Looking for greener pastures I was interested to see an advertisement for a job as a Transport Manager for a recycle company in Padstow NSW. The owner had purchased a truck that would batch and deliver concrete on site, and he wanted to hand over the management of the recycle yard to someone else. The money offered was pretty good but required applicants to reside in Sydney! I can't remember why but it seemed to be a good idea at the time to leave the wife in Brisbane while I worked away.
The first month or so was uneventful but because I was in charge of the trucks and subcontractors I got to keep a close eye on among other things one particular driver who thought himself a prima donna, this bloke made out he was carrying the company.
The problem was his cycle times did not tally his trips down to Picton and he generally seemed to take an awful long time doing anything. When I started, his truck was only making around $2000 a week which meant the vehicle was running at a loss.
This is only one example of why the owner's new venture didn't seem to be working so well.
So when he told me he wouldn't require my services any longer as he wished to return to the manager position, it didn't come as much as a surprise.
I guess in order to offer me some sort of compensation he offered to sell me the Mack truck & dog that was currently driven by the prima donna.
"I can't make any money out of it so if you can think of something to do with it, I'll be happy to sell it to you private finance".
I was getting desperate for income and had only been recently burned by a bad investment, meaning getting finance on my own posed as a serious problem, so I thought "what the hell".
The truck was a 457hp Mack truck and dog that was pretty run down and thrashed about by the prima donna, who was now obviously unemployed. I decided to do the same cartage run to Picton to see for myself whether it could turn a dollar.
I remember during the first trip I had to stop and fill the front diff with oil as the temperature was way up to buggery. Surely the last driver would have known this but obviously did nothing about it. Why do they do that?
Not afraid to do some real work, Instead of working 8 hours a day as an owner-driver I worked 16 hours.
The truck was well-serviced, washed, kept tidy and now could make a dollar, in fact this same truck was now earning around $7000 a week!
One of the other jobs I had with this truck was a periodical load of rubbish from the council on the North Shore back to the yard for recycling. I hated this run because every load, the rubbish had to be covered with a tarp.
The problem with this was there was no b*****d around to help you. I had to throw the tarp on top, climb up the truck and do it all by myself, no tools, no platforms, nothing.
One day whilst unloading this particular load, it had started to rain. I had parked up in the yard, climbed up on top of the 4-meter high load and started to fold the tarp. Unfortunately while I was reaching over the back edge of the truck trying to grab the corner, I slipped on a wet slippery surface and fell head first over the side straight down onto the concrete.
Its funny thinking back to that moment, it almost seemed to go in slow motion, I could see I was in big trouble realising that I was going to land directly on my head. Now at this stage of life I was pretty brain dead already so I decided to quickly turn and sacrificed my right arm to cushion the blow.
Taking almost the full impact on my right elbow, my scream was ground shaking. The pain was unbearable!
I immediately turned to inspect my arm which was now twisted the wrong way round and out of shape, I couldn't even move it, I had completely shattered the right elbow.
I don't know how long a laid there screaming but no one would even come near me, rightly so I guess I would have been acting like a wounded dog. I do recall when the ambulance arrived the Medic tried his best to calm me down and warned me when was going to move my arm. I turned to him and said if you try and touch it I'm gonna F*****G KILL YOU! Reasonable remark don't you think?
The drugs must have kicked in shortly after because the next thing I knew I was in hospital.
I spent a couple of days in the Sydney hospital but because I did such a good job on the elbow they would have had to order in the parts, so it was decided that I would be best to transfer to the Brisbane hospital.
My wife drove down to pick me up and take me back to Brissy. Heavily medicated and still in excruciating pain we called in the depot on the way only to find the owner had taken my logbook, dairy and run records and locked up the truck????
He had left me a note to inform me that he was cancelling the contract because the truck was making more money than he had anticipated so no longer wanted to sell it, WTF!
I was a bit confused to say the least, he wanted to sell it and signed a contract when it had a driver on who didn't want to work, but now wanted it back when the truck was earning a s**tload with an owner driver. At the time I didn't dwell on it to much as it was the least of my concerns.
