THE June long weekend saw the 31st running of the Grafton Truck Drivers Social Club Weekend of Trucking – one of the most popular and longest-running trucking events in northern NSW.
This year's theme was Back to the Future with the festivities returning to the Hotel 5 at South Grafton after a 20-year absence.
While the weekend really began for those participating on Friday afternoon removing all the dirt and grime to reveal the shining trucks beneath, festivities officially began on Saturday morning at 10am with the parade starting at the end of Prince St with 70-plus trucks led by Cromack Transport.
But there was a difference this year.
For the first time, the parade of prime movers not only travelled up Grafton's main street but continued on over Grafton's infamous bridge in convoy, through the main street of South Grafton with the public turning out along the route to watch the big rigs roll by to the Hotel 5 to assemble for the show and shine.
With the pundit's prediction of rain thankfully holding off, all the trucks congregated on the lawns around the Hotel 5 for all to take a closer look at and to be judged with drivers taking the opportunity to catch up with mates they seldom see.
Several manufacturers had a new truck or two on hand for everyone to have a look at and the RTA were present to answer questions anyone about road or compliance issues.
Big Rigs spoke to some drivers to find out a little bit more about the mounts they take so much pride in.
The big beaming smile gave it away for Jeffry Campbell in his three-week-old Kenworth K200 cabover wearing the badge of being the first K200 sold by Brown & Hurley Kyogle. With a Cummins ISX rated at 580hp sending the power back through an Eaton 18 speed Jeffry could not praise the improvements made to the new model enough.
His comment the ‘Refinement has made it a lot easier to live out of' says it all.
Being a working truck show means not everything has new paint.
One that caught our eye and that the judges for the 10-15year age category, was Ray Batterson's 1996 model Heritage Series Western Star. With faded and weathered paint that gave away the Western Star's age the six polished fuel tanks and chrome work reflected Ray's pride in his truck. After eight years as a company driver, Ray took the plunge to once again become an owner-driver 18 months ago pulling a Toll extendable mainly between Sydney and Brisbane.
With a 3406E Cat rated ‘somewhere' around 475hp under that big bonnet stirring an 18-speed Roadranger gearbox, Ray estimates the Heritage has somewhere around three million kilometres behind it – originally pulling road trains in the Northern Territory, it now has an easier job doing four legs between Sydney and Brisbane each week. Ray told us he only planned to keep the truck for a short while but after having to invest in some major maintenance he now plans to keep it a bit longer.
A new paint job is on the cards and which has caused a bit of a family feud with Ray, his wife and his son all disagreeing on what colour they would like to see it painted.
When asked as an owner-driver what he is finding his biggest challenge to survive Ray replied: ‘The price of fuel is the hardest battle' but added that the fuel economy of the Cat was very good if you drove it right.
In between his busy schedule of being a Cromack transport driver, organiser, emcee and billycart race marshal, Big Rigs caught up with Grafton Truck Drivers Social Club president Barry Chapman.
Barry couldn't have been happier with the way the day was turning out.
With jumping castles, kids face painting, billycart races, woodchopping and the novel tyre changing event, there was plenty on to keep the little kids and the big kids entertained.
Barry admitted it was a big risk changing the format and believed the club had achieved the aim of making the day more family friendly and enjoyable.
He believes the smiles and the feedback he received meant club members had got it right.
Barry admitted it was still a big event to organise with planning starting 12 months out. But there are many behind the scenes who help and Barry wanted to thank the club members, Sam Campbell (Towing), Brown & Hurley and Clarence Valley Tyre Service and Ian and Carmel Stodart from the Hotel 5.
With nightfall, everyone gathered for presentation of the trophies which was preceded by a minute of silence for Neil Pearce who was killed two days after last year's event.
The crowd was treated to a roast dinner and dessert to finish off the night with many staying on a lot longer.
As with every year, the social club donates 80% of the day's proceeds to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Yamba Surf Life Saving Club, Northcott Disability Services and the Hearing Impaired with the remainder used to help fund the running of the club.Category winners
1 Prime Mover Truck 0-11 months Old Mark Rediger
2 Prime Mover Truck 1-5 years Old Stocktrans
3 Prime Mover Truck 6-10 years Old Stocktrans 600
4 Prime Mover Truck 10-15 years Old Ray Batterson
5 Golden Oldies 16 Years and Over Cromack
6 Best Rigid Vehicle Sterihealth
7 Best Presented Tanker Reliance Petroleum BP
8 Fleet of or More Prime Movers Flynns Transport
9 Best Recovery Unit North Coast Heavy Towing
10 Best Specialty Vehicle (Commercial) Dean Express
11 Best Bush Log Truck - Andrew (Buzzard) Memorial Trophy Blanchard Transport
12 Best Members Truck Barry Chapman
13 Best Livestock Carrier - Noel Rose & Barney Palmer Memorial Trophy Landas Transport
14 Tipper Truck Brad Want
15 UTE Barry KellsBest makes
16 STERLING/Ford No Entry
17 MAN Flynn Transport
18 ISUZU Cromack Transport
19 DAF Cromack Transport
20 SCANIA Nathan Winner-Blanchard Haulage
21 WESTERN STAR Stocktrans
22 MERCEDES BENZ No Entry
23 FREIGHTLINER Cromack Transport
24 International Daniel & Son 25 Kenworth Byard Transport
26 Mack No Entry
27 Volvo Danny Kelly-Blanchard Haulage
28 UD Landos Transport
29 Hino North Coast Heavy Towing
30 Other Makes Brian Riley Bedford 1968
40 Best Display Truck Mack
41 Best Stand Campbell Towing