Truckie Profiles

7000km weekly round trip for husband and wife duo

This dynamic husband and wife duo, Karen and Stephen Ceissman, do two-up for a weekly 7000-kilometre round-trip towing quads from Brisbane to Darwin, and then back again – “and we haven’t killed each other yet,” joked Karen.

“This is a fun thing, we don’t want to get too serious. We have a lot of laughs. We joke that we get divorced three times a day,” laughed Karen.

Based in Tin Can Bay on the Fraser Coast in Queensland, Karen, aka Scruffy, who is 57 (or 29 and a half as she might tell you) and Stephen, aka Grumpy, who is 62, each have decades of experience towing road trains. These days you’ll find them behind the wheel of “Stephen’s dream truck”, a three-year-old Kenworth T909, which they drive for AJM Transport, delivering general freight.

“The truck is awesome – it’s a blue banger. It’s solid, it’s bold and it stands out,” said Karen.

“We work on about 43 hours each way. Some people do it quicker, but we don’t because we don’t want to damage the gear, damage each other or damage the freight. And the heat is unbelievable when you get up that way too.”

Stephen added, “We’ve got a lot of responsibility. The gear we’ve got is worth over a million dollars so we really look after it.”

There’s never a dull moment in the cabin with these two.

He’s been driving trucks for over 40 years. “I was brought up on a farm, so I could drive a truck when I was about 12. We used to deliver grain to the Wheat Board,” he said.

In the early days, while doing livestock work, he would travel to the saleyards to get loaded. “In those days you needed a permit. Then one day they asked if I had a licence. I said no, so they said we’d better get you one then! When I went for my licence, they said they had seen me there a few times, they knew I could drive, so they gave me my car and truck licence. I was 17 at the time.”

Stephen started out in a Commer Knocker and has worked everything from grain and refrigerated, to cattle and heavy haulage. “When I carried stock feed, we would unload the 50kg bags all by hand,” he said.

Eventually, Stephen was doing the same run he and Karen do now – only back then, it was mainly one-lane roads he was navigating in the NT. Later, he worked in heavy haulage including a four-year stint with NQ Heavy Haulage – and it was then that he met Karen. “I enjoyed that, it was great work,” he said.

Originally from New Zealand, Karen got her truck licence at 18 when she was driving her own courier van and she gradually progressed to her MC. She had family in Australia and moved here in 1990 following a marriage breakdown.

“I had family that had a business carting refrigerated freight into Cairns for McDonalds, so I did that and then went into shuttles to Mackay. After that I moved to WA for a bit and got a job transporting fuel for the mines with Emerald Carrying Company, which was a fantastic company to work for,” she said, and that’s exactly what she was doing when she first crossed paths with Stephen and found her perfect match.

“I was heading back one day and I pulled Stephen up, thinking he was someone else. That’s how we got talking,” said Karen. “While he has the stories, I have the bullshit,” she laughed.

The couple met in 2013 and were married in 2014. “I was on a roster, he was on a roster and so, we decided to do two-up for Shaw’s Darwin Transport, then we went to Neil Mansell Transport and did local work on the logging trucks. We have even done a couple of hotshot runs to WA via the Territory and then home via Moomba – all in eight days,” said Karen.

“We thought it was time for a change so we randomly called AJM to see if they had a job going and they called us back and it went from there.”

Karen says her husband is a wealth of knowledge. “He has certainly got us out of some doozie situations,” she said.

While Stephen added, “Recently Karen injured her foot and missed a trip. I went up with her son instead and told him, ‘You’re not as good as your mother!’ You realise how much you miss each other. It’s just not the same.”

The couple actually spoke with Big Rigs on their day off. As well as catching up on errands and household chores, Karen said, “It’s a great job but you’re very time poor. By the time you get home, you’re knackered. When we’re not working, we just like to chillax, we’re watching a sewing program now,” she chuckled. “We’ve also bought a caravan, so once we retire, we plan to do some travelling.”

‘Truckin’ in the Outback’ is proudly supported by Loadshift, Australia’s largest freight marketplace for individuals and businesses seeking to buy and sell road transport services.

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