My name is Kingsley Foreman
I have been is the transport industry or twenty-five years, the last fifteen
of those I have been with Richmond Heavy Towing.
Richmond Heavy Towing is based in the city of Adelaide in South Australia,
the city of Adelaide is on the southern coast of Australia between the great Australia bite and the state of Victoria. It
is a vast state, which goes from the mild coastal area to the very hot and dry outback. We at Richmond Towing do a wide range
of towing work from city car towing to the long-range heavy truck salvage, hundreds of miles away in the Outback.
I thought I would write down some of my experiences, they are not in any order
and they are just as they pop into my head.
The first thing that has come to my mind is the time I had to go to the outback
of Woomera three times in three day for a rental car company, who were one of our good customers at the time. Woomera is the
name of a vast area of government land in the middle of South Australia; it is hundreds of square miles of flat dry land,
very barren land good for nothing and hundreds of miles away for anything or any one. It is controlled by the federal Government,
and has been used since World War Two for rocket test firing and all sorts of tests of explosive weapons. The reason I had
to go up there was that at that time there was a group of N.A.S.A people from the US. There doing some rocket test firing
work, I’m not sure why. The problem was that the N.A.S.A mob did not relies how big the Kangaroos up there were, until
they him them with a rent a Car.
The roads on the Woomera rang are on government land and there are so few cars
on them that the wild life just run straight in front of your car, so you have to slow down for them. Woomera is about six
hundred miles from our depot in Adelaide, and that’s only one way so it’s a twelve hundred mile trip each time,
I did three of them in three days, good for the wallet but...
Another job that just pop in my mind was up north as well, but only four hundred
miles from Adelaide near the town of Oraroo just east of Pt. Augusta. At the time it was when Kenworth first brought out their
long nose trucks with the rounded noses, the truck drivers called them "Ant Eater" - like the animal. I felt sorry for the
driver; his boss had given him the new truck and said "DON’T SCRATCH IT". On the maiden trip he stated in Sydney and
had taken a load to Perth and was on his way back the short way through the middle of South Australia, when he fell a sleep
and his wheels struck a hole just off the road and rolled his new truck over on it’s side in the bush.
He had a flat bed trailer with a load of general fright, it included a large
number of air-cleaner elements for car and a boat, she was about a twenty footer with a little cabin and all. It looked a
bit out place I can tell you, this boat sitting in the middle of the bush. By the time it got dark we had the truck and the
trailer back on it’s wheels and hooked up to our tow-truck ready to tow it back to Adelaide, but we had a problem, the
truck that was coming up to get the load and take it onto Sydney had not arrived and we were four hundred miles away. And
with no mobile phones in those days to find out what was going on, we were on our own. We could not just leave the load and
head back so we flipped a coin to see who would stay and wait with the load ...... I lost so Ron headed back to Adelaide with
the wreck. Lucky for me the local Station (Ranch) boss came down with some food his wife had made for us, so I lit a fire
and waited for the other truck to arrive. I waited till about 11.00pm no truck yet, so I settled down for the night I had
no sleeping bag just two blankets that Ron had given me out of our truck.
About 2.00am or 3.00am it stated to rain so what was I going to do now, I had
to get into the boat but it was on a lean BUT I was getting wet. I spent the rest of the night in the boat, talk about strange
sleeping in a boat in the middle of outback Australia.
Just after sun up the truck rolled up, the driver said that a farm tractor
with a jib was coming to lift the boat on to his truck. We started to reload his truck by hand, then the little tractor turned
up so we loaded the boat up plus some other heavy items, the tractor driver told me that my boss said he was coming up with
his car to pick me up and take me back to Adelaide.
It took most of that day to reload the truck-trailer, it was 4.00pm when the
truck driver said good-bye and headed off to Sydney. I sat down and waited for the boss to pick me up, it 6.30pm when the
boss rolled up and at last I could head home.
