Fitzy ‘over the moon’ with win

Big Rigs - - DRIVER PROFILE - Alf Wil­son

THE stress lev­els faced by drivers to­day are much higher than those in past eras, says Barry “Fitzy” Fitzger­ald, the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Driver of the Year for 2018.

Barry, 67, is a Bo­ral ce­ment and fly ash tanker driver in NSW, and was pre­sented with the hon­our at an awards cer­e­mony in Can­berra on April 20.

The award recog­nises the out­stand­ing per­for­mance of a pro­fes­sional truck driver, in­clud­ing driv­ing skill, at­ti­tude and con­tri­bu­tion to in­dus­try im­prove­ment.

“I couldn’t be­lieve when my su­per­vi­sor Ge­off Beat­tie told me I had been nom­i­nated and was amongst the fi­nal three. I was over the moon to win and it was a great hon­our when my name was read out,” Barry told Big Rigs.

Coota­mundra-born Barry has been a truck driver for 49 years and plans to re­tire later this year.

“It has been a won­der­ful ca­reer but the stress and con­cen­tra­tion lev­els truck drivers have these days are more than any time in the past. You have to put your­self in a zone as you worry about every other road user. It might be car or car­a­van drivers or peo­ple walk­ing who are us­ing a de­vice like a mo­bile phone,” he said.

Barry’s con­cen­tra­tion lev­els have ob­vi­ously been mag­nif­i­cent as he has never had a traf­fic ac­ci­dent dur­ing mil­lions of miles or kilo­me­tres.

The vet­eran driver has been mar­ried to Jen­nie for 45 years and they have had two daugh­ters – Priscilla, aged 43, and Ta­mara, 42, and a son, Justin, 39.

“We also have nine grand­chil­dren, aged three to 18, and Jen has been very im­por­tant to me. For the first 24 years of my work­ing life I was away most of the time and she raised the kids. When I was at home I’d sleep a lot but we al­ways had a meal to­gether be­fore I took off on an in­ter­state run,” he said.

Barry said he was proud, at the age of 26, to join the ranks of Ansett Freight Ex­press and then trans­fer to Kwika­sair.

A neg­a­tive change in the road trans­port in­dus­try ac­cord­ing to Barry is the loss of ca­ma­raderie among many drivers.

“In the past peo­ple would stop and help if you had a flat tyre or break­down but now that is not al­ways the case. Most times they drive past. Hav­ing said that though, many don’t have to change a tyre our­selves now.”

Asked about fa­tigue laws for truck­ies, Barry said Bo­ral was a leader in mak­ing life on the road safer.

“All of the com­pany trucks have i360 GPS and track­ing com­put­ers and the com­pany knows where the truck and driver is at all times,” he said.

“In the old days the only form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion we had was by red pub­lic tele­phone boxes.”

Barry said the com­pany also had cam­eras in the trucks which filmed at the front and down each side to the steer­ing tyres.

Barry has con­trib­uted greatly to mak­ing Bo­ral’s fleets and drivers safer, been a men­tor and friend to many drivers and an ex­cel­lent rep­re­sen­ta­tive for them on safety and in­dus­trial com­mit­tees.

Barry started his ca­reer de­liv­er­ing fuel in 1971 for his fu­ture fa­ther-in-law who owned an Am­pol ser­vice sta­tion in Coota­mundra, NSW. He soon pro­gressed through sev­eral com­pa­nies trans­port­ing news­pa­pers, meat, live­stock and in­ter­state freight.

His abil­ity and his am­bi­tion to drive big trucks led him to Blue Cir­cle Ce­ment in 1993, a com­pany that Bo­ral would later ac­quire.

Driv­ing ce­ment tankers re­quires spe­cialised skills, man­ag­ing the po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous pro­cesses of load­ing and un­load­ing, the lat­ter re­quir­ing the ves­sels to be pres­surised.

Barry ac­quired these skills and also up­graded to a B-dou­ble li­cence, im­me­di­ately mak­ing the switch to the 60-tonne rigs, and has been driv­ing them ever since.

“In those days we had dayand night-shifts and the su­per­vi­sor put me in a truck to do day-shift, part­nered with a bloke called Rod Sell­wood who did nights,” Barry said.

The suc­cess­ful en­dur­ing part­ner­ship that still ex­ists is a re­flec­tion of their pride in their truck’s ap­pear­ance, right down to painted tyres, clean win­dows and mir­rors and spotless floor mats.

