Safety is the mid­dle name of this revered driver

Big Rigs - - NEWS -

“HIS can-do at­ti­tude and pro­gres­sive think­ing when faced with ob­sta­cles make him in­valu­able.”

Those few words, writ­ten by Marschall Group op­er­a­tions man­ager Luke Skele about one of his long­est-serv­ing em­ploy­ees, un­der­line the rea­son 52-year-old Mark John­son was named the win­ner of this year’s Queens­land Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s Pro­fes­sional Driver of the Year award.

Mark’s his­tory as a pro­fes­sional driver stretches back to 1984 when he started with the Goondi­windi-based Mann’s Trans­port – which be­came the Marschall Group in 1986 – and ex­tended his stay to 34 years.

“Mark has a life­time (in the in­dus­try) and a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and with this has proved him­self to be a great as­set to our com­pany,” Luke Skele said.

In work terms, Mark could al­most be de­scribed as am­bidex­trous, on the one hand deeply in­volved with the heavy haulage side of the busi­ness and on the other a skilled crane op­er­a­tor.

“Over the years he has worked across many dif­fer­ent ar­eas of our busi­ness and has an in­ti­mate knowl­edge when it comes to re­strain­ing un­usual loads,” Luke said.

That skill, he added, had helped with some of Marschall Group’s re­cent ven­tures and was re­as­sur­ing for cus­tomers when they saw Mark’s ex­per­tise up close.

Mark’s ‘of­fice’ is a Freight­liner Ar­gosy, a twin-steer, cab-over prime mover fit­ted with a Hiab ve­hi­cle load­ing crane.

Show­ing that his broad-rang­ing work is no easy task, he holds a high-risk work li­cence as well as tick­ets for other crane classes and ma­chine op­er­at­ing li­cences.

Safety, it seems, could al­most be Mark’s mid­dle name.

He has an im­pec­ca­ble driv­ing record and, ac­cord­ing to Luke Skele, thinks not only of his own safety but also that of oth­ers.

His in­ti­mate un­der­stand­ing of ve­hi­cle oper­a­tion and load han­dling across ev­ery­thing from gen­eral freight to large, over­sized ma­chin­ery has been mostly learned through ex­pe­ri­ence and un­der­stand­ing.

“I learned to drive in Quilpie when I was 15. I’m 52 now and I’ve been driv­ing (pro­fes­sion­ally) since I was 18. I’ve done ev­ery­thing from haul­ing 35-tonne gas tanks to help­ing in­stall elec­tric­ity tow­ers,” Mark said.

Mark has no reg­u­lar drive routes, he sim­ply goes where his ex­per­tise is needed, but in his pro­fes­sional ca­reer he has, like singer Lucky Starr, “been ev­ery­where”.

“About the only places I haven’t driven to are Dar­win and Ho­bart,” he said.

The John­son fam­ily is also ac­tive in pro­mot­ing the road trans­port in­dus­try to the com­mu­nity. Mark and his wife Juanita are strong sup­port­ers of Gat­ton’s Lights on the Hill truck­ing memo­rial and Juanita is the com­mit­tee sec­re­tary.

And win­ning the QTA Pro­fes­sional Driver of the Year award?

“To be given that kind of

❝About the only places I haven’t driven to are Dar­win and Ho­bart. — Mark John­son, QTA Pro­fes­sional Driver of the Year

recog­ni­tion is spe­cial. I didn’t think I had a hope in hell of getting it and I didn’t even have a speech pre­pared,” he said.

Mark and Juanita have two daugh­ters and two grand­sons but he’s not sure if they will fol­low their award-win­ning grand­dad into the trans­port in­dus­try.

“They’re far more in­ter­ested in be­ing Batman at the mo­ment,” he laughed.

A few sim­ple words from Luke Skele sign off on Mark John­son’s QTA award fairy tale: “It is more than just a job or a pay cheque at the end of the week, it’s a way of life”.

PHOTO: YOURPHOTOGRAPHER.COM.AU

HUM­BLE HERO: Mark is al­ways think­ing of oth­ers.

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