Richmond Towing does a lot of towing around the city Adelaide; we have a breakdown
Contract the Royal Automobile Association (RAA) which has over five hundred thousand members in South Australia. One tow that
comes to mind in the city went like this. I was sent out to the eastern suburbs to a broken down thirty-year old Hillman Hunter,
the owner was a young woman in teen’s dress like a hippie with a ring in her nose. The car was loaded up with her gear
as she had a fight with her boy friend and was moving out. I pushed the old Hillman onto the wheel lifter and strapped it
down, she got into the truck and off we went. We were only going down the road, the first time I turned a left hand corner
I was looking in my Mirror when I saw her TV sliding down the road, I turned to the young woman and asked if the old Hillman
had a door problem, she said "Yes, how did you know that?" I said, "I just saw your TV sliding across the road". Would you
believe when we pick up the TV the tube was not broken just scratch, but I don’t know if it worked ever again!
When you have a auto club contract (RAA) you come across a wide range of people,
and you find yourself towing cars that do not need to be towed, I will give you a sample of what I mean. Late at night you
find you tow cars where the member tell the (RAA) that they have lost the keys to the car. This is because they have been
drinking and they don’t want to be caught by the police for drink driving, the laws here are very tough on people who
drink and drive .If the member rings the auto club (RAA) and tells them they have lost their key they get a FREE tow home.
It’s not hard to tell who has done this, when you have towed them home and said good night, as you drive away if you
look in the truck mirror you can see the owner of the car get into it and drive it in to their lock up garage.
Another way the members cheat is they go out in a friend or family member’s
car, the car needs a tow and they pretend it is there car. You can tell it’s not their car when you ask them to turn
the lights on and they do not know where the switch is for the lights.
The tow I like the best is when they get you to tow a car were the windshield
wipers aren't working, by the time we get there the rain has stopped, but we still get paid that’s the best thing. We
only get thirty dollars a job from the RAA but if we turn out we get paid whatever happens, so if the member cancels the tow
we still get paid.
Specking of customers trying to get away with something reminds me of the job
I did for another Rent a Car Company. One evening about 7.00 p.m. I was sitting in the phone room at the Richmond Towing depot
talking to PJ, who was the radio operator at that time. He took a phone call from a rental car company who told him they had
a car broken down at the Shell Roadhouse at Meningie, about a hundred and fifty miles south east of out depot in Adelaide.
PJ asked me if I would like to do the job, I said "Yes I could do with a bit of a drive tonight". PJ said to me "Good you
will be back just after midnight, them you can get some sleep take the truck home and give me a call at 8.00 p.m., and you
can start from home tomorrow". I drove across South Road to the London Road fuel depot to top up my truck, and then I drove
into the city to the Rental company to pick up the replacement car for the customer who was waiting at the roadhouse at Meningie.
I loaded the good car on to the Ford Louisville sliding tilt tray tow-truck and headed off to Meningie.
I arrived at roadhouse at Meningie and found the customer, he was a Asia man
and did not speak much English, I told him to hop into the truck and asked him to show me were the car was, so off we went
heading out of Meningie. We had gone about five miles and I asked him how much further the car was, he just pointed straight
ahead and said "More more" so I drove on. About another ten miles further then I said again "How far now?" he just pointed
ahead and said "More more" so I just kept going.
This time I drove about sixty miles before I said to him "Tell what’s
going on, where's the car? You told the Rental company it was just out of the town, he said in broken English "It just out
of the next big town". I told him the next town was Kingston and that was about one hundred forty miles from where we were.
"Why didn't you get a lift into there and not back at Meningie?" He said "I just took the first car that stopped, but it was
going the wrong way". I drove on to Kingston, when I slowed down for the town I said to the Customer, "So its just out of
town now?" he said to me "No not this town the next big one". I was dumfounded I said, "You don’t mean Mt. Gambier?"
he said, "Yes". I said, "That’s another hundred and eighty miles away".
Anyway I drove to Mt. Gambier finally pick up the car and headed back to Adelaide,
Mt. Gambier is closer to Melbourne, the capital of the State of Victoria than it is to Adelaide.
It was about 8.30 p.m. when I got back into two way radio range at Tailem Bend,
fifty miles from Adelaide I could here PJ calling for me so I stopped on top of a hill and told him the whole story.
