LINES OF THE TIMES
Australian truckies love their lines and scrolls. Rick ‘Chocs’ Hayman tells Tamara Whitsed about our unique truck signage style
LARGE FLEETS throughout Australia are adopting simpler livery. Plain white prime movers are the new black. But the tradition of lining and scrolling endures throughout Australia, especially among owner-drivers and small fleet operators.
Signwriter Rick ‘Chocs’ Hayman believes our popular lining and scrolling style is “timeless” and “unique to Australia”.
“It will suit a 1957 International and it would still look as good on a 2017 Kenworth,” he says.
Rick drove trucks throughout Victoria and interstate from 1978 until 2014 and has been signwriting trucks since 1985.
Many small fleet operators are among the repeat customers of his business, Hayman Signs, which is based in Teesdale, Victoria.
In the digital age, Rick is proud to be among the signwriters respected for their brush skills.
“I do a bit of everything in relation to signs,” says Rick, who is selftaught and specialises in truck signage. “I’ll brush paint, air brush, digital print …”
Reflecting on the evolution of Australian truck signage, Rick says our lines and scrolls are a continuation of the style used on horse-drawn vehicles in previous centuries. Trucks became quite plain after World War II.
“I think that things were very simplistic. I don’t think there was a lot of money about and I would go as far as saying there would be a lot of lettering scratched onto the truck by the person that owned it … just to make it legal.”
He suggests a revival in more elaborate signage was led by market gardeners and orchardists. Other truck owners followed suit.
Trucking was competitive in the 1950s, and truck operators relied on the signwriting on the truck door to attract their next job. It became common practice to have their new vehicles professionally signwritten.
Describing the Australian style that emerged, Rick says Australians traditionally like their trucks lined with rounded corners, not square.
“We like nothing too ridiculously over the top. We generally like a heavier block letter. We like a shadow on it, or a shade.
“We like similar things to [what] other drivers would have. Something that was written in the ’70s would still fit today’s truck driver. We’re not very good at change.”
He has observed subtle differences between the scrolling styles used in different states. For example, some Sydney signwriters will often draw a line all the way through their scrolls. Rick says Victorian signwriters are more likely to draw a line that meets a scroll but doesn’t pass all the way through it, “or starts behind the scroll”.
“In Queensland they would probably be a little more extended in their scrolls,” he says.
Ole ‘Lee’ Christensen’s scrolls illustrate this style. Lee often uses a specific scroll pattern which has been used around Brisbane since the horsedrawn era.
Within states there are variations of signage styles. Rick is confident he could distinguish between the work of other Victorian signwriters including Winton Francis or Euroa, Gordon
McCracken of Wodonga, the late Mal Ashdowne of Melbourne, and the late Frank Weeks of Geelong.
Rick says lines and scrolls look great on all brands of trucks.
“Between brands, it would only be the area that you scrolled that would be different – as opposed to the style.”
He has also embraced modern techniques. “The advent of PVC Tape has made it just that little bit quicker to top and bottom the letters.”
Rick sometimes uses this removable tape as a guide to help hand brush long straight lines. “Some people use it. Some don’t. It’s just another tool in the box.”
Adhesive vinyl lettering is also part of his toolkit. “It has to be generated on a computer and then forwarded to a plotter where it’s cut with an automated knife.”
He witnessed signwriters adopting this method in the 1980s. It was widely used by the 1990s.
“Because it’s cut out of vinyl, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a junky, cheap job,” Rick says.
“I don’t denigrate anybody for using any technique. I try to incorporate whatever I need to do to come out with the correct job. It may be vinyl lettering for easy removal. It may be hand-lined and scrolled or a combination of both.”
Rick hand-paints his scrolls – except for the rare occasion when a client requests vinyl scrolls. In this case, Rick would digitise one of his own hand-painted scrolls.
The number of signwriters who specialise in hand-brushing trucks is dwindling, but the demand for scrolls remains. That’s one reason some of the scrolls you see on today’s trucks are vinyl. Rick says expertise is needed to know where to place scrolls, regardless of whether they are vinyl or painted.
Vinyl is popular among fleet owners who turn their trucks over regularly. They want signage which can be removed quickly and affordably when they sell them.
Today many trucks are plain white, which is a logical moneysaving option. But there are still plenty of eye-catching trucks on the road. Signwriting draws attention away from scratches and minor dints, which is helpful if you run up lots of kilometres before trading in your truck.
Rick loves old trucks. He says signwriters rely on a “calculated guess” when asked to reproduce the style of old fleets, because old truck photos rarely show signwriting in detail. He is developing a technique that makes new lettering look weathered. In 2015 he painted the door of Geoff Dolan’s cabover Kenworth, deliberately making it appear as if it the signage had faded for 30 years. Rick hopes future truck restorers will resist the temptation to strip and repaint every project.
“We’ve got more than enough flash shiny ones now. I think every [truck] that gets painted and restored is another one that doesn’t exist in its original livery.
“I’d like to see a few more as they were – mechanically cleaned up and visually left alone.”
Rick Hayman with his own International Transtar. It features vinyl lettering and an airbrushed eagle. For the stripes he used a combination of paint and vinyl on the back International is featured The only scroll on Rick’s of the truck
Euroa signwriter Winton Francis at work
Kenworth Rick Hayman painted the door of Murray Langford’s
Gordon McCracken’s distinctive scrolls on his own Kenworth S2