Deb­bie Menz’ 2004 West­ern Star 4900

Deb­bie Menz drives a 2004 West­ern Star 4900 from Bris­bane to the Gold Coast. She tells Ta­mara Whitsed about the Bris­bane busi­ness she op­er­ates with hus­band Mark Menz, M&D Menz Trans­port

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

Deb­bie Menz’s 2004 West­ern Star 4900 stands out from the other trucks in the M&D Menz Trans­port fleet. Most of the Bris­bane com­pany’s trucks are painted in the light blue liv­ery her hus­band Mark chose when he bought his first truck, an Atkin­son, back in 1981. But Deb­bie’s truck is an eye-catch­ing pur­ple.

“It’s my favourite colour,” says Deb­bie, who drives the West­ern Star five days a week.

Re­cently she has been cart­ing two loads of con­tainer­ised pavers daily from Din­more near Ip­swich to Sanc­tu­ary Cove on the Gold Coast. M &D Menz Trans­port spe­cialises in con­tain­ers and has eight trucks op­er­at­ing from a yard in Wa­col, a Bris­bane sub­urb. The com­pany has in­vested in two con­tainer lifters.

Deb­bie’s life has re­volved around truck­ing since she met Mark back in 1984. Orig­i­nally from Melbourne, Deb­bie was work­ing as a nanny in Queens­land when they met, and Mark was run­ning his Atkin­son in­ter­state.

She en­joyed trav­el­ling in the truck with Mark, and they mar­ried in 1985. When their first child ar­rived, Deb­bie em­braced her new role as a mother. She en­joyed the 14 years she spent at home with Hay­ley (30), Amie (28), Erin (26) and Laura (22).

“I liked be­ing a home maker – bak­ing, and be­ing able to do all the school things,” Deb­bie says.

Mark and Deb­bie be­gan mar­ried life based in Mark’s New South Wales home town, Wagga Wagga. They also lived in Melbourne and Yass be­fore mov­ing to Queens­land 25 years ago.

When their chil­dren were young, Mark was of­ten in­ter­state, leav­ing Deb­bie at home with the girls.

“We were very lim­ited on money back in those days. It was pretty tough,” Deb­bie says.

She’s been through some hard times with me.

SUN­SHINE STATE

But their sit­u­a­tion im­proved when they moved to Queens­land. Wharf work helped them ex­pand the busi­ness from one truck to 14. It was a mixed fleet – Macks, Whites, Atkin­sons, Mercedes, West­ern Stars and Ken­worths. But it was hard work main­tain­ing and op­er­at­ing such a large fleet, so Mark down­sized in 1998.

Over the next few years, he grad­u­ally built the fleet up again with a va­ri­ety of work, in­clud­ing gen­eral freight and gro­ceries for Toll. They also carted min­ing equip­ment and steel.

Mean­while, their daugh­ters be­came more in­de­pen­dent, and Deb­bie found work as a cleaner and a per­sonal care as­sis­tant. She en­joyed work­ing with the el­derly, but her real am­bi­tion was to drive a truck: “I just al­ways wanted to. It was my goal.”

She was in­spired by her daugh­ter Hay­ley, who had al­ready ob­tained an MC li­cence. Deb­bie at­tended lessons with a pro­fes­sional driv­ing in­struc­tor.

“I sup­pose I found it pretty hard to grasp it all,” she ad­mits. But she per­se­vered and ob­tained her HC li­cence in 2010 and her MC li­cence a year later.

Deb­bie built up her con­fi­dence driv­ing two-up with Mark in a 1978 In­ter­na­tional Transtar 4300, trav­el­ling as far as Mt Isa, Bourke and Melbourne.

In 2014, Mark sur­prised Deb­bie by buy­ing her the pur­ple West­ern Star 4900. With a truck of her own, Deb­bie has pro­gressed to be­come a con­fi­dent driver on Bris­bane’s busy roads.

“I used to go from Bris­bane to War­wick which is about two hours each way. I used to love do­ing that,” she says.

Mark points out that Deb­bie was con­tribut­ing to the fam­ily busi­ness long be­fore she was driv­ing a truck: “She’s been through some hard times with me. The trans­port in­dus­try is very hard.”

Their big­gest chal­lenge came in 2011, when the Bris­bane floods hit their yard at Ox­ley. “I think we lost 14 trucks,” Mark says.

Many trail­ers were also dam­aged. Over 3.5m of water flowed through their work­shop, dam­ag­ing spare en­gines and spare parts. The water even reached their up­stairs of­fice. Mark says much of the dam­age was not cov­ered by their in­surance.

“If it had been a fire, it would have been cov­ered. Be­cause it was a flood, they didn’t cover it,” he says.

“That took the wind out of our sails. It cost us a lot of money, but it doesn’t mat­ter. There were a lot of peo­ple worse off than us.”

HIGHER GROUND

Mark and Deb­bie have re­lo­cated their yard to higher ground at Wa­col and to­day they run eight trucks. Over the past three years, they have adapted to the down­turn in min­ing. They spe­cialise in cart­ing con­tain­ers off the rail.

“We’re pretty lucky we’ve got some good re­li­able driv­ers,” Mark says. “Stan [Gibbs] has been with us for 17 years. He’s part of the fam­ily. We prob­a­bly wouldn’t be here with­out him be­cause he’s been the back­bone.”

Mark reg­u­larly drives a blue 2000 West­ern Star 4900 around Bris­bane, but he spends most of his time man­ag­ing the busi­ness and main­tain­ing ve­hi­cles.

He has re­stored a 1978 Atkin­son sim­i­lar to the one he owned back in the 1980s; and now he is re­build­ing his 1978 In­ter­na­tional Transtar 4300. He is es­pe­cially proud of his re­stored Dodge, which is a replica of the truck his fa­ther Darcy Menz drove in the Wagga Wagga district af­ter World War II.

Mark looks back fondly to his early years of truck­ing when he loaded and un­loaded pota­toes, fer­tiliser and hay by hand.

“It was all hard yards, but you never com­plained about it. It was good ex­er­cise. It kept you fit,” he adds.

Mark was still in his early teens in the ear­ly1970s when he first drove a truck to cart hay around farms in the Wagga re­gion. Later he carted stock for Greg Fin­nen and gen­eral freight for John Mey­ers.

He was only 23 when he bought his first truck. He was full of truck­ing am­bi­tion and un­aware of the highs and lows he and Deb­bie would face in their years in the truck­ing in­dus­try. To­day he is con­fi­dent their hard­est times are be­hind them.

Deb­bie is op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of M&D Menz Trans­port and con­tent to keep driv­ing her pur­ple West­ern Star.

I think we lost 14 trucks and a lot of it wasn’t in­sured.

Above: Deb­bie Menz drives this 2004 West­ern Star 4900 for M&D Menz Trans­port.

1

2

3

4

1. Mark Menz’s 1978 Atkin­son is sim­i­lar to the

truck he drove in the 1980s.

2. Deb­bie Menz was be­hind the wheel of Mark’s West­ern Star dur­ing the Sylvia’s Gap Road

Run in June.

3. Deb­bie Menz ful­filled her am­bi­tion to be­come

a truck driver.

4. Mark Menz has been an owner-driver since

he was 23.

5. The Bris­bane floods hit the Mark and Deb­bie’s

yard at Ox­ley in 2011.

6. The 2011 Bris­bane flood­wa­ters rose up the

stairs and into M&D Menz Trans­port of­fice. 7. Mark Menz es­ti­mates that they lost 14 trucks

in the 2011 Bris­bane floods. 7 5 6

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