Owner Driver - - Contents -

Most fam­ily truck­ing busi­nesses en­counter plenty of and downs, but none more so than Boardman Sand and Gravel

THE AUS­TRALIAN TRANS­PORT IN­DUS­TRY is full of gen­er­a­tional sto­ries. Many of those sto­ries are full of highs and lows; in fact it’s fair to com­pare the av­er­age Aussie truck­ing story to the no­to­ri­ous Bruce High­way. It’s never easy, there are many pit­falls, it’s far from smooth, it’s a chal­lenge just to stay up­right and there are a fair few clowns com­ing straight at you. The Boardman fam­ily is one of those sto­ries. It was a plea­sure to sit down with Ja­son Boardman and his mum Wendy in the shadow of their 2013 Mack South­ern Cross which was bought as a trib­ute to Ja­son’s fa­ther Len­nie. While Boardman Sand and Gravel is al­most a house­hold name on Queens­land’s Sun­shine Coast, it was up in Toowoomba on the Dar­ling Downs where Ja­son’s grand­fa­ther Alf first got his boots dirty.

One of the first com­pa­nies he was in­volved in was Com­pass Oil­fields Truck­ing with Mil­ton Modin and Wally Har­bour, two other big names in the trans­port arena. If name drop­ping isn’t enough, we can drop in some truck his­tory as well. One of the trucks the com­pany ac­quired was a 1965 W923 318hp Ken­worth which it bought from Doug Wy­ton. For those up on their his­tory, yes that was the first Ken­worth sold by Brown and Hur­ley.

Be­fore we move on from the Com­pass days, we should drop an­other name in the mix. One of Alf’s em­ploy­ees at the time was a young Neil Mansell, who would go on to run one of Queens­land’s most suc­cess­ful trans­port com­pa­nies. In the spirit of round­ing this out, both Len­nie and Ja­son would end up work­ing for Neil Mansell Trans­port for some time.

When the Com­pass doors closed, Alf, who was also run­ning a few trucks of his own, bought into Multi-Mix con­crete in Toowoomba. He next de­cided to pack the fam­ily up and they headed down the range to the Sun­shine Coast. He played an in­te­gral part in set­ting up the con­crete plant at Cooroy.

By this stage Len­nie who, like his son to come, spent his for­ma­tive years hang­ing around the boot­straps of his fa­ther un­til he was old enough to get be­hind the wheel him­self.

Both Len­nie and his brother Rus­sell took to the truckie life like ducks to wa­ter, or more ap­pro­pri­ately like oil leaks to a rear diff.

“He’d been

his own

boss and

hated be­ing

told what

to do.”

Len­nie drove one of his dad’s trucks for quite a while be­fore buy­ing his first truck, ‘Wacco the Acco’ and do­ing con­tract work. He carted peat moss into the now closed peat fac­tory in Cooroy, haul­ing sand into the Caloun­dra race­course when that was be­ing built. There was hardly a project on the Sun­shine Coast where you wouldn’t see one of Alf’s, Len­nie’s or Rus­sell’s trucks.

As things got busier, Len­nie ended up putting on an­other cou­ple of trucks. Like all good soap op­eras, though, there were lows that fol­lowed the highs.

In Len­nie’s case, an ac­ci­dent with one of their trucks com­ing down the Maleny range caused the dra­mas. Thank­fully the driver was thrown clear and un­in­jured, but the fact that his li­cence had ex­pired the pre­vi­ous day gave the in­surance com­pany all the ex­cuse they needed to shake their heads.

The end re­sult was Len­nie sold up all of his trucks, bun­dled his wife Wendy and the kids, Ja­son and An­nette, into a car­a­van and took one of his dad’s con­crete trucks up to work on the Bur­dekin

Dam project. Wendy re­calls 1984’s camp­ing ad­ven­ture was not the most en­joy­able time. “Len­nie hated it. He’d been his own boss and hated be­ing told what to do,” she re­calls.

Tough era for truck­ing

The fam­ily re­turned to the Sun­shine Coast. Len­nie’s brother Rus­sell had a small truck con­tracted to Glen­dale Mo­bile Homes. It didn’t take much arm twist­ing for Len­nie to buy his own truck and the seeds of Boardman Broth­ers Trans­port be­gan.

