STARTING OUT: The Transport Minister David Hamill and Kevin and Debby McCarthy cut the cake at the launch of Big Rigs.
STARTING OUT: The Transport Minister David Hamill and Kevin and Debby McCarthy cut the cake at the launch of Big Rigs.

IN THE BEGINNING... Dream that came to life

Big Rigs has turned 20 and we are celebrating with the people that have helped make us what we are today.

We've searched our archives and have found our mum.

The mother of Big Rigs is Joanne Gambling, as she was called back then (now Jo Templeman), and 20 years ago Jo had a vision of a unique newspaper for the transport and machinery industry.

Jo's original vision was a broad-focused paper named All Wheels encompassing, as the name suggests, 4x4s, trucks, earthmoving equipment, tractors and much more.

At the time Jo was working for the now-defunct Sunday Sun Newspaper as an advertising executive for the extremely popular Big Wheels section with a previous business partner and co-worker Carol Jensen.

There had been rumours that the Sunday Sun was on its last legs and Jo recognised the void that this would leave within the industry.

Jo felt that the time was right for a revamped newspaper - a jam-packed, dedicated voice for the trucking and machinery community.

Over the years at The Sunday Sun Jo and Carol had developed a formidable list of clients.

With the promise of an exciting, new, industry-specific newspaper and advertisements charged at only $10 per column centimetre, Jo garnered the support of many key industry players prior to making the final decision to go ahead with the new venture.

Jo required an injection of capital to get this idea off the ground and Kevin McCarthy, one of her customers who was working for Australian Truck Parts at the time, offered to fund the paper if he could become the silent partner.

Kevin turned out to be a not-so-silent, silent partner, however he will go down in the history books as Big Rigs' first publisher until it was sold to the current owners - The Queensland Times (APN).

It was Kevin who decided upon the name Big Rigs prior to the first publication.

Jo felt that the name Big Rigs was too restrictive and advised Kevin that this name eliminated many of her clients with smaller trucks as well as clients within the machinery industry. Ironically, we still face the same issues occasionally today from advertisers that don't realise that our product is written about all aspects of the road transport industry and not just the big gear.

The first issue

Big Rigs hit the presses with the publication celebrating its launch at the Albion Park Pace Way with many of Queensland's industry professionals.

The latest and greatest trucks of the day jostled for space on the trotting track providing an unprecedented spectacular by performing laps of the ring. The paper was officially opened by the Queensland Minister for Transport at the time, David Hamill.

Unfortunately the partnership didn't pan out for Jo and Carol with Kevin McCarthy, and the original trio only lasted together for the first eight editions. Jo and Carol then went on to work for the Courier-Mail in Brisbane.

Jo's father, who turned 80 last year, "still picks up a copy of Big Rigs whenever he finds one to show me that it is still alive and kicking", Jo said.

"I am chuffed that the paper is still in circulation today and Dad and I marvel at just how much it has grown. I feel really proud to have been the founder of Big Rigs and I am just so glad that the industry still has such a wonderful voice. It has become everything I had hoped it would be and so much more."

First editor

Bruce Honeywill has been in and out of transport journalism for the last 30-odd years and it was his initial editorial style as the inaugural Big Rigs editor that sowed the seed for what it is today.

In 1992 Bruce was back driving B-doubles around the country from Bowen to Adelaide, back to Melbourne and Sydney for Refrigerated Roadways, and said he was enjoying it.

He was a seasoned journalist with a passion for the trucking industry and all it offered. He risked it all to follow his passion and created one of the classiest high-end transport publications of its time.

Unfortunately the market wasn't ready for Bruce's creation, meaning he was available, with his wealth of experience, to head up Big Rigs.

Bruce was approached by publisher Kevin McCarthy to be the editor of what would be a weekly transport newspaper.

Coming from the magazine industry he took it in his stride adapting to the weekly product.

"It was lots of stress doing a weekly paper, but that's publishing and it's never worried me," he said.

"It was a bit of an eye-opener for me because I'd actually just come out of a failed magazine, a thing called Long Haul, of which I fought for very high production values, and I remember thinking if I had only been prepared to trade down and produce something like Big Rigs it would still probably be in the field today."

Bruce recalled Kevin had worked with a potential editor for some time and they clashed and nothing was ever done. He said at the time Kevin had committed to getting the product out.

"I came on and I guess we produced the first Big Rigs within a week or so of that. That was with very late nights laying it out and we were still putting it together with gallies and laying out the shots and my background was magazines at that stage so from the first edition we had a big photograph on the front cover, that's the main difference (to a regular newspaper), but it was every newspaper after that, short stories and to the point," he said.

"I produced seven editions, which is what I was contracted to do and it maintains pretty much the same format today as it did then. It was a bit of a buzz to be involved with."

Supplying information

BRUCE explains Big Rigs then, as now, was supplying information to truck operators, fleet owners and drivers.

"My interest has always been life on the road so it was very orientated to that to both tell stories from the road and give information back to the road; by road I mean people on it, whether they own a truck, are owner-drivers or drivers or whatever.

"That is what I knew then and still 'til today I think the transport media from my end of it should be doing, and telling, the stories from the road, giving back the information and interpretation of stuff journalistically to people on the road."

Bruce said the issue facing the industry now mirror those of 20 years ago.

"We still had all the COAG meetings back then in the '80s and the early '90s the transport review study that was done under the Hawke government," he said.

"Things that are happening now with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and the associations - they are all under different names - but it is still the same arguments, they are still calling out to COAG, they are still trying to get some kind of unification of rules and regulations and legislation across borders and I don't know if they are any closer now than they were 20 years ago."

In 20 years since being the first Big Rigs editor Bruce has worked in television, radio, newspapers as well as teaching but he has come back to where he says the pure journalism still exists, the trucking industry, as the editor of Trucking Life.

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