Jessie and Karen Freeman in front of Jesse's truck with Dad.
Jessie and Karen Freeman in front of Jesse's truck with Dad. Graham Harsant

Victorian drivers honour their trucking heroes

A TIME to grieve, a time to heal, a time to spend with like-minded folk, a time to swap stories. A time to be proud of those loved ones who, in turn, loved the industry they were a part of.

As with others around the country, the Victorian Truck Drivers' Memorial Wall stands as a monument to the industry for the world to see and hopefully reflect upon the contribution truck drivers - and their families - make to the country.

One of the speakers at this year's event was 23-year-old Jessie Freeman: "Today I take the time to share and be part of an event that is not only important to me, but also to many family members and friends of those who have lost loved ones in the transport industry.

"Last year my dad, Daryl Leslie Freeman was commemorated on the wall. Dad tragically lost his life unexpectedly on 8 April, 2006, just eight days after his 42nd birthday. I was just 13 at the time.

"Dad started working for TNT in Mildura after school, hand stacking boxes of oranges. At the age of 18 he went on to get his truck licence and worked for Andersons at Lake Boga where he was nicknamed 'Dribbles', as he was always trying to talk the boss into getting him into a new truck.

"Dad and Mum married in 1993 and spent the next seven years driving road trains, from Adelaide to Darwin and to Wyndham. Dad then went on to the goldfields of WA and FNQ. He did market runs from FNQ to Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney markets.

"He also drove for TNT, doing Adelaide to Brisbane express with my grandparents' truck - my grandparents being Graham and Yvonne Patterson from Balaklava Transport in South Australia. He spent the last eight years of his life driving tankers for Booth's, carting various food grade products.

 

CELEBRATING LOVED ONES: The Victorian memorial was preceded with a convoy into Alexandra.
CELEBRATING LOVED ONES: The Victorian memorial was preceded with a convoy into Alexandra. Graham Harsant

"Dad, Mum and I pretty much lived in the truck until I started school. Dad was a perfectionist and wouldn't leave the yard until stripping off the tarps the yardies had put on, and redoing the job again.

"No muddy boots were allowed in the truck and everything had to be spotless. Dad was full of old-school pride. Everything was kept polished, shiny and clean. Needless to say he hated the rain.

"Dad was full of jokes and stories and always happy to help anyone out. He was a loyal friend to many, both inside and outside of the transport industry. To quote Joe Catalano, one of dad's best mates, "He knew where every parking bay was in Australia. He even knew parking bays that weren't parking bays. To this day we still believe he made some of them up."

"The last time that we spent with dad, dropping us off at the airport is a great memory but little did we know that would be the last time we would ever see him.

"He was a great father and although our time is a family was cut short and I wish we had had much longer, I'm forever grateful for the times we did have together when he was home."

Jessie has gone on to be a part of the transport and trucking industry and now drives full-time as a milk tanker driver for Reeve Transport based out of Shepparton.

"I'm a third-generation truck driver - not only did my grandfather drive but also my mother and my grandmother so I guess it's in my genes. Hoping to make him proud of my achievements, I plan to become a B-double, and road-train driver in the future.

Jessie was followed by Leonie Isaacs who spoke of her father, Les Shaw.

"I am here today to talk about my father, Les Shaw of Gobur, who is been remembered at this service for his contribution to the transport industry.

"In 1946 at the age of 22, young Les bought his first tray truck, a Chev, which he fitted out with a crate to carry livestock. After a year or so the Chev was replaced by a Maple Leaf. During those early years in business Les also used his tray truck to carry a range of general goods to and from local destinations.

 

Leonie Isaacs points out her beloved dad, Les Shaw, whose plaque sits proudly upon the Memorial Wall.
Leonie Isaacs points out her beloved dad, Les Shaw, whose plaque sits proudly upon the Memorial Wall. Graham Harsant

"After 10 years Les had a spell from operating his truck business. It was a right time for him to work his farm and be available to join in family life with his wife, Enid and their seven children.

"In 1971, Les made a return to the truck industry. As luck would have it, his three sons Mervyn, Philip and Stephen were all very keen to help their dad. Of course each son wanted to be a driver but at this stage Mervyn was the only one eligible to obtain a truck licence.

"Over time the additional family support allowed Les to take on more work, so in 1977 Shaw's Transport was launched with dad and his three sons in partnership, transporting livestock around the countryside. Les made it his practice and priority to run his business smoothly and efficiently. This was something he insisted on, passing his knowledge and skills onto his sons.

"An excellent mechanic, Les spent many hours maintaining and servicing the trucks and trailers. He was able to fix, modify or create new parts for the vehicles in his care in order to have them ready for the next load.

"As 1980 approached, and with failing health Les retired from driving for Shaw's transport. It was time for him to reflect on the friendships made with fellow truckies that came from travelling the highways. Les died on 8 October 1995, aged 61.

"Today Stephen Shaw carries on the family interest in trucks. He is the owner of Shaw's transport, Mansfield. 2018 was not a good year for our family - losing two brothers, Mervyn and Philip in a short space of time and in unexpected circumstances.

"This came as a great shock to us, however, from that sadness we acted on an opportunity to remember our brothers for their long and dedicated contribution to the transport industry.

"Last year their names were added to the Wall. I'm proud to say that today, Les now has his name on the Memorial next to his sons."

May they all rest in peace.

Big Rigs

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