The part of working for Richmond Heavy Towing I liked the best was the people
that seemed to be drawn to the Company. One that has come to mind is John Nash, we all called him Nashy he was an old school
mate of the Boss and he would do some part time work from time to time when he was short of a dollar. I remember one long
job we did many years ago, it was on the Nullarbor Plain, the word Nullarbor is an Aborigine word meaning no trees and they
are not joking, it’s hot and dry most of the year but cold at night. There was an old double-decker London Bus (that
had been turned in to a Mobil-home) at the South Australia border with Western Australia, the bus had blown the motor big
time. Because of the height of the bus we had to straight-bar tow it all the way back to Adelaide, over a thousand miles one
way, they sent Nashy with me in the Richmond Towing W model Kenworth that has the Garwood 9000 lifting gear. We drove to were
the old bus was, at a place called Border Village, it is such a long drive we took it in turns driving there. When we got
to the bus we got it ready to tow, it was so low to the ground I took out the rear inner axle shaft rather than the drive
shaft. Meanwhile Nashy was attaching the front axle clamp which is home made, it is a half inch steel U bar a foot long which
goes around the front axle in the middle then two bolts go through the top of the U bar to hold it on. On the side is a ring
the same size as a ring-feeder, then the straight bar goes between the axle clamp and the ring-feeder low on the back of our
After hooking it all up it was getting late in day and it was hot about 110
F, so we cleaned up and had a meal at the roadhouse and flipped to decide who would steer the old bus (no motor no power steering)
I won so I drove the tow-truck.
We were both keen to get this first stage done in one go, while the sun is
out it is better just to keep driving at speed. The first bit was from Border Village to Ceduna is four hundred and eighty
five miles, it ‘s a long straight road with no towns, no farms, no nothing to slow down, no police trap either, so foot
down and hung on.
Sometime after the first hour I saw Nashy open the little drivers door on the
old double-decker bus, I gave him a blast on the air-horns to check on him he gave me the thumbs up, OK. Then about half hour
later he open the driver’s door again so I gave him another blast on the horns again Nashy gave me the thumbs up, all
OK, this went on for six hours or so. When we stopped at Ceduna for a meal I asked Nashy what all that opening the door was
all about, he said to me "It was as hot as hell and I could not open the window". I asked him why he replied, "There must
be a switch somewhere for it, I could not find the window winder". I laughed "It’s a British bus, the windows slide
up and down". I noticed the rest of the trip that driver’s door stayed closed.
Nashy is a real classic one, I was in the workshop one day when he came in,
hopped on to our forklift truck and drove it out in to the back yard. I heard a smashing of metal on metal; I went outside
to see what he was doing with the forklift truck,
There was Nashy lifting the forks up in the air and dropping them down as fast
as he could on to the boot lid of his old 1967 HR Holden sedan car. I went up to Nashy and asked "What are you doing?" he
said " I’m just panel-beating my car, I backed into a power pole and I’m just getting the boot lid flat again".
I don’t suppose you can argue with that but its not what I would call panel beating.
There is a young man working at Richmond Towing now his name is Daryl, l I
called him Dazzling Daryl. That is because I have never seen someone get as dirty as young Daryl. Five minutes after starting
work he looks like he’s crawled through sump oil pit, but he is keen to work, but he also drives like a sprint car driver,
We had to take him off the V8 Ford wheel-lifter and put him on a straight six
Tilt Tray. Whenever Dazzling Daryl had the V8 Ford for the day he got back to the depot at the end of the day the rear axle
shaft would be out by about half an inch, oil would be running out of the diff. Our mechanic Harry said "I will fix that,
they must have been loose" so Harry did them up real tight. But the next afternoon when Daryl got back the axle shaft was
out again, so Harry said "This time I will fix it" and he went to his special tool box and came back with a tube of Loch-Nut,
Harry said "We use this stuff on our race cars, it will never come out". You guessed it, the next afternoon when Dazzling
Daryl got back the axle shaft was out again, and poor Harry could not believe it. Harry said "I’m not going to let this
truck get the better of me, I know what to do, take each and every bolt and drill a hole through them and screw them up tight,
then wire each of them together". Harry spent an hour doing that but the boss had decided to put young Daryl on the Tilt Tray.
