Aus­tralian truck­ies love their lines and scrolls. Rick ‘Chocs’ Hay­man tells Ta­mara Whitsed about our unique truck sig­nage style

Owner Driver - - News -

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

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