The late 1980s and early ’90s were some of the tough­est for trans­port oper­a­tors. High in­ter­est rates and cut-throat com­pe­ti­tion saw many com­pa­nies come and go.

In fact, Rus­sell and Len­nie went from cart­ing mo­bile homes to ATCO huts to farm ma­chin­ery, trac­tors, head­ers and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. Even with the tough times, Boardman Broth­ers grew to a fleet of eight trucks cov­er­ing all of Aus­tralia.

As tough as the times were, Ja­son re­mem­bers them fondly. “I used to spend all hol­i­days go­ing every­where with Dad.”

One par­tic­u­lar two-week hol­i­day break saw Len­nie get­ting a Perth load when he was down in Syd­ney. Know­ing Ja­son was due back at school, he trans­planted him into one of the other trucks that was due to be re­turn­ing to Queens­land. When Len­nie re­turned home two weeks later, Ja­son was still in the other com­pany truck down around Melbourne. School be damned.

Even­tu­ally, Boardman Broth­ers was sold. Len­nie off­loaded all the trucks with the ex­cep­tion of his 1989 Ken­worth 425hp K100E. He con­tin­ued run­ning Case equip­ment na­tion­wide for sev­eral years. In what sounds like a script just for TV, Len­nie put a re­lief driver on for a trip as Len­nie had more than earned a break. Un­for­tu­nately the truck never re­turned to him.

An ac­ci­dent down south saw the big Ken­worth turned into a gar­den or­na­ment. Once again, the driver was lucky not to be se­ri­ously in­jured but it was the fi­nal straw for Len­nie.

“I used to spend all hol­i­days go­ing every­where with Dad.”

Back to busi­ness

Choos­ing not to buy his own truck again, Len­nie joined Mansell Trans­port as a com­pany driver. When he started at Mansell’s there was an ap­pren­tice diesel fit­ter just fin­ish­ing his fi­nal year. That ap­pren­tice was Len­nie’s son Ja­son, who had ended up at Mansell’s af­ter be­ing there for his high school work ex­pe­ri­ence blocks, as well as any school hol­i­days that he wasn’t with dad.

Mansell Trans­port also as­sisted him in get­ting into the driver’s seat. Well, get­ting into the driver’s seat with a li­cence is more ac­cu­rate. The fa­ther and son duo worked for sev­eral years to­gether on tanker work, rig shift, pipelines … you name it, they cov­ered it.

Even now Ja­son ad­mits he looks back on his years at Mansell’s as his best time in the in­dus­try, but even­tu­ally both Ja­son and Len­nie left the yel­low and red of Mansell’s for what was meant to be more lo­cal work at Caloun­dra Sand and Gravel.

I’m sure there are a few of you who, like me, snig­ger when we

re­call the amount of times we have heard the phrase, “Sure, you’ll be home most nights.” It ranks right up there with, “Yeah mate, the show­ers are clean,” “Just one easy drop and you’ll be home,” or, “Your book­ing time is when we’ll un­load you.”

Sure enough, Ja­son was hardly ever home. His abil­ity to han­dle any­thing meant he was most often given ev­ery­thing.

Len­nie, mean­while, had de­cided to step away from the big hours away from home and in­stead got into the owner-driver role again, pur­chas­ing a sec­ond-hand Mack Value­liner tip­per. The truck was re­named ‘Mack­asauras’ and in 2003 Boardman Sand and Gravel was formed.

Eleven months into his Caloun­dra Sand and Gravel stint, Len­nie de­cided to pur­chase a sec­ond-hand Western Star and poach Ja­son back into the fam­ily busi­ness.

It didn’t take much to con­vince him. The fa­ther and son team spent the next decade build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the Sun­shine Coast’s best. With a lot of ma­jor pro­jects go­ing on de­vel­op­ing the lo­cal area, the team flour­ished. At one stage they had 50 tip­pers, in­clud­ing con­trac­tors, on the books when they were work­ing the big pipe­line job of the mid-2000s.

Like ev­ery­thing though, it came to an end. The com­pany scaled right back at the end but was still ex­tremely busy.

