Wally spent nine years as a mechanic in the Royal Australian Air Force which set him up with the life skills needed for his journey in the trucking industry.
“Back in those days it was a pretty good skillset, so we were cross-trained, essentially,” he says. “I worked for WhiteHorse Trucks initially doing hydraulic hoses, and I transitioned sideways into spare parts. I did that for a few years, then I went to Bendigo and did spare parts for Bendigo Trucks.”
Wally became an owner driver doing country linehaul for five and a half years with Discount Freight Express on Melbourne Horsham until he decided to open his own workshop, which also helped beginners to find their feet.
“I went to my own workshop because I’d learnt so much stuff from a variety of people up until that point,” he says. “I was prepared to have a bit of a crack at anything as well. It was a good learning place for apprentices because they did grass-root types of stuff and dealt with the customer.”
In Wally’s extensive time spent in the industry, he says the thing that has changed the most is technology.
“Initially when they brought in electronic engines, there was a huge kickback from mechanical stuff,” he says. “At the end of the day, the engine shut down and the technology has saved so many engines and grief for people, because the electronics has saved an engine. And then we’ve gone to things like Electronic Braking Systems (EBS), and all that stuff is a good thing.”
Wally says something else he has seen develop is the safety measures, as people nowadays are putting in a lot more time and effort to take the extra step.
“We tend to think more on a safety aspect,” he says. “Before, you just got on with the job and you hope that nobody got hurt. Now, we take time to have a discussion about what’s safe and what’s practical. People are willing to invest in specialist tools to make their job easier, which they wouldn’t have done before.”
Wally was awarded The Craig Roseneder Award for technical and maintenance excellence in 2006. Wally says it’s an excellent achievement that has provided him with so much more than just the glory.
“It’s a nice accolade to have, but it’s given me access to people and information,” he says.
“It wasn’t about what information I would take home, it was about what I could input into somebody else’s business and what they could input into mine. I have met so many knowledgeable people that are willing to help, it’s an industry that gives and gives, and generally for the right reasons.”
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers. Industry Icon is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.