True blue PJ

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

True blue PJ
PJ Annett’s favourite truck: his 2013 International Eagle


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 ironical 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 six cylinder petrol engine, five 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 recalls.

PJ worked with the company until they sold out in 1970, 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 yeah, I am going up and down the road when I have to and still enjoy it," he continues.

The latest combination to join the fleet is a Kenworth T909 day cab B-double and, like the other truckjs, 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 the goods and PJ has hired a bunch of reliable drivers which 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 of 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.

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