SOLID rock

Peter Thomp­son’s Peter­bilt is an ideal fit for an owner-driver who has twice helped move AC/DC on tours around Aus­tralia from his home base at the aptly named ‘The Rock’.

Deals on Wheels - - News & Reviews - Steve Skin­ner writes

The lo­cals call it the “lion of the plains”, a stun­ning ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tion which rises up from the sur­round­ing graz­ing and crop­ping coun­try be­tween Wagga Wagga and Al­bury in south­ern NSW.

The Rock Hill tow­ers over the small town named af­ter it, which caught global at­ten­tion in 2014 when leg­endary Aussie rock­ers AC/DC launched their 15th stu­dio al­bum Rock or Bust there.

Peter Thomp­son’s fleet of five ‘Thommo’s Ex­press’ trucks is based at The Rock. So it was ap­pro­pri­ate that Thommo should en­joy the priv­i­lege of tow­ing a trailer full of con­cert gear for AC/DC’s ‘Rock or Bust’ Aus­tralian tour be­hind his rugged-look­ing 379 Peter­bilt.

“I loved it,” says the AC/DC fan, who adds the trans­port was well or­gan­ised. “I met some nice blokes there.”

Peter is re­fer­ring to other tow op­er­a­tors, but he did meet the band mem­bers while help­ing trans­port them around Aus­tralia dur­ing an ear­lier tour in 1997.

“They’re short fellers,” he re­calls. “They only come up to your shoul­ders.”

In April Peter met an­other celebrity in the form of Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull, and yarned

with him for about 15 min­utes. Caught up in the min­i­mum rates mess, Peter was part of the truck con­voy in Can­berra on the eve of the abo­li­tion of the Road Safety Re­mu­ner­a­tion Tri­bunal.

Peter, part­ner Carolyn and daugh­ter Jess found them­selves plas­tered all over the na­tional me­dia, along with the Peter­bilt of course.

TRUCK­ING DES­TINY

Peter Thomp­son, 48, has been an owner driver for most of his adult life since buy­ing an old Ford LNT9000 when he was 21.

Grow­ing up in Yass on the Hume High­way in the days when in­ter­state trucks used to rum­ble through town, Peter reck­ons he and a mate could pick a model of truck un­seen, from the sound of the en­gine.

So it’s no sur­prise that three years ago the truck­ing tragic achieved a life­time goal in own­ing this great-look­ing Peter­bilt, man­u­fac­tured in the United States in 2000 and con­verted to right-hand drive in 2007 by Frank Christie of Melbourne.

The big Pete is nearly 9 me­tres long with a 6.6-me­tre wheel­base sup­port­ing a mas­sive 63-inch bunk with fridge, TV and cab­i­nets. It’s got a 14-litre Cum­mins N14 en­gine putting out 525 horse­power (386kW) and 1650 pound-foot of torque (2240Nm); a 10-speed box about to be re­placed with an 18 speed; and 3.7 Spicer diffs.

Peter says the en­gine is “bril­liant” on fuel and reck­ons it rides like an arm­chair. “You don’t feel bumps,” he adds. “You have to re­mem­ber where it’s rough and slow down for the sake of the truck.”

As well as tour­ing work the Peter­bilt pulls a float at times and helps out with sin­gle trailer gen­eral and ex­press work. The rest of the fleet is Ken­worth – a T950, T601, 404ST and Aero­dyne.

“I fix them up be­fore they break down,” Peter says of his trucks. “That’s what you have to do oth­er­wise you wouldn’t be in the busi­ness.

“I don’t see many owner-driver trucks on the side of the road, but I do see a lot of com­pany trucks.”

Run­ning five trucks is a seven-day-a-week job with Peter do­ing all the rou­tine main­te­nance him­self, in­clud­ing bear­ings (ex­cept for the steers).

Most parts for the Peter­bilt come from the

US, but oc­ca­sion­ally Peter can im­pro­vise – for ex­am­ple, by us­ing In­ter­na­tional ACCO en­gine mounts.

If he gets stuck with some­thing on any of the trucks, mate and next-door neigh­bour Ian Birch,

I love own­ing my trucks and I love be­ing a boss. Some­times I think I’m an idiot … but I do it be­cause I love it.

a for­mer diesel me­chanic, is usu­ally on hand to help out. For big­ger jobs Peter uses the Toll work­shop in Wagga – which is open to the public – or Detroit.

“I love own­ing my trucks and I love be­ing a boss,” Peter says proudly. “Some­times I think I’m an idiot … but I do it be­cause I love it.”

FAM­ILY BUSI­NESS

Peter Thomp­son says he can’t do what he does with­out the sup­port of Carolyn, along with Jor­dan, 18 (a builder) and Jess, 11.

Carolyn works a cou­ple of days a week in nearby Wagga Wagga as well as do­ing the books for the busi­ness, with reg­u­lar help from an ac­coun­tant.

She says in the early days she couldn’t pick the dif­fer­ence be­tween a Ken­worth and a Peter­bilt, iden­ti­fy­ing the trucks only by their colours.

It’s Jess who has been the other truck nut in the fam­ily since she be­gan trav­el­ling with Peter as a two-year-old. Jess still rides with her Dad ev­ery school hol­i­days, and most week­ends helps out at the shed just a block away from home, in­clud­ing truck wash­ing.

How­ever, de­spite all the grease and grime, Jess wants to be a beau­ti­cian when she grows up.

Main: Im­pres­sive sights: The Rock’s Peter­bilt.

In­set: Peter, Pete and fam­ily with a fa­mil­iar face in Can­berra

1. Thommo’s Ex­press fam­ily af­fair: Peter,

Jess, Carolyn and Jor­dan.

2. That’s a long bon­net.

3. The Pete is like a small apart­ment

inside.

4. Get­ting up front and per­sonal. 5. Frontal pro­tec­tion from Bar Up

Bull­bars of Wagga Wagga. 1

2

4

3

5

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