Licensed for the Titan

Starting from age 18, Western Australian owner-driver Jack Humphrey moved through the licence grades where he is now operating a 2007 Mack Titan Australia-wide. Peter and Di Schlenk write

Licensed for the Titan
Jack Humphrey’s Mack Titan looks squeaky clean after a good polish.

Owner//Driver caught up with Jack Humphrey at the BP Archerfield in Brisbane as he was waiting for a load home to Western Australia. Instead of sitting around, Jack was passing the time polishing his rig.

"I was lucky as the old man set us up," Jack recalls of his beginnings in the industry.

It’s a slightly bitter sweet story for Jack, but with a happy ending. From a young age he was keen to follow his father and get behind the wheel, but with Jack aged 18, getting the appropriate licence proved to be an obstacle.

It was only when Jack’s father was diagnosed with cancer that the opportunity came to become a professional driver.

"Dad, Grant Humphrey, has driven for 40 years and as a young man I always wanted to drive trucks," Jack explains.

"My old man got crook with prostate cancer and wrote a letter to the transport department in WA. They granted me a special conditions licence, an HR, to help us get through on the family farm."

The family farm is at York, 100km east of Perth, and Grant had taken over the farm from his father, Peter. However, it was critical for Jack to be able to drive to keep the farm operational while Grant recovered.

"He got well again and is at home working the farm.

"I had my HR for 12 months and when I turned 19, I phoned a driving school in WA and got my MC licence."

That was six years ago and Jack says he’s enjoying life and living the dream.

"I have always liked Mack trucks and the old man has always had Macks. He still has one at home, a 1997 Mack Titan with an E9 610 V8 in it. That one is very sweet."

Jack’s Titan is a 2007 model rated at 120 tonne with a Cummins Gen 2, rated at 620hp under the bonnet. It has a Mack 18 speed ’box and B55170 diffs riding on Neway air bag suspension.

Originally bought and owned by John Foggo, it was driven by Mick Wilson from brand new until that business went under. The truck was repossessed and the Humphreys bought it out of Wagga Wagga.

"I won’t break it in a hurry," Jack exclaims. "It’s heavy duty and with its long wheel base, I get a good ride.

"There is plenty of room in the cab although I wouldn’t mind putting a bigger bunk in.

"I haven’t got a TV but I’ve got a microwave and freezer so you can pretty well live by yourself."

Jack’s fiancée Hannah freezes his meals and he takes them on the road and microwaves them when required.

"It saves a bit of money and you know the food is good and nutritious," Jack says.

He adds that Hannah used to travel with him occasionally but she is now committed to a full time job back home.

"I think I would give her the shits if I stayed home too long," Jack smiles.

On the road

When there is work to do on the farm Jack runs around home doing harvest and some stock work, even a bit of general. But he says he loves being on the road.

"The old Mack keeps me out of mischief and I get to have a look around Australia.

"I couldn’t think of a better job really where you get paid to do what you love."

Jack knows only too well how fortunate he was to start his career at 19, but believes he would still have wanted to drive because this is what he has always wanted to do.

"Unfortunately it’s a dying era, especially for young fellows in trucks. Then the family comes along and they get married, have kids and want to stay at home.

"They have made it hard for the keen young fellows at 18 or 19, for a young bloke that wants to drive trucks. By the time they go through getting their licence and becoming old enough and experienced enough for someone to take them on, they have an alternative job or another career path by the time they actually get into it."

The WA way

Jack is a big fan of the WA logbook system and believes that the way the books are set up over the border doesn’t look after the driver at all.

"My honest opinion is that it is just about the money; all about the fines and that.

"I nearly went an hour over the other day and would have received a hefty fine. I hadn’t broken my 12 hour limit, just managed to run over by a half hour in a 24 hour period. There should be some flexibility.

"At the end of the day we are only out here trying to do our job," Jack says.

"There are cowboys who try and wreck it for everyone else but 95 percent of us are trying to do a job. It’s not like we are out here trying to be a hero."

The other glaring difference between the east and the west coast of Australia are the roads.

"They are absolutely rooted! The roads over here are some of the worst roads I have ever driven on. I drive on better dirt roads back home than some of the sealed roads in Queensland.

"We are very fortunate in WA because the infrastructure is very good. Even our back roads are better than some of the major highways here."

Jack is pleased to see more routes opened up to road trains but believes that the roads are no better than years ago.

"I came over the other day between Surat and Blue Gums and I was back to 65km/h because I couldn’t keep the thing on the road.

"I felt like I had been riding a horse all day by the time I pulled up."

Meanwhile, Jack went back to polishing his rig, but not before putting the feelers out to get a couple of loads back to Perth.

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