From officer to truckie
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