Dutchy's lifetime of transport memories

By: David McKenzie, Video by: David McKenzie

Bill ‘Dutchy’ Van Der Weerden has built up quite a collection of road transport memorabilia since he commenced his working life at age 14.


Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at Alice Springs in 2009, Bill ‘Dutchy’ Van Der Weerden has spent decades in the road transport industry, driving and subcontracting for a number of companies.

Originally from The Netherlands, Bill’s parents Wilhelumus and Henrietta Van Der Weerden packed up the family and immigrated to Australia in 1950. The voyage took six weeks, leaving their home country in October and arriving that November. The ship they sailed out on was half freight and half passengers, including 20 other families sailing with the Van Der Weerdens.

The family arrived at Station Pier at about 7pm and after filling in all the paperwork were bundled into a three-ton Austin milk truck by 11pm to make the trip to a small town in northeast Victoria called Moyhu where Wilhelumus knew another family who had relocated there. The Van Der Weerdens arrived in Moyhu at daybreak to begin their new life.

Out of seven children, Bill was the couple’s third oldest. He was eight at the time of the trip and thought it was all a great adventure. After being in Australia for 12 months, Bill decided he was going to be either a truck driver or bulldozer driver. He was fascinated with both.

One of Ken Howlett’s old Fords with a young Bill Van Der Weerden standing in front.

Bill’s first pay was from Ken Howlett Transport, which had a rabbit chiller in Moyhu. "Ken used to leave a refrigerated type of caravan in Moyhu where people would leave rabbits they had caught," Bill recalls. "They would write in a book how many they had left so he could pay them when he came to collect them."

Bill eventually obtained his driver’s licence, hauling freight between Melbourne and Mohyu in Howlett’s F600.

He went on to spend his entire working life as a driver and owner-driver, retiring at the age of 72. Along the way he worked for some of the industry’s biggest names including Cootes Transport and Linfox.

Bill says there were a couple of reasons he left the industry. One was knee trouble. Getting in and out of the truck got harder, and washing it was difficult. Cootes liked their trucks to be clean, and early mornings in the wash bay meant if Bill had a fall he might not be found for a couple of hours, which played on his mind.

Bill trained Ian Cootes in a lot of the aspects of delivering fuel as Ian had a desire to be a fuel tanker driver. Bill was doing metro fuel deliveries to petrol stations while Ian was working as a policeman. Bill would pick Ian up from the Port Melbourne police station and take him on the road to learn the ropes. He would get Ian to write down all the dips and get him to work out how much fuel you could put in each of the petrol stations tanks. With that training Ian was able to get a start at BP, and as Bill says "the rest is history".

Bill had a couple of roles with Linfox and one of his favourites was driving new Armaguard trucks to various states in Australia. He was usually flown home after a delivery, but on occasions would bring back an old truck and take it to where it would be dismantled.

Bill Van Der Weerden and a rare Linfox sign, made especially when the company took five vintage trucks to the Alice Springs Wall of Fame Reunion

Bill recounts one trip where he recognised a road crew asphalting a road in country Victoria because he had delivered bitumen to them in the past. He decided to turn around to say hello. The crew had never seen inside an armoured car and asked if they could have a look. Bill being a true gentleman gladly opened it up for them to take a look. Once the crew had had a look Bill took to the road again.

Not long after he noticed a police car behind him with lights and sirens on, wanting him to pull over, which of course he did. It turns out a motorist driving past where Bill had stopped, saw the truck with all the doors open and assumed it was a robbery in progress. "The policemen were all very happy that it was not an armed robbery," Bill says.

Throughout his career he has strong support from his wife Mary … especially the times he fell asleep in his dinner.

"I’ve had a 10-out-of-10 life and would do it all again," Bill says. If he ever feels the need to go for a run he has a number of drivers who are willing to take him out, but these days; however he’s happy to just sit in the passenger seat.

Read the full story on Bill Van Der Weerden in the October 2018 edition of Owner//Driver.

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