Heading back to Brisbane, I screamed at every pothole we hit. The nerves were continuously pinched amongst the shattered remains of my elbow, like I was continuously struck with a sledge hammer to the funny bone. Kay my wife did a really good job getting me back to Brisbane considering she was not a frequent driver, but in saying that I reckon if I had to drive another hour I would have had to kill myself.
On arrival at the Brisbane hospital it was decided that as there was nothing left of my elbow so the remaining bone had to be removed.
I had an operation at the PA Hospital where the surgeons replaced my right elbow with nuts and bolts, unfortunately they also cut clean through my Radial nerve severing all use of my right hand, meaning I had a long painful and expensive rehabilitation ahead of me.
I was quickly running out of funds so I decided to ring ole matey in Sydney to find out what was happening with the money he had owed me.
Boy he was not happy to hear from me,
Stuttering and stammering he told me the contract was cancelled and he didn't owe me anything…….. "ok then what's going on with my truck then?" I responded. "Well I took it back" he replied.
"Ok so if you are not going to pay me what you owe and you have possession of the truck then aren't I deemed to be an employee? So I can claim on your Work Cover policy for Workers Compensation".
"No" He quickly replied "you are not an employee so you don't get Compo".
Being burned by dodgy blokes like this in the past I had done my research and was not about to be screwed over again.
"Ok" I said calmly "if I am not an employee I must be an owner driver".
"That's right" he says.
"Well if I am an owner driver I will take back possession of the truck then".
You can't take the truck because I have cancelled the contract. He remarked.
"Well you realise if there is no contract I must be an employee".
This was becoming a pain.
The guy held out until workers comp got involved and I was deemed to be an employee.
Turned out pretty good at the time because my average earnings prior to accident netted $2100 so I received 80% from compo.
It took two years for me to gain the use of my right hand again, not the kind of bloke to simply roll over and die I practiced doing everything with my left hand, writing, cooking, eating and typing were tough but there is plenty of little things we take for granted that I also remember. Today try wiping your bum with your left hand and you will understand what I'm talking about.
I had to find another way to work, laying around the house feeling sorry for yourself gets old very quickly.
What the hell was I to do with the rest of my life. I was over 60 years old with a busted up arm and a pacemaker. I would not qualify to get any job just under the medical requirements alone.
I worried over this for a while before deciding that I should use my current strengths. I had a lifetime in trucks and machines. I had every qualification that's required to teach so why not start again in training.
Many years prior I had a short stint as a training school under the name of METSA Mobile Earthmoving School of Australia. Only reason I stopped doing that was I was fed up with dealing with all the pen pushers once the government started crapping on about "accreditation" what the f**k is that?
I guess I'm really showing my age now but back then if you wanted to be a training school you formed a company and started training. I was issuing tickets under WH&S for 10 different load shifting equipment including forklift, non-slew crane, excavator, and skid steer and the rest. There was no accreditation all you needed was an agreement with WH&S and the licence to operate them.
This time round I had all the time in the world to play nicely with the government and pick up all the additional courses necessary to become "accredited".
I upgraded my WHSO certificate. Upgraded BSZ (the old training certificate) to TAE. Did an auditors course and obtained my Cert 3 in Driver Trainer.
I started working with a current well know training school.
I wasn't impressed with the large majority of co-workers who all seemed to have only a year or two of actual experience before becoming 'trainers'. I didn't feel right using their material as what the student was getting out of for the price they were paying seemed unjustified.
I decided to try it on my own, I linked up with a likeminded RTO and designed training courses, not only focused on experienced based training which would give people the tips and tricks that would be useful in the industry, but at realistic prices that could be afforded by the average Joe.
That was 12 years ago now and we have had plenty of ups and downs, been through a few different names but have always stuck to these core founding principles.
Although I am still waiting for a new elbow, falling off the truck turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I meet interesting people, am surrounded by great friends who share both my experience and views, and do something that I truly enjoy.
Just goes to show you that one door shuts another opens, sometimes it's just a little harder to find.
You never know what blows life will deal you. Never miss an opportunity to get additional qualifications. You never know when you may need them.
From the series - I Got Bills to Pay
Stories from 55 years on the road from Alan Rutland
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