SPUD RUN

Kev Har­ley gave the owner-driver game away, and now en­joys a sweet run from Queens­land to South Aus­tralia in a classy lim­ited-edi­tion Coron­ado. Peter and Di Sch­lenk write

Owner Driver - - News -

KEV HAR­LEY is based in Bund­aberg, al­though it was in Ade­laide where Owner//Driver caught up him as he was or­gan­is­ing a re­turn load to Queens­land.

Kev drives a 2014 25th An­niver­sary Freight­liner Coron­ado 114 for Queens­land sweet potato grower Gary Shoo­bridge, who trades as Wide Bay Re­frig­er­ated Trans­port.

” The freight is there ev­ery week,” Kev says.

“Sweet pota­toes down to Ade­laide and pota­toes back to the Bris­bane mar­kets.

“All Gary grows is sweet pota­toes and the weather in Queens­land and the red vol­canic soil is just right for them.”

Kev pre­vi­ously drove a Ken­worth K200, but now he’s more than happy to be in the Coron­ado.

“It’s a nice truck and very com­fort­able,” he says.

“It has all the bells and whis­tles, and is well decked out.

“It’s like a five-star mo­tel with TV, fridge, kettle, oven, and a top- of-the-range stereo sys­tem – ev­ery­thing I want.”

Up front is a Detroit DD15, cou­pled to an 18-speed man­ual gear­box and air bag rear- end sus­pen­sion. He says the long wheelbase also helps smooth the drive, espe­cially on some of the high­ways in west­ern NSW.

“Run­ning out through Bro­ken Hill and Co­bar is rough on the gear; the roads take a pound­ing.

“On top of that, you need to be vig­i­lant of the wildlife cross­ing the road. There are that many ’roos, emus and goats and then there are the pigs that are so hun­gry they eat the road­kill.

“They won’t even move; you’ve got to go around them.”

Kev ad­mits to be­ing fairly dis­mayed over the dam­age done to the rig by ’roos.

“When I ring the boss to ad­vise that an­other ’roo has hit us, I’m more up­set than he is. He re­marks that it is ‘part of the job’.

DREAM JOB

Kev has spent 20 years in the road trans­port in­dus­try, but says this job is the best so far. It’s a four- day trip, two down and two back and then he spends three days at home, which he says is one of the best things about work­ing for Gary.

“It’s taken 20 years to get a job like this, so when you fi­nally get it you hang on to it,” he smiles.

“Gary is a very fam­ily- ori­ented guy who wants you to be home and have time with your fam­ily.”

Kev is a qual­i­fied me­chanic so he gets paid ex­tra for ser­vic­ing the Freight­liner and ac­com­pa­ny­ing B- dou­ble trail­ers.

“It’s a lot cheaper than a work­shop would charge, so it’s a win-win for both of us. As soon as I get home I’m around it or do­ing some­thing to it, whether it’s wash­ing or main­te­nance or what­ever.”

“It’s taken 20 years to get a job like this”

Kev’s love of trucks and me­chan­ics comes from his fa­ther Alan Har­ley.

“’Snarly Har­ley’ was his nick­name on the high­way,” Kev ex­plains.

“He just snapped and had a bite ev­ery now and again.

“He had his own trucks and pushed me into the span­ners first so I got qual­i­fied. It has been a big ad­van­tage.”

The Har­leys lived on the cen­tral coast of NSW and when Kev first left school he would off­side with his fa­ther and do a Syd­ney-Mel­bourne-Bris­bane and back to Syd­ney tri­an­gle weekly.

“I first got be­hind the wheel of a truck when I was 15. Dad was driv­ing for Lake­line Tip­pers, and while out load­ing grain and stuff he used to be out back and would get me to move it for­ward and back to load it evenly,” Kev says. “That was a W-model; it was a great way to learn.”

Kev says when he was a bit older Alan would let him do a few laps around the block with his mates af­ter wash­ing the truck on the week­end.

“You feel in­vin­ci­ble then and you learnt re­spon­si­bil­ity and ap­pre­ci­ated the lit­tle things, like driv­ing around the block.”

Kev ended up with his own garage in Gin Gin do­ing ser­vic­ing and re­pairs. He also op­er­ated his own tow truck and Volvo NH12 car car­rier.

“In a lit­tle coun­try town ev­ery­one needs their car and, be­ing the kind of bloke I am, too kind, it’s usu­ally fix me up when you can.

“That was my down­fall, that and bend­ing over cars all day. It was too hard on my back.”

Kev con­tin­ued with the car car­rier run­ning from Bris­bane to Mackay twice weekly, and then, when the mines cut back, the work just stopped.

He had plenty of work go­ing north but noth­ing go­ing south.

“It wasn’t vi­able so I ended up park­ing it up and driv­ing for some­one else,” he re­calls.

“It was just sit­ting there wast­ing away so I thought I might as well move it on.”

There are no re­grets from Kev, espe­cially now that he’s be­hind the wheel of the 25th An­niver­sary Coron­ado. Af­ter speak­ing to Owner//Driver, Kev loaded up his freight of pota­toes and was then on his way to Co­bar to make the Bris­bane mar­kets the fol­low­ing evening.

“It’s a bit of a slog tonight but that is the tough­est part of the job,” Kev smiles.

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