Family attraction

Being a father himself, Paul Baker has found his niche in driving for a family-orientated South Australian transport business. Peter and Di Schlenk write

Family attraction
Paul's 2013 Kenny T909


Paul Baker was just readying his truck to go and load when Owner//Driver caught up with him at the BP Kewdale in Western Australia.

Paul drives a 2013 Kenworth Director Series T909 for J & C Meaney Transport of Korunye, a small township just north of Adelaide. The Cummins is set at 600hp and is more than ample for this application.

He had unloaded in Perth two days earlier, had his 24 hour break before loading and heading to Melbourne, pulling a road train as far as Adelaide.

It was Paul’s first trip to Perth in 15 years. The last time he came across it was dirt to Norseman.

"It has improved a lot since then, that’s for sure," Paul smiles.

"The road system around Perth is pretty good, and it’s an enjoyable stretch coming over here after doing the east coast, only unloading and loading once in a week."

Paul says he enjoys driving for company boss Joel Meaney, especially as the work is varied and interesting. It’s a family-orientated operation (Joel recently became a dad for the first time) and that suits Paul well.

"We did a little bit up north to Darwin and Coober Pedy and a lot of grain carting," he explains.

"You can be north of Port Augusta one week and running up the east coast the next, doing both general and bulk.

"Joel has his own crops and cart his own grain and a few of their neighbours’ as well."

Travelling companion

Paul lives in the southern Adelaide suburb of Noarlunga, around an hour or so south of Meaney Transport’s Korunye headquarters.

"I get to take the truck home and keep it clean and all that entails," he says. "It’s a beautiful truck; it looks great and is a top truck to drive and operate. I am spoilt!"

With the T909’s 50 inch sleeper, Paul has all he needs to cross Australia, including fridge, freezer, microwave and a 200 watt inverter to power his laptop so he watch TV and movies. It’s a home away from home for Paul, where he is often accompanied by his son Angus who lives in Mildura.

"Angus comes with me during his school holidays; he’s been coming with me since he was 18 months old," Paul says.

"I was in an Aerodyne and had the baby seat in the passenger seat. You could take him out to feed and change him.

"Mum would meet me in Adelaide and she would watch him while I unloaded and reloaded," he recalls.

"He loves the bunk and comes with me for two weeks at a time. He’s 13 now and likes this truck because he doesn’t have to sleep on the floor."

Industry experience

However, Paul says it’s the lack of family connections, the shortage of young talent coming through and the experienced drivers leaving the industry as his biggest concerns.

"The handing down of knowledge and know-how from father to son, it doesn’t happen anymore," he says.

"There is a big gap appearing where no-one is teaching the young lads. By the time they get a chance to get their licence, they are over trucks and have moved on."

Paul says he has never been the victim of logbook spelling errors, although his laziness has brought him undone at times.

"I’ve had my share of fines and mistakes but I have learnt from them."

Like more than a few long-haul drivers, Paul is fond of the Western Australian scheme.

"I’ve been with the South Australia and New South Wales systems and being told when to go to bed and when to get up just doesn’t seem right.

"A lot of the time you are forced to work longer hours. If you start your week later in the day you are chasing your tail all week to try and start early."

After 20 years in the industry, Paul knows his body clock well and has learned to read it. He believes that having someone or a logbook telling him that is time to go to bed is just plain silly.

"You’re going to bed when you’re not tired? It all makes no sense!

"It is bureaucracy at its best but it keeps someone in their job."

Despite these points, Paul says he can’t see himself doing any other job. He enjoys it and gets to see the countryside."

However, he hasn’t always driven trucks. He started his working life as a diesel mechanic apprentice at Adelaide Fuel Injection Services in the 1980s before moving to Mildura loading trucks at the Mildura Fruit Company.

He then found work at Wakefield Transport to run a 1500 pallet cool room.

"I got my truck licence at Wakefield Transport and drove rigids before going to work for Bogdans Transport who had a yard up there.

"While I was at Bogdans I obtained my semi licence and then my B-double licence and that was the start of my interstate career.

"So I’ve done it for a while now and am still enjoying it."

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