Inspired by his dad, this truckie is living the dream
IN 1973, a little tacker was born at the Lilydale Bush Nursing Home, just up the road from Healesville, Victoria.
Sean Denny was to live a life surrounded by trucks, as did his father, Jim, before him.
"Dad was around trucks all his life,” Sean said.
"He drove old Internationals back in the day, which is why I guess I'm drawn to them.
"He grew up with his father owning a service station in the bush, back in the days when service stations also did mechanical repairs.
"Graham Hill, who owned a sawmill in Healesville, later opened up a concrete plant - Healesville Mixed Concrete - and Dad used to repair his trucks, as well as drive them.
"He actually used to build trucks. He worked for a bloke named Jack Farmalo. I remember when I was five or six going to Jack's yard in Ringwood.
"One week there would be a set of chassis rails. Two weeks later wheels under them, then a motor and gearbox and then a brand-new International cabin would go on it. Four months later it would be driving down the road.
"They were all tip trucks.”
Sean got his truck licence about age 20.
"I didn't get my car licence until 19 but, like everyone in Hooterville, I drove around for many years before that,” he said.
"I spent a lot of time with my mentor, old Jack Long (and worked at his sawmill for a bit). I'd jump in a log truck with him and head bush.
"I spent more time in the passenger seat of a truck, growing up as a kid, than I have sat behind the wheel.
"I reckon I've probably done about three million kilometres, which is not a lot. I know blokes in Healesville who've done 10, 15, 20 million kilometres.
"I worked from '93 to 2000 at Kenworth Trucks in Bayswater on the production line. I had my licence but I wasn't using it.
"I wasn't that interested in driving trucks back then because I was having a ball at the time, making money, having a good social life and getting home every night.
"After Kenworth I worked for Alsum Engineering. They were a manufacturer of parts for Kenworth so I was back in KW every day for the next five years doing deliveries.
"During this period I also went to work part-time for A and K Bailey Bros at Yarra Junction, driving an RACV tow truck.
"Then I started knocking around with John Sampson and his Eagle Towing, based in Ringwood, and did a fair bit of part-time work with him, which I continue to do until this day. Eagle Towing hauls the big rigs.
"At that stage I hadn't done a lot of big rig driving but John had faith in me. He's known me since I was 10 years old and was prepared to give me a go.
"There are a lot of accidents around the Healesville area and over the Black Spur.
"Because I knew a lot of the people in the area I'd get the first phone call.
"Of course, that also meant I knew many of the people involved, some of whom didn't make it.”
After Alsum Engineering, Sean went to work at Lilydale Instant Lawns, which lasted for 15 years, apart from a 12-month period in the middle working for the opposition.
Possibly too many 2am starts and 8pm finishes contributed to his marriage breakdown and Sean found himself a single dad, raising the youngest two of his three daughters and trying to buy the family property out.
"That was a tough period,” he said.
A couple of years ago Kelly came into his life and Sean's attitude to working long hours changed.
"I work bloody hard but if the boss says it's quiet, I'm more than happy to have some me time,” he said.
Recently the couple decided on a trip to the US.
It was Sean's first trip out of Australia and the US had always been at the top of his wish list.
"Trucks had a lot to do with it,” he said.
"Kelly's condition on going there to look at trucks was that we had to go to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry, which was a lot of fun.
"We visited the Chrome Shop, which was pretty cool.
"I was disappointed in the transport industry though. The oldest truck over there might be five years old. You just don't see many old trucks, at least not where we went.”
Over the years Sean has had a few - lots actually - trucks of his own: Mack, Kenworth, White, Fords and lots of Internationals.
"I've got a '75 Inter - a Fleetstar, with a 671 in-line GM - coming from America (you find them in much better condition over there) to add to the three in the backyard at the moment,” he said.
"I couldn't resist. Left- hand steer is not a problem as it can be converted to RH in a weekend.
"A lot of people ask me: What's the best truck? As far as I'm concerned, one that doesn't cost me any money and that's why I've always been an employee.
"I've put a lot of time and money into the various trucks I've had. I don't do it to make money, if I can come out square that's just fine.
"I buy a truck, do some work on it, drive it around for a bit, get bored and look for another project.”
These days, whenever they have spare time, Sean and Kelly head to the shack on a block they bought recently for quality time.
What does the future hold? "It depends what happens when I wake up tomorrow,” Sean said.
"I'm working for a good company [Gruyere Tippers] and the pay comes in each week so I take it day by day. If I lost my job next week I'd find another one the following day.
"I guess it's an advantage of growing up and living in an area where you know a lot of people and they know you.
"I've had good role models all my life - people like Jack Long, Robbie Heritage, Alan Brown and Bob Pout.
"All these guys have been great mentors and I look up to all of them. I've always hung around old blokes because they have so much experience.
"I don't drink, I don't smoke and I work hard. I have a house, a block of land, a lovely partner and a few trucks.