t even have doors,” Sutcliffe said.
These days his main port of call (pardon the pun) is pulling A-doubles and super B-doubles in and around the Port of Brisbane.
“There wasn’t any such thing as containers when I first started driving trucks. I started doing a bit of container work in the mid 1970s. If they sent you down to the wharf, they’d give you the paperwork, you had to find your load yourself, you had to get one of the wharfies to organise the forklift, then you’d sign the papers and away you went. We used to do a bit of everything, so you never got sick of doing the same job, because you got moved around to so many other jobs.
“At one stage I was part of the wool gang, as they called it, there was about four or five of us who carted wool nearly every day. We never used to tie it on and went three high on a body truck. All we used were pins to pin it all together – that’s how we used to carry it.
“I’ve done a bit of everything including general interstate work. My wife would call to see what time I’d be home and I’d say, ‘Pack my bag, I’m heading out to Melbourne or Townsville’. But since being taken over by ACFS, it’s more or less containers,” he said.
Now Sutcliffe is one of 120 drivers at ACFS’s Brisbane depot, which is home to 64 trucks. ACFS is the largest privately owned container logistics operator in Australia, with a national fleet of approximately 300 trucks.
“Don’s had a long career in trucking and has done everything and anything. When he tells the stories of where he started, through to where he’s come today, it’s a pretty amazing achievement,” said Michael Punter, ACFS Queensland state manager.
“He’s consistent, he works hard, then he goes home and comes back and does it all again the next day. To be able to have his knowledge and experience here is great. He always has all of these ideas about how to make things easier and better for us.”
Modest in his achievements, for Sutcliffe, reaching the 50-year milestone is just like any other day in the job. “I’m not ready to retire yet, I want to keep going for another few years at least,” he said.