G’day from OZ

In Aussie Angles, March 20227 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineApril 22, 2022

This month we introduce a new Aussie correspondent, Mike Williams, who will join long-standing correspondent Howard Shanks in bringing more Aussie flavour to Kiwi readers.

G’day all. For those who don’t know me – 99.999% of Kiwis, I’m sure – I’m Mike Williams, an Aussie truckie. I scribble a bit for Big Rigs newspaper in Australia and co-host a weekly trucking podcast called On The Road Podcast with my mate Andy Neil. He’s not a truckie but I’m trying to educate him. He is a top audio tech and music guru, though, and does the stuff I can’t. So we do all right together.

I came across a new publication called Little Trucker Down Under and was intrigued enough to get onto the publishers to come on my show. Long story short, now I’m having a scribble in a Kiwi industry mag. What a hoot!

Mike drove a T950 road train.

I’ve worked and driven trucks all over Australia, done a bit of everything, except stock. Never driven a stock crate. I’ve been an owner- driver, starting out with a 4864 Western Star. I’ve also owned a couple of nice Kenworth trucks. I drove a cracking T950 road train for a mate of mine, carting steel. I’ve done two-up from Sydney to Perth, carting general freight, tankers carting class 8 dangerous goods from Sydney all up and down the east coast. I’ve just done about six months FIFO driving quad road trains carting iron ore from mines to Port Hedland in Western Australia. Now I’ve come back to the quiet life on the tankers doing DG out of Sydney again.

A bit about life on the road in Australia – many long-haul drivers spend days or even weeks in the truck. Right now, a week for me means kicking off early Monday morning to load and head off or maybe just head off if I’ve pre-loaded. I live on the south side of Sydney so it’s a 15-minute drive out onto the Hume Highway to head south. I can be in Melbourne in about 10 hours. It’s all divided-road two-lane highway, not a traffic light in sight. There are plenty of rest areas, parking bays and a few service centres to choose from on the way.

Mike’s first truck

Going north is a bit tougher. The traffic around Sydney builds up early and gets heavy by 5am. So an early start is a great idea or you can burn precious time in the tangle. But once again, it’s all divided road and not too terrible if you can manage a good run. It’s about three hours from my place up to Newcastle, then you can head inland to western New South Wales or continue on up north to Brisbane, 760km up the road.

On the east coast, the services are pretty good but getting a healthy meal is becoming a challenge. It’s all plastic food from the five fast- food groups unless you know where to go. As the roads have been duplicated and the towns bypassed the old ma and pa roadhouses have been replaced by Maccas and KFC. The bigger service centres all have something, though, so you won’t starve. They mostly have showers and laundry facilities. BP seems to have all that covered, and you can usually get that steak and veg, mixed grill or whatever you like to keep you going.

Mike’s old Magnum. (“Yes, I was that crazy.”)

Catching a few hours’ sleep in a rest area is pretty safe. There’s rarely an issue. I always get up and walk around the truck, stretch the legs. The most annoying thing I’ve found is an unexpected flat tyre!

Many of us have the niceties in our trucks these days – good fridges, inverters and microwaves. There are guys with sandwich-makers, air fryers… I’ve even seen coffee-makers. Setting up a truck and being able to shop in the supermarket for supplies sure cuts down on the expense in the long run and gives you the flexibility to do what you want. An engine- off air con is also a must. Icepacks are a favourite but the newer battery systems like Coolabah are out there now too. Heating is also picking up in popularity. Australia is a land of extremes and a good sleep is important.

The quad Mike drove in the Pilbara.

There’s a lot to write about, and I’ve been told you’re interested in what we do here in western New Zealand. So drop us a line and let me know what you want to know. I’ll have a dig around to see what I can find out.

I’m looking forward to sharing what’s going on and sending you all some happy snaps.

Stay safe behind the wheel.

Mike would love to interact with our readers and get your feedback. You can contact Mike via Twitter (@theoztrucker), Facebook (On The Road Podcast – @otrpodcastaus), or direct via email (mike@ontheroadpodcast.com.au). Visit www.ontheroadpodcast.com.au to find his show.