Ted Scarfe has re­tired af­ter 60 years on the road. He tells Tamara Whitsed about the worst mem­ory of his long ca­reer

Owner Driver - - OWNER // DRIVER -

TRUCKS HAVE changed dra­mat­i­cally dur­ing the years Ted Scarfe has spent on the road.

“I started driv­ing trucks in 1957, and I stopped driv­ing them ear­lier this year,” says Ted, 76, who lives in Cooran­bong, New South Wales, with his wife Joy.

“The first truck that I ever re­ally drove was when I was work­ing in the bush at Club Ter­race in East Gipp­s­land. I drove a Ley­land Comet with a tim­ber jinker on it.”

That was back in 1957, and the Ley­land only had 75hp. Com­pare that to the 500hp cab-over Ken­worth he was driv­ing when he re­tired ear­lier this year.

Ted has plenty of great mem­o­ries: the ca­ma­raderie of the 1960s; his tran­si­tion from em­ployee to owner-driver in 1963; cross­ing the Nullar­bor when 2500km of the road was still dirt; in­duc­tion to the Na­tional Road Trans­port Hall of Fame in 2007; and pub­li­ca­tion of his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Diesel in My Veins, in 2015.

But not all the mem­o­ries are good. In his book Ted refers to a fa­tal ac­ci­dent on the Hume High­way as “the worst day of my life”.

“That ac­ci­dent hap­pened in 1976, and I can de­scribe it to you in de­tail right now,” he tells Owner//Driver. “It’s some­thing that has never left me, and it never will.”

He was in his new Ken­worth K125 cart­ing vegetable oil for Bram­bles Bulk Haulage.

Gun­ning hadn’t yet been by­passed from the Hume High­way, so at 3am he was wind­ing his way through the Cul­lerin Ranges, NSW.


He slowed to about 50km/h be­cause of the rain and fog. A car trav­el­ling to­wards him was less cau­tious and crossed dou­ble lines to over­take another truck. Ted hit the brakes as soon as he saw head­lights on his side of the road. He steered as far left as he was able but the car slid into the front of Ted’s truck.

When the col­li­sion was over, Ted’s Ken­worth was in a pad­dock, lean­ing to the right, and his two pas­sen­gers were piled on top of him.

With mi­nor in­juries, all three man­aged to climb out of the truck. For­tu­nately the other truck avoided the col­li­sion.

But a pas­sen­ger in the car died in­stantly and a sec­ond car pas­sen­ger died in hos­pi­tal. Ted later needed a hip re­place­ment.

The sub­se­quent emo­tional scars have af­fected his life more than the phys­i­cal in­juries.

“I trav­elled up and down that old high­way for many years af­ter the ac­ci­dent. Ev­ery time I went past that par­tic­u­lar point, there’d be a shiver down my spine.”

He blames the ac­ci­dent for the de­pres­sion he has ex­pe­ri­enced in the decades since.

“I think if I hadn’t had that ac­ci­dent I prob­a­bly would’ve never had any de­pres­sion. Prior to that, even though you were poor and it was hard work and you trav­elled a lot of miles, there was re­ally noth­ing that got you too dis­ap­pointed.”

Look­ing back, Ted says one good thing came out of the ac­ci­dent – his long friend­ship with John Duff, a po­lice­man who ar­rived at the scene.

He be­lieves other po­lice at­tend­ing ac­ci­dents could learn from John’s ex­am­ple and “go in there with an open mind and an open heart”.

“Any time I hear of a truck ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing a car, ir­re­spec­tive of who’s in the wrong … I know ex­actly how that truck driver is feel­ing. I’d love to be able to go and talk to them and try and help them to get through the trauma that they’re go­ing to have, be­cause that trauma is never ever go­ing to leave them.”


Ted says it is im­por­tant for peo­ple who have wit­nessed or been in­volved in road ac­ci­dents to talk about their ex­pe­ri­ence.

“You need to ei­ther talk to some­body who has ex­pe­ri­enced that sort of trauma, or talk to some­body that you feel that you can hon­estly talk to and safely talk to.”

He chal­lenges those who be­lieve men shouldn’t cry: “There’s noth­ing wrong with show­ing your emo­tions.”

Ted knows driv­ers who left the in­dus­try be­cause of road trauma but he is glad sup­port from his fam­ily helped him con­tinue to work and en­joy a long and re­ward­ing ca­reer.

One of his ca­reer high­lights was buying his first truck in 1963 – a sec­ond-hand In­ter­na­tional AB 184. This was fol­lowed by a Deutz Jupiter, a B Model Mack, the 1975 Ken­worth K125, a 1924 Mercedes, an AEC Manda­tor and a 14304 MAN.

He also owned a Grey Ghost K125CR for a while. He bought it from Kwika­sair in 1973.

As a sub­con­trac­tor, Ted moved freight for Kwika­sair, Bram­bles, Mayne Nick­less, Fluid Freight, F Mur­ray, R&H Trans­port, TNT, Ken Thomas, Bar­ney Kerr, Frig­moble and oth­ers. He sold the last of his trucks in 1998.

Since then he has clocked up mil­lions of miles as a staff driver.

“I pre­ferred be­ing an owner-driver but I wouldn’t be one th­ese days. There’s not the ca­ma­raderie, and there are more de­mands on you now than what there was.”

Ted also spent a few years driv­ing coaches: “The freight used to walk on and off. But some­times the freight was a bit hard to get on with.”

A chap­ter of Ted’s book is de­voted to the ac­ci­dent. Writ­ing this chap­ter was ther­a­peu­tic, but that isn’t what in­spired him to write the book.

“I’ve been telling the dif­fer­ent sto­ries in my life to other peo­ple and they’d say, ‘Well, why don’t you put it in a book?’”

He be­gan writ­ing it in about 2000. “I just wrote sto­ries as they came to mind,” he says. Ted pub­lished Diesel in my

Veins in 2015 to raise funds for the Na­tional Road Trans­port Hall of Fame at Alice Springs which sells the book for $15 plus postage.

Phone 08 8952 7161 or email [email protected]­trans­porthall.com to or­der a copy.

“I’d love to be able to go and talk to them and try and help them to get through the trauma”

Ted Scarfe is en­joy­ing re­tired life at Cooran­bong, NSW and pow­er­ful more com­fort­able Trucks have be­come in 1957 since Ted be­gan driv­ing

Ted pulled a B-dou­ble with this Ken­worth * Sup­port af­ter a trau­matic event can aid re­cov­ery. For help or in­for­ma­tion talk to your lo­cal GP or health pro­fes­sional. For phone sup­port, con­tact BeyondBlue 1300 22 4636 or Men­sLine Aus­tralia 1300 78 99 78....

An AEC Manda­tor

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