Los­ing life’s bat­tle

The year 2011 had started with the busi­ness flour­ish­ing but ended ter­ri­bly for the fam­ily. Len­nie Boardman, aged just 52, was di­ag­nosed with pan­cre­atic can­cer. Af­ter a five-month strug­gle, the man that fought ev­ery­thing truck­ing could throw at him lost his bat­tle and passed away in 2012.

It hit the fam­ily ex­tremely hard, none more than Ja­son, who grew up idol­is­ing his fa­ther and soaked in all his old-school ethos and at­ti­tudes. Wendy, ever the strong wife and mother, ad­mits how dif­fi­cult it was as they at­tempted to grieve while also hav­ing to keep the busi­ness rolling.

Wendy’s fo­cus on the fam­i­lies that re­lied on the busi­ness for their in­comes and liveli­hoods, de­spite her grief, showed the char­ac­ter of the Boardman fam­ily.

One shining light that oc­curred in 2012 was the an­nounce­ment of the lim­ited-edi­tion Mack South­ern Cross Truck se­ries. Sales­man Steve Helm phoned Wendy to in­form her of Mack’s plans. Wendy’s re­sponse at the time was, “Don’t you tell Ja­son! He’ll want one.” She was spot on.

Ja­son even ad­mits “the truck isn’t ideal for their line of work” but be­ing as it was the year he’d lost his fa­ther, he knew straight away he wanted one to honour Len­nie.

With each truck or­dered, the own­ers could choose a spe­cific year to com­mem­o­rate Mack’s his­tory in Aus­tralia. Steve Helm en­sured the Board­mans got the num­ber 2012. When Wendy re­quested a mu­ral on the rear wall, he com­mis­sioned Sonny from Bel-Air in Bris­bane, who nailed it.

The other mark of re­spect shown by both Mack and Steve was the ef­fort he put in to hav­ing the truck de­liv­ered to Ja­son on May 29, 2013, the first an­niver­sary of Len­nie’s pass­ing.

The Mack is now five years old; it has clocked up over half a mil­lion kilo­me­tres and still looks stun­ning.

In the six years since Len­nie’s pass­ing, Board­mans has fol­lowed the same track as many other com­pa­nies, bat­tling the costs and nar­row profit mar­gins, as well as deal­ing with the col­lapse of cus­tomers who owed them sub­stan­tial amounts. How­ever, like many oth­ers, they also kept fight­ing.

The Boardman fleet is sit­ting strong at 12, which in­cludes the South­ern Cross plus the Western Star that Len­nie used as a dan­gling car­rot to get Ja­son into the fam­ily busi­ness.

Ja­son is now con­tin­u­ing the legacy his grand­fa­ther, un­cle and fa­ther had es­tab­lished in trans­port. It’s never easy but hav­ing in­her­ited the tenac­ity and per­se­ver­ance of his fa­ther, Ja­son has big plans for the fu­ture of Boardman Sand and Gravel. It also doesn’t hurt to have one of the coun­try’s best­look­ing Macks on his doorstep to re­mind him of those that have gone be­fore him.

“It’s been his whole life,” says Wendy when Ja­son strug­gles to find the words to en­com­pass his mo­ti­va­tion.

“It’s his en­thu­si­asm, his love, it’s in his blood. He’s third gen­er­a­tion in the truck in­dus­try; it’s his pas­sion.”

That pas­sion, mixed with a few hard-work­ing tip­pers, con­tin­ues to build the Boardman story.

“It’s his en­thu­si­asm, his love, it’s in his blood.”

Above: Wendy Boardman, son Ja­son and the com­mem­o­ra­tive Mack Su­per-Liner. Be­hind are other trucks in the Boardman Sand and Gravel fleet, in­clud­ing Len­nie Boardman’s old Western Star

Above: Mack sug­gested Bel-Air in Bris­bane to un­der­take the Su­perLiner’s trib­ute mu­ral of Len­nie BoardmanRight: The Boardman’s re­quested num­ber 2012 for lim­ited edi­tion Mack South­ern Cross se­ries, the year of Len­nie’s pass­ing

Be­low: An­other small but touch­ing trib­ute to Len­nie Boardman

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