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
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’.
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.