It is not just the young drivers like Dazzling Daryl who get themselves into
trouble, I remember old Bill who did the night shift. Bill was new to the towing game although he had been driving trucks
for years; I had the task of showing him the ropes of the towing side of things. We went out in one of the Ford F 350 wheel-lifter
tow-trucks, I said to Bill; "I'll show you the basics of how to tow, their are some thing you should always do". I went on
to show him for the rest of that day, then a few weeks later Bill said to me, "I have been talking to the other drivers and
they tell me that there is no needed to strap down the car you are towing when it sits in the wheel lifting frame".
Bill went on to say that the other guys told him the weight of the car would
be enough to hold the car in the lifting frame. I said "I’ve been doing this a long time, and I will still go on strapping
the cars into the lifting frame but it’s up to you what you do".
As sure as night follows day, about a month latter Bill came into the driver’s
room and said to me, "You were right". I said "What do you mean Bill?" he said to me "I stuffed up big time, I was towing
a Volkswagen Beetle and it jumped out of the lifting frame". I said "Those old VW Beetles are bad for that because the motor
is in the back most of the weight is in the back, so there's nothing to hold the front in the frame, at least it is not a
Bill agreed, "The VW Beetle was old but when it popped out of the frame it
run into the side of a BMW, and the Boss is not to happy about it, he said I have to pay the excess on his insurance because
I was the driver".
Old Bill was not the only driver to break one of the golden rules of towing,
telling you about Bill reminds me of Jack, who these day owns his own building salvage and demolition business. Jack made
the mistake of using a flexible luggage strap to hold the steering wheel on the truck he was towing. What happened was he
had to tow a dump truck that had broken down, from one side of town to the other? Jack picked up the dump truck from the rear
end so as not to damage any part of the drive-train, but to hold the front wheels straight so it would travel in a straight
line when he was towing it he used a flexible luggage strap to tie the steering wheel on the truck he was towing, you should
use a piece good rope, or as I use a piece of window sash cord. As Jack drove past the Coca-Cola Plant in the suburb of Thebarton
the truck he was towing struck a pothole in the road, which spun the steering on the truck he was towing and that sent it
into the row of Coca-Cola company cars that were parked on the side of the road wrecking six of them outright. Jack also had
a problem going backwards the boss used to joke you could never find Jack on the weekend because he would spend all his time
fixing the fences and letter boxes he had knocked down that week.
The boss’s eldest son Robby had a mishap a bit like Jack did in front
of Coca-Cola, except this time it was in one of our main city streets, but this one was not his fault.
Robby had tied the steering up with good piece of rope but what happened the
truck he was towing from the rear end dropped the Pit-man arm off the steering box.
Robby was not told that someone had taken off the Pit-man arm and had just
sat it on the shaft lose, so after a few miles it just dropped off causing the truck to wipe out a row of cars parked on North
Terrace, in the city of Adelaide.
Robby’s biggest problem was cars kept parking in front of his truck,
what I mean is Robby drove the long nose Kenworth most of the time and when you sit behind the wheel you can not see the area
in front of the truck. If a car is right in front of your truck you can not see them, out of all the room on a side street
you would be surprised the number of times someone would park right up near the front of that truck. Robby would jump into
the truck and take off then, BANG, a push start you might say, but with our big Bull-Bars it does the car no good at all,
I know he wrote at lease one of them off. I will tell you something he did not tell his father, one night he was racing up
north to a truck accident, going way to fast when he hit a wet patch on a sharp bend in the road. He said the Kenworth did
a 360 spinout, and it scared the crap out of him, it would have been good to see a W model Kenworth spinning like a top but
his old man would not have been too impressed.
I used to like stirring the Boss up when I left the depot in his pride and
joy, his Kenworth. I used to on purpose grind the gears just to upset him and our depot is on a main road if he was out the
front as I was passing I would have to change gear with a bit of "trouble", I am a BAD BOY.
I was not laughing one day when I found something out, about two weeks earlier
I was doing one of much repossession that we do for a number of different companies.
