Truckie Profiles

Outback truckie creates mental health stop on the Strzelecki

About a year ago, Shane Whenan decided to create his own “mental health break point” on a spot along the Strzelecki Track – and now it is gaining momentum.

“I started building it in April 2021. I have battled with depression and anxiety for a very long time and this day was a bad one. I sat there for about an hour just looking at the countryside. I noticed a few broken truck brake parts nearby so I decided to arrange them into some kind of ‘broken art’, a bit like my life.

“Now on each trip I pick up bits and pieces that have fallen off trucks or cars and add them to it. Other people have started adding to it as well. I often sit and think at this spot about my life and it helps me get through,” he explained.

Whenan has been driving trucks for decades. But despite a family background in trucking, his mother always told him he should get a trade before becoming a truck driver – so that’s exactly what he did, though he stayed in that trade for a lot longer than he had originally planned.

Just over a year ago, Whenan decided to create his own mental health spot on the side of the Strzelecki Track, where he has shaped broken-off truck and car parts into sculptures.

Now based in the Barossa, Whenan, 50, worked as a panel beater for around 13 years before finally biting the bullet and getting his truck licence at the age of 30, and then upgrading to his MC 18 months later.

“My grandfather was a truck driver and had his own trucks, and a few of my uncles drove trucks as well. On the other side of the family, my grandfather and uncle worked in the mines – so I had that sort of thing all around me growing up,” said Whenan, who would often ride with his grandfather and uncles in the truck, as they did silo to silo work.

After joining the transport industry, Whenan held several different jobs, the longest of which was a 12-year position with Booth Transport, hauling food grade tankers along the east coast, as well as into Perth.

These days, Whenan works for AJ & AJ Ailmore Transport, which is based in Windsor, a town on the northern Adelaide Plains. He’s been with the outfit for the past two and a half years. “Now I travel anywhere and everywhere,” he said.

Whenan’s usual run is Adelaide to Moomba, carrying supplies for the gas and oil fields. “It’s about 980 kilometres each way, with around 370 kilometres of dirt along the Strzelecki Track – I love travelling that way. It can take anywhere from 7-12 hours to do that section. You could be doing 25km/h to 40km/h, depending on the conditions,” Whenan explained.

On each trip, Whenan stops to add to the sculptures – and other people have started adding to them too.

“Sometimes my run gets extended into South West Queensland too. At the moment, I’m just coming back into Adelaide, on way back now from doing a run up to Uluru.

“I love the freedom and prefer this over the east coast runs. It’s a job where you basically get paid to see the countryside – and I love seeing the outback.

“The most challenging part of everyday is dealing with car drivers. Between Adelaide to Port Augusta has gotten pretty bad. Everyone always seems to be in a hurry, and there are some drivers who are a bit impatient and take too many risks.”

Whenan says his dog Chico is his best friend.

Over his past 20 years in the job, Whenan has also helped numerous others get their start in trucking. “It took a while for me to get into the industry at first, because I didn’t have the experience. I drove part time at first, then got a full time job and went up to my MC six months later. There weren’t as many opportunities back then as what there are now,” he said.

“It’s a job I highly recommend people get into. I don’t think there’s enough being done to get more people into this industry. I know there’s been a lot of talk about a truck driving apprenticeship, so it would be good to see more happening around that.

“But when the NHVR is dishing out massive fines, where you can lose a whole week’s wage for something very minor, it makes it hard to get more young people in. This is the only industry where you’re penalised for doing overtime.”

‘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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