Kermies QA ... with Ken Tomkins
KEN Tomkins is a driver with 30 years under his belt, all for the one company - Linfox.
Q: G'day Ken. Thirty years driving. Was that your first job?
A: Thanks for that, Kermie. I must look younger than I am. I started on trucks when I was 26. I wasn't THAT slow at school!
I started working life in the railways, then warehousing, where I drove a forklift. I figured that there was more to life than chugging around the yard. Watching the trucks coming and going was enough to prod me into getting a truck licence. In those days you could go straight for a semi licence.
Q: How long did it take to find a truck driving job?
A: I put my name down with Linfox. This was in May of 1981. Three weeks later I got the phone call to come in for an interview. They told me about the job and offered me a part-time position. I was only there one day and that changed to a permanent job. Linfox was a hard company to get into. Everyone wanted to work for them. People put their names on a waiting list to join the company, so I was lucky to get in so quickly.
Q: Why Linfox?
A: They were one of the biggest truck companies around. I sounded a few people out and they all said that they were great to work for, which isn't always the case with a big organisation.
Q: They wouldn't have put you straight onto semis?
A: Nah. I was handed a Bedford, delivering Coles variety products around their stores for some eight months. Then they handed me an International BT 190 and I moved to grocery delivery. A Ford D series came next, followed by a Mercedes.
Then I got a tap on the shoulder and was told that I had a new truck coming. That was a 1417 Benz - a wonderful truck. In those days it was one truck, one driver. You looked after her, kept her clean, everything.
Q: Sounds like you've had the 'Coles Variety' of trucks.
A: Yep. After the Benz there was a bit of a procession - Scania, another Benz, a Volvo, a Freightliner, yet another Benz, another Volvo. They moved me from Moorabbin to Altona and put me into two Freightliners in procession.
Q: Wow, stability at last?
A: If you could call it that. I'm currently driving a Benz, but with some new trucks on order who knows what may come next. I may or may not get one. That's okay. I'm happy with what I've got.
Q: In your who's-who of trucks you haven't mentioned Kenworth - and your names Kenny to boot!
A: When they took over the Nestle contract I had to drive a Kenny from one depot to another. That's the only time I've driven one.
A: Oh yeah. We had a Mack for about three months, but again, I only took her from one depot to another.
Q: Favourite truck?
A: I don't mind the Freightliner - the FL112. Had those in 2000 and drove them all over Victoria. My life has been spent intrastate other than a couple of occasions when I'd fly to Sydney to pick up a truck. Being married with three girls to look after, it suited me coming home each night.
Q: So you've been driving for Linfox for 30 years. Obviously you've got some appreciation for the company. I gather they return the loyalty?
A: Absolutely. Lindsay was always hands-on - coming around and mixing with the drivers and other staff - as was Peter and the rest of the family. They make you feel valuable to the business, as it should be.
Q: What do you do for an escape from work?
A: I own an International Harvester AB120, circa 1963. I'm restoring her and hope to have her ready for the American Truck Historical Society's bash at Lancefield (V) in March. Tell your readers to get their backsides across there. It's a fantastic weekend with 120-plus trucks expected.
Q: So you'll keep on trucking?
A: I'll drive till I retire - and beyond.
You're welcome Kermie.