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Industry salutes life of trucking icon Jim Cooper

Generosity and focus on efficiency and industry excellence highlighted


Trucking industry figures have hailed the life and accomplishments of Northern Territory trucking legend, Jim Cooper AM, on news that he had passed away in New Zealand.

Northern Territory Road Transport Association (NTRTA) executive officer Louise Bilato hailed Cooper’s contribution, noting that he was one of only three life members of that organisation and a founding member in 1978.

Bilato described him as a “transport specialist”.  

“He was always trying to improve the efficiency of the supply chain, essentially,” she said, noting his involvement in the use of huge mining multi-combinations to be seen on haul roads.

Later in life, this had extended to his involvement in dairying in NZ, where he modified milk tankers to take other backhaul loads.

While that was “massively to his credit”, so was his generosity, which she appreciated through his employment of three of her brothers as young tradesmen.

“Jim always paid above award wages,” she said.

“He always made it worth people’s while . . . well before anyone was pushing that.”

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chair David Smith paid tribute to the NTRTA’s inaugural president, who also served on the ATA board and council, saying he Jim Cooper leaves a remarkable legacy. 

“The name ‘Jim Cooper’ was synonymous with outback trucking in Australia,” Smith said.

“We will never forget all his help in the early days of the Australian Trucking Association.

“He was a true innovator and a tireless role model who did so much, not just for the NT trucking industry but the Australian trucking industry as a whole.

“This was because he truly believed our industry was stronger if we presented a united front.”

The ATA awarded Jim Cooper the National Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Trucking Industry in 1999.

“We send our deepest condolences to his family and all who knew him,” Smith said.

The National Road Transport Hall of Fame did the same before describing his importance to the industry and his life-achievements.

“Jim Cooper forged a formidable reputation in the road transport and mining industries in Australia and was a well known icon in the NT,” it said.

He was inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame in 2003.

“Jim started a business as a general carrier in NZ back in 1961 with a Leyland Comet truck. In February 1972 Jim moved to the NT and took over Gulf Transport which had two depots, one in Alice Springs and one in Darwin. He operated with a fleet of two AEC Mammoth Majors and a Volvo G88 along with a few worn trailers.

“Gulf Transport through a series of expansions, consolidations and acquisitions then became the Gulf RTA group operating well over 100 road trains across Australia.

“The RTA (Road trains of Australia) operation was sold in 2006 – an emotional moment for Jim Cooper – and in late 2010 the Gulf group of companies was sold to BIS (Brambles Industrial Services).

“The Cooper team at Powertrans est. 2001 started designing and manufacturing a unique underground mine truck along with powered and non-powered trailers.

“Today, the above ground Pit Hauler is a perfect example of the expertise at Powertrans – a remarkable innovation.

“Jim’s story can be found on our webpage


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