YOUNG TRUCKIE: Jesse Long with his International.
YOUNG TRUCKIE: Jesse Long with his International. Alf Wilson

Truckies like Jesse are the future of the industry

YOUNG Atherton Tablelands-based truckie Jesse Long is a third- generation driver for family road transport company Long & Ward, and truckies like him are the future of the industry.

The 24-year-old was parked up in Townsville in the cabin of his 1998 International S-Line when Big Rigs saw him on June 22.

Long & Ward, has its headquarters at scenic Malanda on the Tablelands.

Jesse intends to make a lifelong career out of trucking and already has lots of experience travelling the highways and byways of a beautiful part of northern Australia.

He possesses a great knowledge about the road transport industry and is one of the friendliest drivers I have come across.

"My grandfather, Russell, was the one who started the company and my dad, Doug, is now my boss and he drives a Mack Super-Liner,” Jesse said.

The company has 12 trucks, including a smaller one which delivers molasses to farms around the Tablelands.

Jesse started with the company seven years ago but was not handed a silver spoon by his family.

"I started off doing jobs at our yards and it was hard yakka and I commenced driving a year later when I got my licence,” he said.

A light truck outside of Malanda on the Atherton Tablelands.
A light truck outside of Malanda on the Atherton Tablelands. Alf Wilson

The quietly spoken Jesse was amazed to hear the average age of drivers in Australia is reportedly in the fifties.

"I thought it would be in the 30s,” he said.

Jesse had hauled molasses from Innisfail to outback Richmond along the Flinders Highway when I yarned to him.

"The road between Hughenden and Richmond is rough, being up and down, and needs some work,” the young driver said.

That is an opinion echoed by hundreds of truckies, including many veterans.

Jesse was heading off to pick up a load of molasses at Tully to take back to Malanda for delivery to small farms.

Although Jesse was delighted to appear in Big Rigs with his beloved International, he had one reservation.

"I wish the old girl (International) was a bit cleaner,” he said.

When I told him that was a similar comment from many truckies, Jesse smiled.

On his travels Jesse stops at numerous roadhouses and I asked him which was his favourite.

"The Lights on the Hill Roadhouse outside Hughenden is great and has plenty of parking for trucks, the food is good, and the amenities clean and it is open 24 hours a day.”

Jesse transports molasses, hay and gravel and said he rarely travelled past Townsville on the Bruce Highway.

"I also do a lot of road train driving.”

Jesse Long near his International.
Jesse Long near his International. Alf Wilson

Outside work Jesse enjoys his trusty four-wheel drive, like many young truckies, and also fishing.

"I reckon around Malanda is the most beautiful part of Australia,” he said.

"There are plenty of waterfalls and lookouts and the area is mostly green.

"Other small towns such as Millaa Millaa and Peeramon are beautiful.”

Malanda, about 20km from Atherton, is the centre of a huge dairy farming industry.

Malanda was once the town trucks left from to travel on the longest milk run in the country to deliver milk and dairy products into the Northern Territory.

When you travel the Tablelands today there are hundreds of rolling green valleys and plains on which dairy cattle graze so it is little wonder Jesse reckons he lives and works in paradise.

Asked his opinion on rest areas, Jesse felt more were needed with enough space for road trains.

"Some of the rest areas aren't big enough for trucks and we have a lot of tourists visiting the Atherton Tablelands in caravans which stop at them,” he said.

As Jesse puffed on a cigarette, he came up with a classic quote as he thought more about rest areas.

"Sometimes you are busting for a piss and have to wait 30 or 40 minutes before you can find a rest area to pull over at and many don't have toilets,” he said.

As for electronic logbooks, Jesse said he still used a paper one.

The subject of Chain of Responsibilities was not one which Jesse had much knowledge about.

The International is named Rainmaker and I asked Jesse why.

"When I was aged six, Granddad would drive away in it and it would always be dry and, when he returned, it was mostly raining,” he said.

There has been a lot of talk among truckies recently about which one of the Palmerston, Gillies or Kuranda Range roads is the worst for access to the Atherton Tablelands.

"It would have to be the Palmerston, which is terrible in places and has lots of potholes,” Jesse said.

A driver who always puts safety first, Jesse had one incident recently when a tyre blew out as he was travelling near Sedan Dip Rd, near Julia Creek.

"The truck ended up off the road and I was shaken up but not seriously injured.”

As for unusual occurrences he has seen on his travels, Jesse said one stood out: "I was at a small rest area near Hughenden when two vans of backpackers pulled up and seven young lasses dropped their tops and flashed for passing traffic”.

Jesse urged road transport companies to give young drivers a start in the industry.

He acknowledged there were some problems with employing young drivers, such as insurance rates and high excesses if they had an accident.

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