Greats of freight

Cur­rent and for­mer trans­port own­ers and driv­ers were recog­nised for their con­tri­bu­tions to the in­dus­try at this year’s Shell Rim­ula Wall of Fame cer­e­mony. Cobey Bar­tels re­ports from Alice Springs

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Alice Spring Hall of Fame wel­comes new in­ductees

THE NA­TIONAL ROAD TRANS­PORT HALL OF FAME re­union sees hun­dreds, some­times thou­sands, of truck­ing and trans­port leg­ends flock to Alice Springs each year. You’ll be hard pressed find­ing this many truck­ies in one place: young and old, male and fe­male – all with diesel in their blood and a view of the high­way never far from their mind. This year’s Re­union took place on the last week­end in Au­gust, kick­ing off with the emo­tion­ally-charged Shell Rim­ula Wall of Fame cer­e­mony, where 70-odd trans­port he­roes were hon­oured for their ser­vice to the in­dus­try.

Proud truck­ies, fam­ily mem­bers, col­leagues, and vol­un­teers gath­ered in the Hall of Fame for the cer­e­mony on Sat­ur­day morn­ing, eyes drawn to the floor-to-ceil­ing mem­o­ra­bilia lin­ing the walls.

You walk into the Wall of Fame cer­e­mony, whether it’s your first time or your 10th, and you are guar­an­teed to leave with an even greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the road trans­port in­dus­try than be­fore – it’s a one-of-a-kind event.

In ad­di­tion to the Wall of Fame in­ductees, vet­eran trans­port in­dus­try iden­ti­ties Lex Gor­don and Bob McMil­lan, the lat­ter a for­mer Owner//Driver colum­nist, were an­nounced as In­dus­try Icons.

Pro­ceed­ings com­menced with an ad­dress from much-loved Hall of Fame chief ex­ec­u­tive Liz Mar­tin OAM – the self­less in­dus­try icon be­hind the Hall of Fame op­er­a­tion. Mar­tin took the time to thank spon­sors, vol­un­teers, and at­ten­dees for mak­ing the Wall of Fame cer­e­mony pos­si­ble.

“We have many spon­sors who stepped up to the plate for us and I’d also like to thank all of you in­di­vid­u­als that do­nate pho­tos, trucks and mem­o­ra­bilia to us: our fa­cil­ity wouldn’t be where it is to­day with­out you,” Mar­tin says.

Mayor of Alice Springs Damien Ryan got up to say a few words, em­pha­sis­ing his deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion of truck­ies

– a re­fresh­ingly pleas­ant sen­ti­ment from a mem­ber of par­lia­ment. “What Liz does out here with her small com­mit­tee is fan­tas­tic and it’s a great way to com­mem­o­rate and re­mem­ber the his­tory,” Ryan says. “Alice Springs would have never been here with­out peo­ple who drive trucks.

“I re­ally com­mend you and your fam­i­lies. I un­der­stand the fact that fam­i­lies have got to be very strong to sup­port

peo­ple in this in­dus­try be­cause some­one’s on the road for a lot of days.

“I also re­flect on the truck­ies at the mo­ment, the way they’re help­ing the farm­ers,” he adds. “It’s great what you do for our coun­try and it’s great you have this spot here that com­mem­o­rates that.”

Emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence

As the cer­e­mony rolled on, a com­mon theme emerged: hu­mil­ity and gen­uine sur­prise on the faces of ev­ery in­ductee called to the stage.

The men and women ac­knowl­edged were self­less, they didn’t ex­pect the recog­ni­tion, but all were over­whelm­ingly thank­ful when given the hon­our of a spot on the wall.

Sadly a num­ber of in­ductees were no longer with us, but fam­ily and friends were there to ac­cept the awards, a touch­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­one in the room. “The sad part for me with the Wall of Fame is the num­ber of in­ductees that have passed away and what we would like to see is that the fam­i­lies and the com­mu­nity ac­knowl­edge those peo­ple,” Mar­tin says.

The in­ductees Owner//Driver spoke to af­ter the cer­e­mony couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces, re­ally driv­ing home just how im­por­tant the Wall of Fame is in acknowledging peo­ple who have de­voted a life­time to the trans­port in­dus­try.

Ka­punda-based truck­ing icon Mar­a­lyn Bier­wirth was in­ducted onto the wall af­ter decades of suc­cess­ful two-up and solo work run­ning road trains from Ade­laide to Dar­win. She says her late fa­ther would have been proud to see her name on the wall, and at­tributes her love of truck­ing to the early days spent with him in the truck.

“I think it would have made my late dad pretty proud, he had trucks of course and that’s where I started in the in­dus­try,” Bier­wirth says. “As a lit­tle girl I was al­ways with my dad in the trucks … and when I grew up I’d oc­ca­sion­ally drive trucks on the week­ends.”

She says she didn’t have much choice but to drive trucks, be­cause of­ten the only ve­hi­cle she had to get home in was a tip­per. “He’d say, ‘you can go home,’ and I’d say, ‘what am I go­ing to drive?’ ‘There’s the truck, go home,’ he’d say,” Bier­wirth laughs.

A suc­cess­ful truck­ing ca­reer was born af­ter she left school and started a trans­port com­pany with her then-hus­band. “I had a truck­ing busi­ness of my own with my first hus­band,” she says. “I still looked af­ter my chil­dren, did the hos­pi­tal­ity work, driv­ing at times with him in the trucks, and I did the book­work.”

“I think it would have made my late dad pretty proud.”

Bier­wirth ex­plains that af­ter sep­a­rat­ing from her first hus­band, she de­cided truck­ing would be her life’s work and af­ter meet­ing her cur­rent part­ner John the two of them be­came a suc­cess­ful two-up team.

