In search of work

By: Peter Schlenk, Photography by: Peter Schlenk

When the going gets tough, you take your Western Star to Western Australia. That’s what Tasmania’s Rod Watson was forced to do when the logging tried up in the ‘apple isle’.

In search of work
Tanya and Rod Watson spent 12 months living in separate states while Rod travelled to Western Australia in search of work.


Tasmanian Rod Watson, together with his wife Tanya, operates Rod Watson Heavy Haulage. The couple have known both good and tough times in the industry and currently operate a C16 Cat-powered 2007 Western Star 4900.

Rod has had thoughts about updating, but others have advised him to stick with the tried and true. The Western Star has AirLiner rear suspension, and he says the 600hp Cat engine goes like a train.

"I’ve put a bigger non-wastegated turbo on it and polished the manifold," he says.

"With 70 to 80 tonne on, you can pull away from other trucks carrying 50 to 60 tonne."

Rod’s first driving experience was with Ted Kingston in Lauderdale, just outside Hobart, driving a 1974 N12 tri-axle semi tipper carting sand for Boral.

Later, after doing time "learning the job on logging trucks", Rod bought his own NH Volvo.

Although he was happy driving Volvos, he preferred American drivelines, so his next truck was a day cab Western Star pulling a float.

At one stage Rod and Tanya had five floats working across the state and it was all looking good: "We went from turning over $160,000 when we first bought it 12 years ago to a $1 million turnover a year, and as much work as we wanted."

The pair had had a couple of subbies working for them as well, but virtually overnight it all turned sour.

"The rug got pulled out from underneath us," Rod says.

All the Watson’s equipment was sold except for their 2007 Western Star 4900, a little dolly and 3x8 float.

"We had to go to Western Australia or go broke," Rod says. "One of our customers gave us a load to Port Augusta. I ended up in Karratha; I got as far away as I thought I could.

"Everyone welcomed us with open arms; there was so much work going on. I think we turned over $25,000 in the first five days. I got there at the right time — things were booming."

Rod was subbing to Peter Tippett Haulage and spent most of his time working on the support projects for the mines, building railways and water pipelines.

He says working over in Western Australia was an eye opener, but he always had it in his mind to build his business back up in Tasmania.

Rod spent 12 months in the west, only making it back to see Tanya once during that time.

Now firmly established back in Tassie, Rod Watson Heavy Haulage concentrates on any machinery moves within the island state,

For the full story on Rod and Tanya Watson, and their big 2007 Western Star, see the July 2016 edition of Owner//Driver.


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