Western Star takes Pink concert around the country

Shane Kent was just one of many people behind star artist Pink’s summer Australian tour, quite literally helping to keep it on the road

Touring jobs are deceptively unique when compared to many others within the transport industry. Particularly gigs that go Australia-wide.

Typical interstate freight driving isn’t even quite the same, says truckie Shane Kent, who recently returned from driving for the hugely successful Pink tour.

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The rock star’s Summer Carnival tour took Australia by storm, with shows across five states and major stadiums including Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Optus Stadium in Perth and Accor Stadium in Sydney.

With that many shows comes a need for drivers who can move equipment from place to place, and 63-year-old Kent and his borrowed Western Star 4800 were one of a fleet of 44 trucks.

While he currently works in the family business, a Sydney-based company which does truck smash repairs and sells truck parts, he jumped at the chance to do something different.

Kent has driven for tours before, including big names such as AC/DC and Adele, and says the mindset is considerably different to what is required for other kinds of interstate driving.

“I’ve done the concert stuff for a couple of years, around 2015-17,” he explains. 

“A mate of mine got all the transport organised for the Pink tour, all 44 trucks. He rang and asked me to get a hold of a prime mover. And I thought, ‘you know what, I’d love to do it’.

“I asked my brother if I could borrow our prime mover. 

“While I’ve done it before, there’s a saying in the touring side of transport, ‘you hurry up and wait’. With general freight, you have a load that’s due in a couple of days.

“This is a big tour, you can get bigger tours in the amount of trucks, but seven weeks all over Australia, that’s pretty big.

“When you go into stadiums the 44 trucks don’t pull up out the front and whoever’s there first gets unloaded. It’s got to be precise.

“Because I’ve done the touring before, I know what it’s about. I told myself I’d commit to it, I’m in. Mentally, I said to myself ‘you’ve just got to get in that space before you go’.

“You’re going to be waiting around a lot. Just make sure you do it and you do it right. All the mucking around is part of the job.”

One of the big parts of being a rock and roll tour driver is knowing you’ll have to take your turn unloading as the crew build the stage piece by piece in each new venue

The Pink tour was unique as far as concert driving goes, from a freight perspective, Kent says.

Across his more than four decade-long transport career, touring is a fairly new addition to the CV, first taking up work with Australian Touring Services across 2014 and 2015.

The logistics of travelling from city to city across the seven weeks, including loading and unloading, is one of the more daunting parts of the whole process.

“We had the easy side of it just doing the transport,” Kent laughs.

And while it wasn’t quite the chaos that was the 78 trucks required for AC/DC in 2015, there were plenty of situations that had to be taken into consideration.

Drivers were required to drive two-up from Adelaide to Perth and Brisbane to Townsville, the longest journeys of the trip, while the last truck to leave Adelaide pulled a dolly behind its trailer in case of break downs.

“A lot of the artists that come into Australia rent a lot of gear when they’re doing world tours,” Kent explains. 

“But Pink owns every bit of her gear. She shipped 60 40-foot containers from America to Sydney, and when we left Townsville 44 trucks unloaded at the Port of Brisbane. 

“She went home to America, and the containers all went over to England. Apparently she was gone for nine months all together.”

Luckily for Shane, he was able to borrow one of the family’s prime movers to take part in the tour

And while he says it was a fantastic experience to be a part of, the time spent on the road was a good reminder of how gruelling some long journeys can be.

“I don’t know whether I’d do a seven-week tour again. It’s a lot, but I do enjoy the touring side of transport,” Kent says. 

“You’re not doing the miles, but when you’re loaded out you can’t take your time in case you break down or you’ll ruin the whole tour. 

“You might get out of Melbourne at midnight or 1am to get to Sydney for the next gig, but then you’ll be in Sydney for two days doing nothing. It’s the same thing. 

“A lot of people can’t do the concert stuff because it messes with their head too much. “They’re used to there being 20 pallets, get it to Brisbane tomorrow or the next day. If they breakdown, they wait to get it fixed. 

“With a tour, it’s so coordinated with everything it could muck the whole tour up.”

The Newcastle International Sports Centre, or McDonald Jones Stadium as it is known in the sponsorship world, played host to Pink’s Summer Carnival tour

Touring the world

Kent’s own touring career, in transport, has taken him on and off the road for various reasons across its nearly 44 years since he started driving with his father from Sydney to Melbourne at 19.

He went from driving the interstate route up and down the Hume, to driving across North America helping out the family truck parts business when it expanded to Canada.

While he’s spent plenty of time on the business side of things, Kent has always ended up back on the road again.

Given that he’s been largely running the business for the most part since 2019, he said it took a while to adjust again to the touring life.

“We call it being ‘trip fit’,” Kent laughs.

“It’d be like a guy playing rugby and giving it up for three months and then going back in. You pick it up because you’ve been doing it for years. 

“The first leg on the Pink tour was Sydney to Newcastle, and I was absolutely knackered. It was 170km! 

“A lot of people don’t realise unless they drive. You chase that white line for hours. It’s a balance. It’s not just experience.

“You don’t automatically pull over the second you get tired, or you’d be doing it every 10 minutes. It’s getting back to that mental state of driving. 

“By the time I got back, I could have jumped back in the truck and gone straight to Perth.”

Shane heading out of the gates at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane as part of the singer’s 44-truck strong transport team for the seven week 2024 Australian tour

Another positive to come out of the tour for Kent was a rekindling of love, for not only getting behind the wheel of a truck, but the transport industry as a whole.

Kent says he’d become a bit jaded to the industry, but working alongside his fellow drivers again made that appreciation come back.

“To look back on it, even though I’ve done touring before it was amazing to get back out there again and really admire the guys that still do it day after day,” he says. 

“The guys that are older than me are still out there doing it. I also met a lot of good, young drivers on this tour, and they were fantastic operators.

“Most of the time I travelled by myself, but you might go past the parking bay or truck stop and you see six or seven trucks in there. Some guys would travel together.

“It helped me realise that our industry as a whole still has a lot of good guys that are totally professional operators.

“They’ve improved the truck, improved the roads, but it doesn’t matter – it’s still 880km from Sydney to Melbourne.”

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