Saturday, 18 June 2011

Truckie Tales: Kevin Zorzo, 48.

Photographer: Rohan Phillips 
Camera: Nikon D70s 
Lens: Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
(all photos)

 I photographed Kevin at the Wingfield BP truck stop in Adelaide in May 2007, and chatted to him for a while about his life and experiences as a truck driver. Here are a few of his stories.

Me: 'How long have you been driving trucks for?'

Kevin: "I’ve been doing interstate for just on two years now, but it must be the
best part of 30 years, almost, had sort of been doing local. We might do a couple of weeks Sydney-Brisbane then swap around and do Brisbane-Melbourne, and then throw in one across here every few months. 

It’s different, I enjoy it really. I used to travel away with a few of my mates and that, when the kids were little, we always had an agreement, me and the wife, that I wouldn’t do interstate until the kids were all grown up. Two boys, 25 and 23. It’s a hard life being away, especially with little ones. I’ve got one up at Bundaberg, and my youngest one’s still at home.  He (oldest son) used to come away when he was little and that. I used to work a lot of weekends, running into Sydney out of Lismore, so he used to come away.

I’d like to get my wife to come over, but see she works as well, so it’s a bit hard. We’ll organize it one day, got plenty of time. Unless I bloody win Lotto or something like that.

But the job’s good, especially with Taut-liner work, you’re not pushed, you’re not on time slots or anything like that. I brought horse feed across, out of Sydney. Whatever goes basically. I’ll load beer back out tomorrow to Brisbane. So horse feed across and beer back. The horse feed didn’t smell that bad. 


It’s a nice place, I don’t mind coming across here. Just relaxing, I find it more relaxing coming across here. Sydney to Brisbane, it’s just monotonous, too many cowboys out there, they’re all in a big hurry. I just like to cruise along. I’m on a kilometre rate.

Problem there (with load percentage paid hauling) is the blokes that own the trucks tend to not tell you exactly what they’re being paid. I remember first time I came to Adelaide last Christmas, I was only pulling a single then, I got here on the Saturday evening, spent the Sunday here, got talking to a few blokes, and there was a guy coming out of Victoria, he spent a week in Perth, waiting for a load. And then he said he was basically getting shafted, because the boss wasn’t telling him exactly what he was making. He pulls a load, and he was on 20% whatever they are. 


It’s only the major players that get the big benefits out of it (diesel), because they’re getting so much in bulk. Diesel’s only a by-product, and it’s the dearest going at the moment, compared to unleaded petrol, it’s dearer than petrol, you know; what a joke. As soon as there’s a shortage, the price goes up. As soon as there’s a glut of it, you don’t see that price coming down. Like interest rates, you know, with the banks, as soon as they say ‘Yep, there’s an interest rate’ they’ve got it up next day, but as soon as they say ‘Oh, she’s coming down half a percent’, you don’t see it for two or three months.

Everybody says the economy’s looking good, but it’s like….you’ve got a lot of farmers at the moment that are struggling out there, with the drought. I noticed coming across today, it looks they’ve had a bit of rain, a little green. Last time I was across here, I came down through Broken Hill and that, and I mean JC, back of Bourke there, it’s just nothin’. They got some good storms when I came through, heading back really, so hopefully it’ll sort of green up a bit. 


Just about every capital city along the eastern seaboard, like Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, they’re all on water shortages, they’re running scarce of the stuff. But that all comes down to mismanagement. The population’s growing too…it’s like where I’m from, they built the dam there in the early 50s, somewhere round there, and it was built for the population of Lismore by the time it got to 40 000. But in their wisdom they’ve decided ‘Hang on, we’ll pipe it over to the coast, we’ll flog it off to all the towns along the coast.’

But then they’ve started to grow, because everybody’s coming out of the city, and moving to the coast, they all want to be close to the water. So the population’s grown, but the dam hasn’t grown. It’s all infrastructure, same as Sydney. Sydney’s growing, but they haven’t bothered putting another dam in. They should have dams everywhere. And now they’re paying the price for it. Sooner or later they’ll wake up. Who knows, we can only hope. At the end of the day they’re all there to feather their own nest.


 Like everything, it’s the people that have got the money who are the first ones to clamp up. The likes of us, the working class, we’ve still gotta eat and pay bills. But the ones that have got the big money, as soon as something goes on, they just place the fist in the back pocket and tighten up.

One thing I’ve noticed out on the road, the food’s lousy. Sorta succumbed to it, I sorta pick and choose what I eat. A lot of places, you might as well take your pet dog along. I reckon he’d even turn his nose up at it. I heard a bloke talking this morning, and he says ‘The steak I got last night, you could almost see through it!’ and I thought ‘Yeah, that’s be right’. I don’t know if it was here, he didn’t say where it was, just sort of talking on the UHF. 


