Allan Stuckings a hero at Hogans Heavy Haulage

By: Steve Skinner, Video by: Steve Skinner


Guest interviewer and fellow Hogans Heavy Haulage driver Robbie Cole asks Allan 'Stucko' Stuckings about his life and times with the big gear and his almost half a century of heavy haulage driving.

 

Hauling a four metre wide paving machine under escort down one of Australia’s major highways would be a big deal for most truckies.

But it’s just another day at the office for Allan Stuckings, known fondly in the Hunter Valley heavy haulage industry as ‘Stucko’.

When Owner/Driver recently caught up with Stucko, he was supervising the unloading of the machine which he’d carted from Wardell on the north coast of NSW nearly 600 kilometres down to Rutherford near Maitland, the main base of his employer Hogan’s Heavy Haulage.

Most of the way he’d been able to keep the wide load in the slow lane, using the highway’s generous shoulders, but sometimes the small convoy had to take up the whole road to cross a bridge.

But this machine was a tiddler: "The biggest load I’ve done in my time was 39 feet and 9 inches (12 metres) to Brisbane," Allan recalls.

"I’ve been in every state in Australia but Western Australia," he adds. "It’s too far to come back."

His longest trip took 23 days from Maitland to Darwin, Melbourne, Port Kembla, Narrabri and then back home.

Allan has been doing this sort of thing for more than 50 years, and has to be one of Australia’s most knowledgeable experts on heavy haulage.

The stories spill out endlessly from the good-natured character, invariably beginning with "You’ll have a laugh at this ..". But he’s a modest bloke who is clearly loved by his employers and workmates.

Not to mention his wife Bev, who still occasionally goes on trips with her husband of 55 years. The couple have lived in the same house in East Maitland since 1971.

Allan has worked for family-owned and family-oriented company Hogan’s for nearly 17 years, after he and his truck were "inherited" from his previous long-time employer MF Hayter, via Structural Cranes, both of which closed down.

He retired at age 71, but only long enough to paint the house before being coaxed back.

Allan in his trusty 700hp Volvo FH16 hauling a mobile batching plant mainframe, one of 26 company truckloads between the Hunter Valley and South Australia.

He loves his six-year-old "Volvodyne" as he calls it, an FH16 with 700 horsepower and over 3000Nm of torque -- "plenty of grunt" – and says the automated gearbox is "magic". He says the Volvo is comfortable of course, with plenty of room in the XL sleeper cab.

Mick Dernedde is the yard manager at Rutherford, and still occasionally drives when need be after learning the heavy haulage ropes in no small part from Allan. "You could ring him up and he would always know what to do," says Mick of his mentor and mate. "He’s always good for a yarn and good advice whenever you need it."

Mick says Allan has an unbelievable knowledge of bridge heights, lane widths, power line heights and the best way to get in and out of somewhere – and not just in the local area. And of course he’s a whiz on load heights, widths, lengths and weights.

Allan reckons there have been several times when law enforcement officers have pulled him up eagerly expecting to write up a fine, only to discover to their disappointment that he’s been just under whatever limits were stipulated. He adds that other officers are helpful and cooperative, and returns a compliment to Mick, saying he’s uncannily accurate on transit times.

Mentor, manager and mates – Allan Stuckings and Mick Dernedde

Mick started with Hogan’s a decade ago after many years on what he calls "nocturnal" east coast linehaul, always working against the clock.

"Heavy haulage is a different mindset, just slowing everything down," Mick says. "When you’re running up and down the highway in a B-double there’s not as much thought that goes into what you’re doing. When you’re wide and high your situational awareness has to be much better. It’s more about taking your time in getting the job done properly rather than making the time to keep a timeslot.

"It’s the old turtle mate – slow and steady wins the race. That’s the trick, just mosey along and do your own thing.

"The more sympathetic you are to the truck, the less problems you have," he adds. For example slowing down another 10km/h on a very hot day can save blowing the hard working little low loader tyres.

Rather than screwing his truck and low loader around a cul-de-sac on our short drive, Allan nosed into a driveway, then backed out, saving wear and tear not only the tyres but the axles and bearings as well.

Allan’s 79 going on 80 in August 2020, and reckons he’ll retire (for a second time) before then. But Mick reckons they’ll still be ringing ‘Stucko’, who’s always only too happy to help.

"The best part I’ve found over all of my years is if someone asks me how I do something they will always remember it and thank you ... They appreciate it."

Read the full story on Allan Stuckings, Hogan's Hero, in the August 2019 edition of Owner//Driver.

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