ALICE Springs is a long way from anywhere, but at the end of August each year, it becomes the centre of the universe for truckies who are inducted into the Transport Hall of Fame.
The inimitable Liz Martin expected a lower than normal turn up this year with the big one coming up in 2015, but over 500 folk turned up to see 96 deserving recipients from around the country, added to the wall.
Unfortunately - as in every year - some of these trucking stalwarts have passed on, but their names will live in the hall for ever more.
The men and women here, offer an insight into varying lives on the road, and service to the industry, of which all Australia should be proud and thankful.
- VINCE Borg commenced his career in the transport industry in 1954, transporting and road testing new Leyland buses and trucks.
In 1958 he purchased his first truck, a Leyland Comet 75.
An owner driver, he also sub-contracted for KW Thomas and Edmond T Lennon.
Vince upgraded to a brand new International AA180 and 34ft Aiken trailer in 1959.
By 1963 he had three trucks, one of which was travelling Adelaide to Darwin.
His favourite truck of this time was his Commer Knocker because of its reliability and economy, although it was his Leyland Super Beaver that was among the first vehicles to pull a full road train from Adelaide (Grand Junction Rd, Wingfield) fully-laden to Darwin.
Vince carried the first drive-in movie screen to Alice Springs from Adelaide and routinely carried goods that the rail could not handle such as the turbine condensers for electricity generation in Darwin.
- PAUL (Chappy) Chapman was born at Norwood in 1951.
In 1970 he commenced work for AG & MJ Davey at Narrung in South Australia.
The year 1972 saw Chappy and his future wife, Robyn, buying their first truck, an International ACCO boasting a V8 Cummins. They married later that year, Robyn obtained her licence and together they worked all over Australia.
They started subcontracting interstate for Scotts Transport to Sydney and Newcastle before going to Brisbane with Bell Bros WA and becoming permanent subbies.
In 1976 they moved to Coonalpyn and established a livestock transport business.
The business progressed to three B-doubles, two tippers and a fridge van.
Their passion for the road transport industry encouraged Robyn to write a submission to a transport inquiry in 1983 which led to Paul and Robyn forming the Livestock Transport Association of South Australia (LTASA), providing a voice to the regulators and uniting operators.
Paul was nominated inaugural president serving seven years with LTASA and several years as a
council member with the Australian Livestock Transport Association, (ALTA).
Paul and Robyn both received life membership with LTASA for their contribution and Paul received life membership from the ALTA.
- Norman Lindsay (Croc) Ekman is a stalwart of the transport industry earning the respect and admiration of his employers during his lengthy driving career.
Born in 1944, Norm started working for R J Jones in Mudgee in 1968 driving a Leyland Comet.
Then followed Robert Holms Transport of Dubbo, Ces Swords of Mudgee and John Careers of Dubbo, where he loaded 22,000 bricks on a single from Albury to Dubbo and then distributed them.
Rod Pilon noticed Norm in 1985 when he drove into his transport depot in Dubbo.
Impressed at the way he idled in, shut the truck down, and went around the whole unit, tightening up wheel nuts, checking chains and ropes, Rod commented to the person next to him: "Good operator that bloke."
He started working for Rod a few weeks later, running to Darwin.
And he hauled some big loads - 50 tonne a trailer - for years and the job was done so professionally that the same truck is still in the Pilon fleet on its fourth motor (a 600 Signature) and based in the Mt Isa depot.
Norm moved to Parry Logistics in 2010 and Greg Parry is quoted as saying: "Norman Ekman is truly an old school truckie and gentlemen.
"When I was young I looked up to and respected blokes like Norm and I have enormous respect for the man."
At the age of 70, Norm still does the same miles as drivers half his age, driving B-Doubles incident free and without a complaint.
"When Norm speaks I listen. You're either bound to learn something or laugh at his stories from his past."
- John Jongsma, known as Big John Rondon, was born in Holland in 1945 and came to Australia with his family in 1959, getting a job at Lobethal Woollen Mill and working at weekends on a dairy farm where he started driving trucks.
At 16 he moved to Adelaide, where he started with TNT as a dockhand.
He later became a driver and transferred to Broken Hill where he worked all day, then did a changeover at night in a Thames Trader truck with a dog trailer.
Bach then he did not have a truck licence but after being stopped by the local police, eventually took the test.
He spent the next 15 years working interstate for several companies including Fridgemobile.
In 1982 he married his wife, Robbie, and they moved to Brisbane and bought a 141 Scania and RONDON Transport from Ronny Donht - and that is how John earned the nickname, Big John RonDon, as he is known today.
In 1997 the couple returned to Adelaide to be closer to family and John became a relief driver for companies and owner drivers - a role that still keeps him busy today.
- TONY Liddle was born at Hatches Creek, NT, in 1940, moving to Alice Springs in '42. In 1957 he got his truck driver's license in his father's Morris Commercial.
With the family, Tony delivered rations and fuel to various remote aboriginal government settlements throughout central Australia.
Later he drove for Rosewall Construction and Len Tuit.
Tony then went on to drive and operate machinery for Ingkerreke on aboriginal outstations around central Australia for a further 13 years before retiring at the age 65.
Tony was, and is, well respected throughout the region - a real gentleman of the road, a professional driver who always got through with the provisions despite the corrugations, rain, hail or bulldust.
- Driving the farm truck started Geoff Ryan's life-long love of trucks. Geoff bought his first truck at the age of 17, an Austin with a Perkins diesel in 1951, and commenced carting livestock to the New Market Sale Yards in Melbourne.
He also hauled machinery and carted drum fuel in Victoria.
Geoff's second truck was an Inter R180 with a Black Diamond motor.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Geoff drove long distance haulage across five states. He also did a number of sub-contracting jobs for Finemores Transport.
Life was tough on those long haulage trips with long hours driving and having to camp by the side of the road when severe rain resulted in roads being impassable for days on end.
In 1979 Geoff suffered a serious accident when changing a truck tyre.
The split rim blew apart and threw him over 10 metres across the shed.
He was in hospital with serious back and shoulder injuries for three months and didn't go back to driving for another six.
Geoff ran his trucking business from 1951 until 1982 when he decided to get out of the livestock haulage business.
He drove fuel tankers from Swan Hill to Melbourne for the next five years before deciding to go back to the land to work on local farms in the Quambatook district.
These are but a few of the many men and women who have opened up this country and made it a wonderful place to live for 23 million Australians.
Some were born here, others came from overseas and adopted this land as their home.
Some were 'just' drivers, others ran their own businesses, both small and large. They are all equal in the eyes of the industry and we honour them.
More pics pages 50 and 51.
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