'Milko' makes his last run
TIRED of the milk run he'd been doing for 13 years, Neville Meyers admits he was just looking to do a bit of local work when Richers Transport took him on as a full-time driver.
But the boss at the time, Neville laughed, had other ideas.
He was told to get a log book and head off to Brisbane, the start of a legendary 37-year long-haul career for the Queensland company.
Neville doesn't have any idea how many kilometres he has racked up in that time but, as he celebrated his retirement earlier this month, boss Graham Richers gave him a touching gift - a replica of a Richers truck with an estimation of how far he has driven in his career.
The total was 6.5 million kilometres.
When Hyne Timber started work at Tuan, interstate deliveries began, with Neville's first trip being to a depot in Sydney.
Not knowing the city, the first visit was difficult and he got lost.
"I don't know if I ended up in Kings Cross or Alexandria but it was a busy area,” Maryborough-based Neville said.
The first man he asked for directions didn't speak English, while the next was a tourist from the US.
"I ended up getting back in the truck and I ended up going around and around in circles and I eventually found the place myself,” he said.
Thankfully on his return trip, some kids pointed him in the direction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and an escape route north.
Neville has been to every capital city on the mainland, all while driving a Richers truck.
He made a round trip to Perth by himself on one of his most challenging journeys.
Growing up on a small dairy farm in Tiaro, near Maryborough, Neville couldn't have imagined seeing so much of Australia.
He worked on his parents' farm while growing up before being hired to do the milk run.
Over the years he has transported timber, potatoes, watermelons and general freight - and he never lost a load.
He has experienced a couple of jack-knifes on his long journeys but always made it home safely, whether behind the wheel of a Scania in the early days or his beloved Internationals.
"When I got an International S Line with an engine brake I thought I was made,” Neville laughed.
"A favourite was the International Eagle. It had a Cummins ISX motor and was about 500hp, it would really hang on back to 1000 revs and just stay there and go. That one could pull.”
Neville has seen more than his fair share of bad driving during his career.
The worst behaviour he has seen regularly on the road is drivers speeding up in overtaking lanes.
But every day was an adventure, with Neville travelling far and wide delivering different loads.
One long trip up to the small town of Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula, Northern Territory, stands out in his memory. He was working with a partner and they had to go off-road, across rivers and through the dirt to get there.
"I can tell you I was pleased when I was back on the bitumen,” he said.
The lengthy breaks away from his children Mitchell, Suzanne and Rochelle were tough.
"You're usually away for the full week,” he said.
"I used to come home once every fortnight.”
On those long hours of driving, Neville listened to a lot of radio, tuning in to the ABC and John Waters' show.
A copy of Big Rigs was never from reach too.
He also had plenty of chats with other truckies through the CB radio, where he was referred to as "Milko” in honour of his dairy farming days.
In fact, many people didn't know his real name.
One of his favourite parts of his job was that it allowed him to stay connected to the land he had grown up on and loved. He never got bored of seeing the countryside, one of things he tells us he'll miss most now he's retired.
He had a few breakdowns while trucking across the countryside during his career but was thankfully never too far from help.
He is recognised as a legend within the company and was inducted into the Transport Hall of Fame in Gatton.
So did he get emotional on that last run up to Mackay and Cannonvale in the Whitsundays with a load of timber in his trusty Mack Trident?
Yes and no, the grandfather of seven said, likening the moment to what a rugby league fella had to go through when it came time to give it all away.
He'll miss his mates at work, of course, and that regular contact with friends in the farming community.
But daughter Suzanne has offered him a part-time role behind the wheel helping her out with her Proserpine mulching business any time he feels the urge.
Then there's also the WA coastline to explore with his "lady friend” Helen Lee, one of the few parts of Australia he hasn't yet seen.
"I've been to a lot of places but you're always going straight through or via the bypass - it'll be good to not have the log book on board too,” Neville said.