Knowing the ropes


Graeme ‘JD’ Locke knows what he likes and that’s his current steed – a 2007 Kenworth T904. What he’s not keen on is the current state of the transport industry. Peter and Di Schlenk write

Knowing the ropes
The big Tim North Transport T904, driven by Graeme 'JD' Locke.

 

Graeme Locke, better known as ‘JD’, doesn’t get home too often. He says his official place of residence is Kingaroy, Queensland, because "that’s where my stuff is", but he spends most of his time in a Kenworth T904, driving for Tim North Transport from its base in the Brisbane suburb of Gracemere.

JD, whose nickname was arrived at through his and his father Barry’s middle initials, has been in the T904 since September 2016, driving up and down the east coast. It’s a 2007 model with a C15 Cat, 18 speed gearbox and Kenworth air bag rear suspension.

JD says it has all the trimmings, making it very liveable.

"It’s got an Icepack, cupboards, fridge and TV. I wouldn’t drive anything but a 909," he says.

JD has driven all makes and models, including Kenworths from the T401 up to the 909, as well as Volvos, DAFs and Scanias.

"But I wouldn’t have anything else but a long wheel base 909. You just can’t beat it."

JD was doing containers and general in Sydney before deciding to move north. He’s driven for large companies but is happy to be driving for a company with a fleet of three.

"It’s a good truck and Tim’s a good boss," he says. "He’s very meticulous about maintenance, an old fashioned sort of bloke.

"He’s more anal about maintenance than I am with cleaning. "It gives you peace of mind because nothing is an issue."

Disjointed industry

Although JD is happy with the company and the truck, he has more than a thing or two to see about the trucking industry.

"I think the industry needs a good kick up the arse," he exclaims. "We are a massive industry with no-one leading it. It’s so disjointed.

"We could control the country even if it’s just to get better roads and rates. Unfortunately, nobody has any backbone.

"You can’t say things because it might upset someone."

JD would like to see a stronger well run union that should have a slush fund from all the membership fees. The funds would be pooled and for example, September 1, every truck will have the keys out for two weeks.

"That would wake the country up," he says. "You amalgamate this whole industry as one and you would have something more powerful than anything else in this country."

The fact that trucks are limited to 100km/h is another point of annoyance for JD. He believes trucks should be doing 110km/h because "we are the professionals out on the roads every day".

"We are up and down the same stretches of bitumen and yet we are harassed. We are fined for spelling mistakes and being five minutes over.

"I think it is a disgrace the way we are treated. We are not school kids; we’re driving millions of dollars’ worth of gear on the road as compared to a $20,000 car.

"We do 15 times more kilometres a year than a car driver, yet we’re the ones being chased and that’s a disgrace. We should be respected.

"I believe that with driver fatigue and driver management, they have got it all wrong," JD continues.

"If you are prepared to be disciplined on your diet, your sleep, on your travel times, on your driving, you should have some label on your truck."

JD has spent his entire working life driving trucks. He believes that either you love it or you don’t. If you don’t, you need to get out.

"There are a lot of blokes coming into the industry, and they need to be taught," he continues.

"Just because you can put a key in and drive it out of the driveway, doesn’t constitute that you know how to drive a truck.

"But nobody tries to educate them. All they do is abuse them so then they think they are being outcast.

"I think a lot of the onus should be on the big companies. I know they need drivers and that they have a business to survive, but unfortunately the industry is decaying."

Outback bitumen

JD has travelled on most Australia highways and he says the T904 smooths out many of the rough patches, although he believes the roads in general have improved, especially the Pacific Highway. Not so in the outback however where he previously drove roadtrains, carting grain.

"You may as well get a can of black paint and paint the road," he says. "What they are doing is just spraying a layer of asphalt over any problems, putting new lines on it and that’s it.

"It actually makes the bumps higher and lower so the ride is rougher."

JD says making the eastern seaboard highways dual lane, but he says the governments should concentrate on where the road trains and cattle trucks go.

"Where does all our fuel tax go?" he queries. "The country needs to step up in the inland roads. Not so much the goat tracks going to farms but the major arterial routes."

JD knows his stuff. He’s been behind the wheel of a rig of some description for his entire working life. He’s also tried his hand at transport management.

"If you’re in management and people don’t see the light of what you are trying to achieve, you may as well go back to driving a truck," he says.

"The money is better anyway."

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