— 2013 In­ter­na­tional

PJ An­nett has been driv­ing In­ter­na­tion­als since the early 1960s, his lat­est a 2013 Ea­gle amid a fleet a Ken­worths. Peter and Di Sch­lenk write

Owner Driver - - OWNER // DRIVER -

PJ AN­NETT is one of the true gen­tle­men of the Aus­tralian truck­ing in­dus­try.

A veteran be­hind the wheel, PJ, who will turn 75 next birth­day, is well known and re­spected in the lo­cal com­mu­nity. He now has six B-dou­bles in his fleet – all Ken­worths apart from his favourite, a 2013 In­ter­na­tional Ea­gle, which he still drives oc­ca­sion­ally.

He built his busi­ness, based in Hey­wood, west­ern Vic­to­ria, from hum­ble be­gin­nings into a very pro­fes­sional op­er­a­tion.

He re­calls dur­ing his school years that his dad Mervyn would do the ‘milk rounds’, pick­ing up milk cans from lo­cal dairies in his 1936 Ford. Dur­ing the day, Mervyn col­lected wood for the lo­cal cheese fac­tory’s boil­ers. Back then, ev­ery­thing was driven by steam.

PJ’s first job when he left school at age 16 was in the cheese fac­tory. Later, in 1960, he found a work with a bull­doz­ing con­trac­tor, ser­vic­ing bull­doz­ers as well as do­ing land clear­ing.

“I re­ally en­joyed it,” PJ says. “It’s ironic that many of the blocks I cleared are now be­ing re­planted with blue gums.”

PJ’s brother Kevin was work­ing for Hey­wood Haulage, owned by the Bas­sett broth­ers. PJ ended up there as well.

In 1963, Bas­setts went into road con­struc­tion, buying a new In­ter­na­tional AV 182 with a sin­gle-axle trailer. PJ be­came the In­ter­na­tional’s proud driver.

“It was the big­gest truck in the area,” PJ re­calls. “It had a 50hp 6-cylin­der petrol en­gine, 5-speed gearbox and I was king of the road.

“There were four Bas­sett broth­ers and four Ar­nett broth­ers and we all got on ex­cep­tion­ally well,” he adds.

PJ worked with the com­pany un­til it sold out in 1970, with the Bas­sett Broth­ers sug­gest­ing that he should buy their trucks.

“That was a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity,” he says. “It was as sim­ple as that and I be­came a fleet op­er­a­tor. They were the good old days.”

PJ An­nett Cartage Con­trac­tors grew from there, even build­ing its own trail­ers. PJ has al­ways been keen on In­ter­na­tion­als and in 1978 he bought the first bo­gie drive, a 3070B. It was while in Mel­bourne that he first saw a tri-axle pig trailer.

“We didn’t do much dur­ing the win­ter months so we went to Hamelex White and bought the bits and pieces to put one to­gether.”

PJ’s love of In­ter­na­tion­als saw him pur­chase S-Lines, T-Lines, Atkin­sons and Transtars.

“In­ter­na­tion­als are a good sim­ple old truck and I love them,” he smiles. “The Ea­gle is a very com­fort­able truck and I am go­ing up and down the road when I have to and still en­joy it.”

The lat­est com­bi­na­tion to join the fleet is a Ken­worth T909 day cab B-dou­ble and, like the other trucks, it’s a very smart unit.

The An­nett trucks have al­ways been in­stantly recog­nis­able with their white bands and the An­nett name stand­ing out big and bold on the doors.

That’s an em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tion in hu­mor­ous sort of way for PJ. He says the fact that he’s been driv­ing so long means “ev­ery bug­ger seems to know me but I don’t know them”.

“You could vir­tu­ally take the name off the door and they would still know whose truck it is,” he adds.

The An­nett trucks cer­tainly de­liver the goods and PJ has hired a bunch of re­li­able driv­ers who run up to NSW and Queens­land, in­clud­ing travers­ing out into the dirt and dust.

PJ’s son Nick drives and man­ages the fleet, while his wife Lindy looks af­ter the of­fice and han­dles the book­work. Lindy also de­signed the art­work on the new B-dou­ble.

“Peo­ple ad­mire our ma­chin­ery but you can usu­ally say that the op­er­a­tion be­hind the ma­chin­ery is pretty good as well; we have some great peo­ple.

“Lindy is al­ways busy with five chil­dren but, as they say, to get some­thing done ask a busy per­son.

“The other thing is that over the years we have built up a pretty good work­shop.

Like many op­er­a­tors in that cor­ner of the state, the An­netts are in­volved in blue gum har­vest­ing.

“The blue gum has cer­tainly taken off and given things a new lease on life,” PJ says. “The amount of peo­ple the in­dus­try em­ploys is as­tro­nom­i­cal but it con­cerns me a bit that if our Aus­tralian dol­lar goes hay­wire, the con­tracts will be worth noth­ing.

PJ loves the trans­port in­dus­try but his big­gest prob­lem is that no-one seems to start off at the same base.

“Some peo­ple tend to want to put their money in the wrong thing and they don’t put it back into the busi­ness. You have got to put it back into what makes the money.”

De­spite his age, PJ says he’s keen to have a few more years be­hind the wheel.

PJ An­nett’s favourite truck: his 2013 In­ter­na­tional Ea­gle

Now in his mid-70s, PJ has no plans to re­tire just yet

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