Back to basics: Owner-driver or company driver?

Barry Jones, currently driving a Kenworth T609, has experienced both sides of the coin. Peter and Di Schlenk write.

Back to basics: Owner-driver or company driver?
Barry ‘BJ’ Jones has opted for the life of an employee driver.


Barry Jones, known as ‘BJ’ to his mates, is one of a number of truckies who tried his hand at being an owner-driver, but then opted for the simpler life of being an employed driver.

Barry currently drives a Kenworth T609 for Barellan Freighters, based at Oxley near Brisbane. It’s been a long association with Barellan and the company’s managing director June Steinhardt.

"I used to subby for June when I had my own truck on the road," Barry says.

"I’ve been back on and off for three years, but I miss being an owner-driver."

However, Barry says it’s a good team environment at Barellan.

"We have a lot of older blokes and a couple of younger blokes that are still cutting their teeth. It’s a good balance.

"Everyone learns from each other and June is very good at keeping everyone moving. It’s quite an art.

"June is a good boss. She has done the hard yards and has earned the respect from others."

Barry explains that June started off as a driver before becoming an owner-driver. She now operates a fleet of 14 trucks.

Barellan Freighters specialises in carting produce. Barry runs up to north Queensland and south to the markets in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Driving an immaculate T609 makes the job a lot easier as well, with the Kenworth receiving plenty of bling treatment. Many of the brackets have been chromed; even the Icepack cover.

"We are looked after, Barry continues. "Anything we want we usually get.

"June is very driver orientated and it’s great to have a boss like that!"

As well as the T609, the Barellan fleet has two new T409 SARs, a T904, a T404, a T402, a K108 and six Western Stars.

Barry previously drove the Cat-powered K108 and says he’s still feeling his way with the new truck. But he’s impressed with the big 50-inch sleeper.

"I was a cab-over man before, but the T609 is a beautiful truck, although the E5 Cummins is not as responsive as the Cat," he smiles.

Mackay in north Queensland is home for Barry and he’ll often take the T609 north, have his break while another driver takes it further up the coast to load, bringing  it back with fresh produce, ready for Barry to head south.

"We do regular changeovers so it’s all about keeping the wheels turning. No-one is making money when we’re parked up."

Barry’s entry into the world of truck driving came through his father, Ron Jones who had his own business in Melbourne. Ron later moved to Queensland, met his future wife Merridy, and the couple had four children, three of which, including Barry, are driving trucks today.

"Dad and I had trucks together, running down the Hume; then we carted locally doing gravel and dirt," Barry recalls.

"Dad taught me everything about long distance driving."

Barry bought his first truck, an old eight wheel 2155 ACCO, even before he had a licence to drive.

"I actually learnt to drive in a Leyland Boxer. We had a few UDs and later I bought Volvos but I never had a Kenworth. Now I drive one."

Barry says Kenworths are the pick of the bunch.

"You just have to look at the finish of the cab and the driver comfort.

"I had a 2005 Volvo but it only had a parcel rack as a bed."

Barry enjoys long-haul driving, although there are a couple of aspects of the job he’s not overly happy with, namely the poor road conditions and over-zealous authorities.

He says the many of the roads in north Queensland have again taken a pounding during the wet season.

"There are some good and some bad … you just have to drive to the road conditions."

As far as rules and regulations are concerned, he believes the technicalities are starting to destroy the industry.

"I’m 53 and it’s just getting too hard," Barry says. "The days of being your own boss and your own man are well and truly gone unless you go out into the bush.

"We are even hit for making spelling mistakes in our work diaries. It’s all getting too much."

Barry still retains a link to his owner-driver past – a Cat-powered Freightliner parked at home in the shed.

"I hope the value comes back into trucks," he says. "It’s all I’ve got to retire on."

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