Big Rigs north Queensland reporter Alf Wilson has revealed himself as our Spy.
Big Rigs north Queensland reporter Alf Wilson has revealed himself as our Spy.

Alf reveals his Spy secret

END OF THE ROAD

BACK in 2010, I discussed with then Big Rigs editor Chris Smith about the possibility of writing a column which featured light hearted yarns about things our truckie mates encountered.

He was all for it so this column which he named “I Spy On The Road” was born.

At the time I was writing the Ferret column for Truckin’ Life magazine after the death of Malcolm Johnson.

Malcolm was a legend in the road transport industry and he founded Truckin’ Life in 1976 and he was penning Ferret at the time of his death.

The most famous Ferret was John Moran who is ill at the moment and that has been well documented by fellow writer Kermie.

Anyway I started writing I Spy which has continued for a decade without missing an edition or deadline.

Also I continued writing Ferret until it was discontinued in Truckin’ Life due to rationalisation.

The aim of I Spy has always been to provide interesting but often menial things which occur to truckies.

It may have been something they seen on their travels, perhaps something humorous, but the column also tackled some serious issues.

Only a small number of drivers knew I was the author and on most occasions names weren’t mentioned without permission of the ones who did.

During the last decade I often sat next to truckies in packed and sometimes not so busy roadhouses listening to what they were yarning about.

They didn’t have a clue I was the Spy and what I gleaned which was interesting would appear in print.

Many other times truckies from around Oz would ring or email me with some info and it would end up in Spy.

Then they realised it was me.

I also had a loyal band of “subagents”, as I called them, in every state and territory who would pass on subject matters.

It has been a wonderful and long journey for me writing I Spy and there was never a shortage of material.

To each and every one of you, who have contributed over the years, thank you.

I am going to miss fronting up at a roadhouse parking space, rest area, pub or some other place to yarn to truckies.

Many I had never met before and others I had spoken to years previously.

Anyway it has been a pleasure to write this column and I’m going to miss you all.

HACKERS FORCE SHUT DOWN

HAD to feel sorry for a road transport company which was a target of hackers who managed to get into their computer system.

An email supposed to be from the company was sent out which read, “Could you please have someone from your accounting department confirm the attached remittance and statement of account copies were received.”

Spy was a recipient along with many others and contacted the company on their correct email address.

“We have been hacked which shut down do not open,” was the reply.

If you get such an email DELETE it.

How do you think the rest area shortage should be tackled.
How do you think the rest area shortage should be tackled.

PULL OVER ADVICE

IN the road transport industry there are many drivers who offer great advice when you see them.

This year at least six from different parts of the country have told Spy how they would tackle a general shortage of truckie friendly rest areas around Oz.

“There are many pull over sections beside highways which with a bit of money spent could be converted into a decent rest area with toilets and a shaded area,” was a typical comment.

Perhaps some of these lads should be candidates at a coming state election.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

THE old saying “we are entering uncharted waters” used by boaties and many others often is true.

Having said that road transport people could be thinking about “what the long road ahead holds for them” after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who would have thought early in the year that lives and businesses would face job losses, lockdowns, social distancing etc and the list goes on.

Every person has been affected and while restrictions were being eased at time of Big Rigs deadline, we all still face uncertain futures.

The one certainty for the majority is that life will never be entirely be liked it was.

MISTAKEN ACTION

TWO light rig drivers who were delivering refrigerated goods to a shopping centre thought they were witnessing a person trying to break into a parked car.

Probably not surprising as there had been many such reports in their town.

One watched as a lady aged in her 30s continually tried to open a car door.

But they soon realised it was the wrong car and was one of the same colour, make and model as her own.

That was parked in a spot about 10m away.

The three all had a laugh about it as she explained but she did thank them for being vigilante.

So did some shop workers who saw the incident.

LIFE CHANGER

OLD Spy phoned a veteran Victorian owner-operator who he hadn’t contacted for some months.

I was shocked to hear that my mate was at a hospital sitting beside his truckie son who had been in a serious accident.

“My son is a quadriplegic now and this has been a life changer for him and us all,” he said.

There is not much I could say considering the serious nature of the injuries other than wish them luck.

PIG HIT CAUSES A MESS

A subject most truckies have spoken to Spy about was how dirty their rig was.

It may have travelled along a wet dirt road or gone through a plague of insects.

My sympathy goes to a driver named Connor who hit a feral pig while driving to Karumba.

It made a hell of a mess on his rig.

When pulled up at rest area he heard noise at front and roos and other wild animals were eating pork which had cooked and stuck on the mechanical parts.

COUGH MOVE

WHEN a retired New South Wales truckie was admitted to hospital with what turned out to be pneumonia he didn’t expect to stay a week.

This gent loves peace and quiet and was put in a room with three other patients.

“A couple had dementia and it was hard to sleep at night so I asked the ward nurse that considering I was covered by medical insurance could I get a private room,” he said.