But I’ve just got a little oven there, plugs into the battery. My wife, just whatever she cooks up, she cooks up a bit more, freezes it, and I jam it in the fridge. It’s the only way to do it, honestly, otherwise you end up bloody behind the 8-ball. Wouldn’t get much change out of $300. (buying every meal for a week)

What amuses me, you pull up and buy a packet of  cigarettes, you go to Coles supermarket, they’re only $14, you go to a Coles service station, they’re bloody $18. How do they justify that? Then they wonder why people aren’t running in and buying stuff at the servos and that. Especially these guys, like us out on the road, you know. A lot of places, I don’t even know why they call it water. I just bloody buy half a dozen of the 125s, stick em in the bunk, buy just a carton of Coke, carton of lemon, whatever, just stick it in there, buy a couple of bottles of juice. Not the expensive stuff, you buy the cheaper one, it’s just as good. Basically, I just take as much stuff as I can. 


A lot of time, I don’t know where I’m going, so I’ll put enough in. Sometimes I’ll just have Weet-Bix about mid morning, don’t bother having lunch, you know, just go through until tea. Depends where I am, if I’m just wandering halfway across a paddock somewhere, I’ll throw a pie or something like that in there, or a packet of these little chicken wing things, and just maul my way through that cruising along.

A mate of mine had a 19m b-double, we just went and got our licences. It was just a matter of going in, sitting and doing the computer test, and they just changed your licence over. Now you’ve got to do the whole driving kit and caboodle thing. 

Like I say, I enjoy the work, get to meet a whole heap of different people. And at the end of the day, we’ve all got one thing in common, we’re all there to bloody put food on the table, pay the bills, and raise your kids, you know? I was home every night, start at 6:30 in the morning, finish 3, 4, 5, 6 o’clock at night, whatever. I used to deliver house roof trusses, all building materials. We weren’t travelling that great a distance, so sometimes you’d do one if you had to go further away, might just get the one in, other times you get two, sometimes you’d get three in, if it was only Lismore itself. It was good fun, I enjoyed doing it. But 21 years of doing that, I’d just had enough. 

But the thing was, rain, hail or shine, the money was always in the bank. That was the main thing, especially paying off a mortgage and that. Some people aren’t really worried about job security, but the job was secure.

The thing with governments, they all talk percentages, and  it’s all bulls**t. You get sick of listening to them, they get up there on TV.  My Mum always said Liberal always looked after the wealthy side of town, and Labor was always looking after the working class people. But then Labor sort of lost the plot with Hawkey. He sort of got in there, and it all went to his head, and he forgot about the little people. You can see what John Howard’s done, he’s bloody brought in workplace agreements. 

He basically looked after all the big companies, the wealthy ones, and screw the little fella. I mean, like the unfair dismissal, a lot of that sort of has its place. If you’re employing 30 blokes, and you’ve got one bloke that turns up every morning at 9 o’clock instead of 8:30, then stands around and does nothing all day, you want to be able to fire him. My old employer had blokes like that. But his hands were tied. As soon as he said ‘Right, you’re gone’; unfair dismissal. It’s just a way of keeping a whole heap of oxygen thieves in the job. And a lot of them are, honestly. If they had to get out in the real world, they wouldn’t last. 

25 years ago, I was on $180 a week. I went and saw my brother-in-law, he worked down at Wollongong, in the coal mines. Those blokes were bring home a thousand bucks a week. But remember one thing; they got their thousand dollars a week, through all these strikes and everything, and what’s at Wollongong now? They s**t in their own nest. The unions got in there, said ‘We’ll get this, we’ll get that, we’ll get the whole lot’, and then they outpriced themselves out of work.

I remember the first time I pulled up top of Bullo pass, even guys who’ve lived there all their lives can tell you.  The amount of boats, I counted something like 36, almost 40 boats out there waiting to load coal. We go down there 10-15 years later…Unions were good in one way, but they just got too carried away with the whole thing. They wanted more and more, and at the end of the day, if you can’t produce it at the same price as the rest of them. This is why China’s getting so big, you’ve got a population of God knows how many million, well, a billion.

 It’s like up our way, we’ve got macadamia nuts. Now they just put them in a container, one bloke does, puts them in containers, sends them across to China, they crack them, send ‘em back. You work it out…if you’ve got bloody 300 000 blokes sitting around doing nothing, men women and children, give them a hammer each, sit there going bang-bang-bang all day…you know?

My wife’s nephew, he’s in electronics, he was in the navy, and he was sent to China. He was working for this private contractor, they sent him over there. They wanted him to stay, they were offering him whatever he wanted to stay. Because they’ve got the manpower, but they haven’t got the know-how, that’s what they need. If somebody’s got the nous, in electronics and stuff like that, especially with stuff like helicopters, and you know your way around a helicopter…you can name your own price over there. He spent a month over there, and said they treated him like bloody royalty. She’s a sleeping giant, China. If you’re good in your field, you can get that much work, it’s unbelievable. It’s just phenomenal.

This is one job that I thoroughly enjoy, and I wouldn’t do anything else honestly. If you enjoy the work, you don’t have to be born and bred into it, you’ve just gotta enjoy it. You know that not every day’s going to be perfect, can be perfect one day and absolutely sh**house the next. I listen to a few blokes up at work, and they sort of plan what they’re doing for the week, and as soon as something goes wrong, they get the s**ts,  you know? I say to them ‘Why bother planning? Just do one day at a time.’ I just laugh at them."

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