Riding the technology wave

During his 35-year road transport centred career, Hamish Christie-Johnston lived and worked in New South Wales, Victoria, New Zealand and, briefly, in the United States of America.

Hamish Christie-Johnston was born at Corryong in north-east Victoria, the eldest son of Hilary and Hamish Christie-Johnston – who was at the time Parish Minister at the Corryong Presbyterian Church.

The family moved to Hobart when Hamish was an infant and lived there for about five years before moving back to Melbourne in 1970, where he was educated.

“Throughout my upbringing and working life, I’ve always been directly involved in supporting primary industries such as mining, agriculture and forestry,” Hamish says.

“Road transport has been the common thread running through all these activities, with the movement of livestock, produce, timber and mineral resources around the country.”

Hamish graduated from Melbourne University as a Mechanical Engineer and was subsequently interviewed by BHP, Kodak and Caterpillar.

“Fortunately, I ended up taking the job at Cat rather than Kodak,” he says with a wry grin.

“When I started at Cat in Tullamarine in 1987, Bob Hawke was the PM and Sir Joh was the Premier of Queensland. At that same time, the ubiquitous Cat 3406B truck engine was being fitted to a large number of new Western Star and Kenworth prime movers; and, of course, it was the launch year for the ground-breaking Detroit Series 60.”

After 20 years working for Caterpillar and two of the Cat dealers, Hamish worked for two mining services companies – first as General Manager in the largest mining equipment rental company in the world, and then as CEO of a small private underground mining services business.

In 2014, he joined the Penske team following the acquisition of what is now called Penske Australia & New Zealand. Penske represents a diverse range of brands such as Western Star Trucks, MAN Truck & Bus, Detroit, Allison Transmission, Dennis Eagle and MTU.

The technology changes that have occurred during his 35-year career really stand out for Hamish.

“From the mechanically governed Cat engines that I started my career with to the electronically controlled drivetrains and zero emissions solutions that we see today, this advancement is ongoing and certainly not slowing down,” he says.

As for those in the industry who’ve influenced him most, Hamish mentions Dale Elphinstone and Roger Penske.

“I reported directly to Dale during my time at Victorian and Tasmanian Cat Dealer William Adams and I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Roger since joining his organisation,” he says.

As for the future, Hamish says he is looking forward to the year ahead and the launch of new Western Star and MAN models into the Australian market, shortly followed by New Zealand.

“Our team has been working hard to prepare for these launches and to improve our levels of customer service in readiness for the increased demand these new products are expected to produce,” he says.

“Just as importantly, we’re passionate about developing our future leaders and creating an environment that attracts people to our industry.”

Industry Icon
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers. Industry Icon is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.