“I de­cided once and for all, that truck­ing was go­ing to be my life,” she says. “So I’m with my now part­ner, who I’ve been with for many years, do­ing two-up work.”

In the be­gin­ning, John wasn’t too flash on the idea of twoup, but it had noth­ing to do with driv­ing along­side her.

“John wasn’t re­ally keen at the time to go two-up … it wasn’t that he didn’t want to go two-up with me of course, it’s just that it was a Kenworth and he wasn’t a Kenworth man, he was a Mack man,” she laughs. “But any­way, I got my way! Then oc­ca­sion­ally I’d do a lot of work on my own, pulling triple road trains up here to Dar­win in my 60s.”

Bier­wirth has had to give up driv­ing due to health is­sues, but says she loved ev­ery minute in the truck and would still be do­ing it to­day if she could.

“The last two years I’ve been off be­cause I de­vel­oped bone mar­row can­cer, so I’ve been told it’s not a good idea for me to be in a truck,” she ex­plains.

“I loved my job, which did help too be­cause I re­ally loved what I did. I found it in­ter­est­ing and I went to a lot of places I never thought I’d ever go. Some of the places there was not much life around, but I loved it.”

Long in­nings

Owner//Driver also caught up with vet­eran Tas­ma­nian truckie Ge­of­frey Clark, who did his first load as a young­ster. “I did my first load of logs at 11 years of age … I’m now go­ing on 81,” Ge­of­frey says.

“I had no trou­ble with the po­lice­man. When I went for my li­cence he said to me, ‘are you the young bug­ger that drives the trucks around?’ and when I said yes, he said, ‘what are we do­ing with the driver’s test, take me back.’”

Clark’s driv­ing ca­reer saw a brief hia­tus dur­ing which he com­pleted a me­chan­i­cal trade, but it wasn’t long be­fore he was back in the cab of a truck. “I left school and did my trade as a mo­tor me­chanic,” he says. “Af­ter that an op­por­tu­nity came up for me to do a con­tract cart­ing daily to the Cen­tral High­lands … and I did that for 30 years. I wore out five trucks and I’ve done, I think, about 5.5 mil­lion kilo­me­tres.”

The award came as a com­plete sur­prise af­ter Ge­of­frey’s long-time friend and me­chanic, Steve Denny from Denny Me­chan­i­cal, tricked him into think­ing they were go­ing on a hol­i­day.

“We drove up … I told him I’d take him a hol­i­day so we could keep it a se­cret,” Denny laughs. Clark says a place on the wall re­minds him of just how much he has to be proud of, cit­ing 30 years of on-time de­liv­er­ies in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions back when trucks weren’t too flash hot.

“To do 30 years into the Cen­tral High­lands with the cli­mate and the weather we’ve got there and not miss a day get­ting the goods through, then to sit back and think, ‘that can never be beaten’, it’s just some­thing I’m ever so proud of.”

Key sup­porter

Viva En­ergy Aus­tralia na­tional trans­port sales man­ager Robert Cav­ic­chi­olo says sup­port­ing the Shell Rim­ula Wall of

“I told him I’d take him on a hol­i­day so we could keep it a se­cret.”

Fame for the past 18 years has been a cause very close to the com­pany and they plan on back­ing it into the fu­ture.

“We’re a key spon­sor for this ac­tiv­ity and it’s very close to us in terms of what we do,” Cav­ic­chi­olo ex­plains.

“The most im­por­tant thing here is peo­ple be­ing recog­nised … it’s great to get be­hind that.

Ev­ery year is a great year, and ev­ery year brings a brand new set of in­ductees and leg­ends into the Hall of Fame. We’re al­ways happy to get be­hind Liz and the team and the vol­un­teers of this great func­tion.”

Sit­ting down with Liz Mar­tin af­ter the cer­e­mony, she ex­plained the need to keep this event run­ning for years to come and also the im­por­tance of im­prov­ing the pub­lic per­cep­tion of the trans­port in­dus­try.

“We plan on run­ning this well into the fu­ture,” she says. “We’ve been do­ing this for 18 years, and there are now just over 1,300 names up on the wall.

“The truck­ing in­dus­try is very much ma­ligned by the greater com­mu­nity so we love to put the pos­i­tive mes­sage out and en­cour­age an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the in­dus­try.

“This is also about the strong sense of pride in this truck­ing com­mu­nity and acknowledging that.”

“The most im­por­tant thing here is peo­ple be­ing recog­nised.”

Above: Wall of Fame In­ductee John Brad­ford stands proud at the en­trance to the fa­mous Road Trans­port Hall of Fame in Alice SpringsBe­low: The Viva En­ergy Aus­tralia crew, proud key spon­sors of the event: (L-R) Nick Lubran­sky, Dean Farn­worth, Robert Cav­ic­chi­olo and Yap Chong Hua

Above: Liz and some of her ex­cep­tional vol­un­teers in the iconic bush kitchen

Be­low: In­dus­try icon and for­mer Owner//Driver colum­nist Bob McMil­lan ad­dress­ing the crowd over lunch, in what was a touch­ing speech high­light­ing the cur­rent state of the in­dus­try. “The young ones com­ing through might be a bit rough around the edges, but we all were.”

Above: Liz Mar­tin kicks off the Shell Rim­ula Wall of Fame with her speech thank­ing spon­sors, vol­un­teers and guests

Left: Ge­of­frey Clark with his medal … 70 years truckin’!

Above: The medals, ready for their right­ful place with each and ev­ery hero hon­oured on the Shell Rim­ula Wall of Fame

Left: Mar­a­lyn Bier­wirth, who ran road­trains from Ade­laide to Dar­win with the best of ’em

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