From of­fi­cer to truckie

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver - – Cobey Bar­tels

MOST TRUCKIES have seen the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s (ATA) Safety Truck on the roads at some point and many have also met the man be­hind the wheel, Glen Sch­midtke.

What peo­ple might not know, though, is that Glen has been driv­ing trucks for all of his adult life and even had a long stint with the po­lice.

For the past seven years, since leav­ing the po­lice, Glen has made a huge road safety im­pact around the na­tion, ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple of all ages on how to safely share the road with trucks.

“I was 11 years old when I started wash­ing trucks back in New­cas­tle,” Glen says as he ex­plains how it all started. “I pro­gressed to be­ing an ap­pren­tice me­chanic and did that, then got into driv­ing be­cause back then the $ 65 a week as a me­chanic wasn’t much!

“I’ve driven trucks since I was 18 years old and I can say I’ve been do­ing it for now for nearly 40 years.”

Glen says his time with the NSW High­way Pa­trol, a pe­riod of his ca­reer that spanned nearly three decades, fos­tered his de­vout pas­sion for road safety and he did as much as he could to cre­ate change while in the force.

“I had a 27-year stint in the NSW High­way Pa­trol and it gave me a real pas­sion for road safety.

“I dealt with a lot of ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing heavy ve­hi­cles where I worked, and I went to the road freight ad­vi­sory groups in the Hunter Re­gion and the road trans­port aware­ness groups dur­ing my time.

“I also had 17 years work­ing with the road trans­port aware­ness group down there do­ing the con­voy. That was all while I was with the po­lice.”

Glen be­gan get­ting in­volved with the ATA’s Safety Truck while still an of­fi­cer, tak­ing it around to schools when­ever it was in the New­cas­tle area. Af­ter fin­ish­ing up with the po­lice, the ATA ap­proached Glen and of­fered him the chance to spread his safety mes­sage.

“When I re­tired from the po­lice force, the ATA asked me if I wanted to drive and present the truck around the coun­try.

“Driv­ers are hard to get hold of so I con­sid­ered it and de­cided to come on board. I have now been here for seven years and we went from do­ing it around 15 weeks a year to last year when I spent 230 days away from home.”

The fo­cus of the Safety Truck, Glen ex­plains, is tar­get­ing at risk groups, and younger driv­ers fall into this cat­e­gory.

“The truck has been de­signed for 16 to 25-year- olds and I visit the younger kids as well, fo­cus­ing on the ‘Stop, Look, Wave’ cam­paign for Volvo.

“We’ve now got to the point where around nine out of 10 fa­tal ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing heavy ve­hi­cles are caused by the other party, not the truck.

“It costs the com­mu­nity and our in­dus­try mil­lions of dol­lars.

“My whole idea is: the young driv­ers are caus­ing and ex­posed to the most dan­ger on the road and so we need to work with them.

“They talk to each other and change their be­hav­iours, it works.”

Glen has also been vis­it­ing car­a­van shows to ed­u­cate grey no­mads who are a no­to­ri­ously con­tentious group among the trans­port com­mu­nity.

“The older ones want to tell you how good they are at driv­ing, and I do tar­get the older ones and work with the grey no­mads.

“It’s im­por­tant to work with the younger ones and change be­hav­iours early, but we also work with older peo­ple that are tow­ing camper vans.”

De­spite the truck sit­ting sta­tion­ary while train­ing is tak­ing place, the Volvo FH540 still sees about 65,000 kilo­me­tres each year and Glen says it hasn’t missed a beat.

“The Volvo is a com­fort­able truck to drive, and I’ve driven vir­tu­ally ev­ery type of truck on the road – this does the job well.

“I don’t stay in ho­tels; I’ll spend most nights in the truck be­cause that’s what I’m used to.”

When Owner//Driver caught up with Glen in Bris­bane he was com­ing off the back of a num­ber of school vis­its and a ca­reers expo.

“I’ve had 350 chil­dren go through the cab of the truck in the last week alone,” he said.

As far as he’s con­cerned, it doesn’t get much bet­ter than this.

“Hope­fully I’m go­ing to be able to do this for many years to come.”

ATA Safety Truck driver Glen Sch­midtke

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