The part­ner­ship has sur­vived eight prime movers.

“We’ve done over three mil­lion kilo­me­tres in 25 years with­out a traf­fic ticket or a se­ri­ous in­ci­dent,” Barry said.

“Ev­ery­thing on the truck works – all the valves, hoses and cam locks – be­cause we look af­ter them. We have a strong sense of own­er­ship.”

Barry said that in two and a half decades of his work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Rod Sell­wood they “had never had a blue”.

“A few cross words from time to time but no ar­gu­ment. That must be some type of record.”

As for rest ar­eas, Barry said there were nowhere near enough of them for truck­ies.

“These days the rest ar­eas are mainly ser­vice sta­tions. Along the M-7 most are not long enough and are very dif­fi­cult to exit. A lot of the truck’s ar­eas are taken up by car­a­vans,” he said.

The worst road Barry has trav­elled on dur­ing his long ca­reer was be­tween Tar­cutta and Tu­ma­long.

“Two of my mates died on that sec­tion and are hon­oured at the Tar­cutta Truck­ers me­mo­rial,” he said.

On the flip side, Barry said, the Hume High­way be­tween Syd­ney and Mel­bourne was now won­der­ful to ne­go­ti­ate.

“It is two lanes and I also must praise the by­pass at Al­bury/Wodonga which has cut time of trav­el­ling and made it a safer jour­ney,” he said.

A favourite road­house of Barry in his long ca­reer was the Black Moun­tain be­tween Ar­mi­dale and Glen Innes.

“I use to stop there for a meal but don’t go to road­houses much now,” he said.

This gen­tle­man of the high­ways and by­ways also pos­sesses a sense of hu­mour, as be­came ap­par­ent when asked if he ever had any nick­names other than Fitzy.

“Some years ago I went to a pic­nic dressed as a mar­ket gar­dener and they called me Fitzy-Pop. Now I am a grand­dad or pop,” he said.

His hob­bies out­side work have in­cluded fol­low­ing speed­way and coach­ing a ju­nior rugby league team named the Hawks, which son Justin played for.

“That was when Justin was aged six to 12 and I bar­rack for the West Tigers in the NRL,” he said.

Upon his re­tire­ment, Barry will get a look at life in an­other form of trans­port when he tows a car­a­van up the east coast to Townsville in the far north of Queens­land.

“We pur­chased a car­a­van re­cently and Jen­nie and I reckon we will en­joy a trip away in it,” he said.

“I reckon 49 years as a truck driver is now enough but I have lived the dream do­ing it.”

Bo­ral Lo­gis­tics NSW/ACT Sup­ply Chain gen­eral man­ager Vic­to­ria Sher­wood said Barry was metic­u­lous in his ap­pear­ance and re­garded him­self and his equip­ment as Bo­ral’s face for cus­tomers and the com­mu­nity.

“Keep­ing ce­ment tankers clean is a chal­lenge since their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment is al­ways po­ten­tially dusty, par­tic­u­larly at mo­bile con­crete plants on con­struc­tion or high­way sites, but Barry and his night shift driv­ing part­ner have ef­fi­cient rou­tines for clean­ing their equip­ment,” Vic­to­ria said.

She said he was mind­ful of the con­stant con­cen­tra­tion re­quired for driv­ing heavy ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing aware­ness of oth­ers such as pedes­tri­ans cross­ing the road while look­ing at their mo­bile phones and cars cut­ting in front of turn­ing trucks.

Vic­to­ria said Barry’s pro­fes­sion­al­ism had shone through in the way he had elected to re­tire, recog­nis­ing four years ago that his knowl­edge and in­put could be missed.

“This was par­tic­u­larly so of his role on the safety com­mit­tee,” she said.

“He per­son­ally se­lected a driver he thought had po­ten­tial to re­place him as a drivers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive and asked him to take over the safety and in­dus­trial roles.

“He has been a shin­ing ex­am­ple of pro­fes­sion­al­ism to his fel­low drivers and he is re­spected by man­agers and drivers alike.”

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

DRIV­ING FORCE: Barry Fitzger­ald caps a stand-out ca­reer with his win as Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Driver of the Year at the Na­tional Truck­ing In­dus­try Awards in Can­berra. IN­SET, TOP TO BOT­TOM: Fitzy with his wife, Jen­nie; one of his old rigs; a shot from back in the day as a young truck driver.

Barry is look­ing for­ward to spend­ing more time with the grand­kids when he re­tires.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.