RIVERINA RICE RUNNER
Retired truckie Peter Clark spent 22 years moving rice in the Riverina and is proud about his induction into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. Tamara Whitsed visits him in Deniliquin
PETER CLARK of Deniliquin, New South Wales, spent many hours sleeping on uncomfortable truck seats during the first three decades of his long trucking career. He says a Commer was the most uncomfortable.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that he slept in a sleeper cab. It was like sleeping in a five-star hotel because the truck was an opulent 1988 Bicentennial Mack Super-Liner II. The ‘Kingsford Smith’ had a velour interior and was decked out with commemorative comforts including bedding and towels.
“You could stand up inside it and all that sort of thing,” Peter says. “It was pretty good to camp in.”
The Kingsford Smith was owned by Grant Haynes, who employed Peter to cart milk from Deniliquin to Sydney.
With a 500hp Mack E9 V8, the Super-Liner was more powerful than anything Peter had driven at that stage of his career. But he reckons there was something wrong with the Mack’s exhaust. “The Bicentennial was too noisy. If I did Canberra Friday night and Sydney Saturday night, I could still hear it in my ears on Wednesday. Most V8 Macks have got a real ‘pop, pop, pop’, but this thing just used to scrowl.”
He would rather drive a Deutz any day, because the Deutz he drove for Landinis of Wakool, near Deniliquin, “rode like a car”.
Peter drove many brands of trucks during his long career, including Bedford, Commer, Mercedes-Benz, Scania, Western Star, Diamond T and Kenworth.
His favourite was a 1975 Kenworth SAR he drove for Ricegrowers Co-operative Mills. He likes Kenworths because “they’re put together well”.
Looking back, he says improved braking is the best advancement he has witnessed since 1954. “The brakes on the English trucks I drove were a nightmare.” He loves modern power steering and is grateful for the improved design and comfort of truck seats.
Peter’s trucking career began in the mid-1950s when he spent about six months carting livestock and grain in an old petrol motor Commer for John Wilson of Tullakool, NSW.
In 1956 he began driving a Bedford for Landinis of Wakool. He carted cattle and sheep as far as Melbourne. “Then we’d come home and take the stock crates off, and wash the floor, put a load of wool on and take that to the wool stores in Melbourne.”
Later, he moved to Darlington Point near Griffith to cart timber to Melbourne for Fitzpatricks. In about 1964 the Clarks moved to Wakool and Peter again carted stock for Landinis.
In the early years of their marriage,
Mary enjoyed travelling with Peter in the Deutz and Commer. Their daughter Tracy travelled with them in a bassinet.
Mary remembers the excitement of hearing the Deutz approaching their Wakool home. Their dog Patty was always the first to hear it. Then little Tracy would recognise the sound and say, “Here’s daddy in his Deutz, mum.”
Peter was working on a farm at Caldwell, NSW, when second daughter, Jodie, was born.
They returned to Deniliquin when Peter found work with Lumbars. Peter carted grain to Melbourne, returning to Deniliquin with general freight.
In 1975, Peter began working with Ricegrowers. For 22 years he carted rice to Deniliquin from Finley, Jerilderie, Moulamein, Coleambally and Eulo in a robust bulk tanker custom made by Epex.
He took on a second job in the late 1980s. After carting rice all week, he spent the weekend in Grant Haynes’ famous Bicentennial Mack SuperLiner, pulling a milk tanker from Deniliquin to Sydney.
Ricegrowers made Peter redundant in about 1997 and he spent the last years of his career carting fuel for Lumbars in a Western Star.
Throughout his long career, Peter kept an excellent driving record and is proud he never attracted any demerit points. “I used to wear my mirrors out,” he says, explaining his decades of safe driving.
Peter retired 15 years ago and now enjoys making wrought iron seats and travelling to truck shows. The Deniliquin Truck Show is one of his favourites.
When Owner//Driver visited Peter in August, he was celebrating news that his nomination for induction into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame at Alice Springs had been successful. He was nominated by his friend Ian Holschier.
Peter’s health prevented him travelling to Alice Springs for the induction. He doesn’t blame his back pain on the years he spent shovelling gravel on and off trucks, lumping bags of wheat or cutting posts with an axe. He believes the pain is from “40-odd years” sitting in the driver’s seat with a wallet in his back pocket.
Looking back, Peter says he enjoyed every moment of trucking. “I loved it. There wasn't a day I didn't want to go to work.”
was too noisy.” “The Bicentennial
Peter spent 22 years pulling this bulk tanker for Ricegrowers Co-operative Mills. The tanker was custom made by Epex
Retired truckie Peter Clark, 81, was successfully nominated for the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at Alice Springs
Peter drove this Deutz in the early 1960s
Peter’s last job was carting fuel in this Western Star for Lumbars A load of timber on Fitzpatrick’s International R190 in the early 1960s