This was to no avail for a while until our mate sneezed a few times.

Quicker that you could say “Jack Robinson” he was transferred to a private room and was tested for COVID-19.

That proved negative but he found the private room much more enjoyable.

FOUR SEASONS IN A DAY

THERE was ice on the Bass Highway in Tasmania near Launceston in June about 6am when a Tasmanian truckie phoned Spy with his report.

“It was near the South Esk River and the temperature four degrees and has been colder recently at other places,” he said.

The veteran driver said that at scenic Ross Village, just off the Midlands Highway, it has dropped to two degrees.

“It was that cold I could see ice on the trees and wire fences so it has been a bit fresh down here and we all have to be careful when driving,” he said.

He said that on another day around Hobart snow had fallen.

“But the weather can change down here and sometimes it seems like we have had four seasons in a day,” he said.

Later in the day after his call, the truckie said the temperature had risen to 16 degrees.

He also said that it was good pie eating weather and added that the Banjo’s Bakery at Campbell Town was given truckies a 15 per cent discount.

“You just have to go in high vis gear and prove you are a truckie and you get the discount,’’ he said.

M OBILE PHONES

WE all know the dangers posed when drivers of any type of vehicle speak on their mobile phone or text when behind the wheel.

Despite increased and very heavy fines for such an offence around the country, many are blasé and continue to do it.

Spy drove 12km in his town last week and saw 13 drivers in the act.

Most were at traffic lights although some were driving along and a couple was even speeding.

They were all car or 4WD drivers and not one truckie.

A light truck travels across Australia's oldest traffic bridge at Richmond in Tasmania.
A light truck travels across Australia's oldest traffic bridge at Richmond in Tasmania.

OLDEST BRIDGE

ONE of the things that has interested me greatly has been the Richmond Bridge in southern Tasmania which was built by convicts back in 1823.

This stone arch wonder was opened to traffic – then horse and dray – two years later.

It is reportedly the oldest bridge in the country still used by traffic.

Today it is still being used even trucks up to 25 tonne.

Richmond is a small country hamlet about 26kms from Hobart and the bridge spans the Coal River.

In recent times there have been calls for the load limit of the bridge to be reduced to 15 tonne vehicles however that have not been approved by authorities.

One of the reasons is that many buses daily carrying tourists travel across it and they spend lots of money boosting the local economy.

Geotechnical investigations were undertaken in March 2017 to help better understand how changes to environmental conditions may impact the bridge’s foundations.

Traffic counts on the bridge when last conducted in 2014, showing Annual Average Daily Traffic of 3210 vehicles per day.

Of those vehicles travelling across the bridge, 93 per cent were light vehicles (including light commercial vehicles), while seven per cent were heavy vehicles including buses over 4.5 tonnes.

The Bridge has a colourful history and for the first 80 years was used by many horse and drays which were the road transport industry’s mode of transport.

Wind turbines blades being transported around the country.
Wind turbines blades being transported around the country.

WIND POWER

MORE wind turbines are appearing around Australia which generate power.

Recently Spy had gander at the Windy Hill Wind Farm near Ravenshoe in far north Queensland.

It boasts 20 windmills producing enough power for 3500 homes and is capable of a generating capacity of 12 megawatts.

Spy has spotted many such windmills around including from the air when travelling over the northern part of Tasmania.

Parts for these windmills are mostly carried by trucks and make for a spectacular sight if you come across them on the highways and byways.

Especially the trailers hauling the long turbine blades.

That occurred some years ago near Cockburn town in South Australia located in the east of the state at the border with New South Wales near Broken Hill.

They were being transported as wide loads with police escorts.

Wind power accounted for 5.3 per cent of Australia’s total electricity demand and 30.8 per cent of total renewable energy supply last year.

At the end of 2016 there were 79 wind farms Australia, most of which had turbines from 1.5 to 3 MW.

South Australia has 36.9 per cent of Australia’s wind power capacity, accounting for 40 per cent of the state’s electricity needs as of 2016 and the first year in which wind power was the leading source of electricity in the state.

I have also seen windmills on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.

The sun sets on the last Spy.
The sun sets on the last Spy.

CLOSING POEM BY SPY

THOUSANDS of truckies have told about the road transport caper,

Through the words on pages and their pictures which appeared in this paper,

Many of our champion mates have told a good story,

Some have even managed to cover themselves in glory,

No matter how they looked whether it be short or tall,

Freight was often subject and about what they would haul,

Loads carried around Australia were sometimes very wide,

But these legends of Oz always kept the country supplied,

There were those who spoke about their trouble and strife,

For ones who don’t live on earth that means their darling wife,

Along the journey some have lost a long time mate,

After an accident on a lonely highway sealed their fate,

However it is over with the closure of our beloved Big Rigs,

We may all move on to completely different gigs,

But to each and every truckie who has contributed along the way,

Safe driving, good luck and healthy we hope you stay.

Big Rigs

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