It was at a transport yard where one of our owner-drivers worked out of, it
was his car... well it was a ute that's like a small pickup, an Australia sedan with a tray on the back. As I was winch it
onto the back of the tilt tray tow-truck this bloke was calling me every four letter word he could think of, he was saying
he was going to come to the depot and blow my head off and all that sort of stuff. When you do repos you get used of that
sort of thing, but their all talk. I find women are the worst, they have a bad habit of throwing things at you and they are
not too fussy what it is. I have had hammers, knifes, screwdriver, food, you name it women have tried to throw it at me. I
even had a woman throw a baby's stroller at me, lucky the baby was not in it.
As I was saying they took the smile right off my face when they told me that
the bloke I reposed the ute from had shot dead the repo agent who tried to repo his truck, shot him in the head and just drove
off in his truck.
Some of them Repo jobs are hard, I spent hours on one job years ago it was
a Rolls-Royce and the agent was desperate to get it back. There had not been one payment made on it, a con man had used the
name of a real company director to get hold of it, and the finance company wanted it back badly. The problem was it was in
some friend’s house, the friend had their own car parked behind it so we could not get the Rolls Royce. The police were
called, under our laws you cannot stop someone from entering your property, as far as your front door, so we could go up to
the Rolls but we could not move the friends car to get the Rolls out. It was stalemate, I told the agent I could get it out
without moving the other car, but it may do some damage to the Rolls-Royce, he said "We have to get it at all cost". So I
asked him to sign my sheet to that effect, and I would get the car. When he signed my paperwork I called PJ on the radio and
told him to send the Big Wrecker down to us, we were going to lift the Rolls Royce out of the yard. I was worried that putting
the bars through the window of the Rolls might damage the car, but they build them well, we lifted it over the other car and
straight down onto the tilt tray I was driving.
That reminds me of a couple of other repos I have done. The first one was in
the suburb of Pennington I don’t remember the street or the number, anyway I meet the agent out the front of the house
he said "Good-day, the cars in the back yard, you better have a look first". I said "OK", and went with him into the back
yard I asked him were the car was. He had a smile on his face, "Behind the chicken hutch" he said, I said, "The hutch is not
that big" he said "Go and have a look". I went behind the hutch to have a look; the car had been cut in to three pieces and
was stacked three high, just as well I had a Tilt Tray with me.
The next job was almost the same, I rolled up to the house and the agent said
"You will love this one", so we went around the back and without a word of a lie the whole yard was covered in pieces of the
car we were to repo. The house owner was smiling his head off, he said "This make live hard for you". I said "I don’t,
we charge by the hour, the more time it takes, the more money I make. He said, "That’s good, the finance will have to
pay, that’s why I took it all apart... it took me hours". I said, "Do you want the bad news?" he said, "What do you
mean" I said "You are charged for the tow, and because you have done this to the car you get nothing much at auction".
He said "That’s all right I have handed the car back to them, that’s
it". I said, "No, you still have to pay the loan", that took the smile off his face.
Another Repo that comes to mind is one I did on the move some years ago, the
repo agent had been after this car for a long time; the driver was a drug addict and a pimp.
I was on my way back from a job when PJ called me on the two way radio, and
told me the repo agent was following the car he was after, and wanted me to catch up to him as he followed the car. I did
a U-turn and hit the gas pedal; I was soon behind the two cars. The repo agent relayed a message through PJ and our two-way
radio to get in front of the car he was after and then slow down to a stop; he would stay right behind the car so the driver
could not get away from us. I slowed to a stop, jumped out of the truck, lowed the lifting gear and had the front of the car
off the ground before the bloke new what was happening. By the look on the driver’s face he must have thought this was
a hit or something, he looked very worried, maybe he thought we were the drug squad and he was busted.
I just remembered a funny thing that happened to one of the boss's friends,
it was his good mate from Pt Wakefield. John was his name, it was late one afternoon and we were all at the depot, John was
down from Pt Wakefield with his twenty-foot pan truck, John has the bakery in Pt Wakefield. He had come down to Adelaide to
pick up his son’s car that had been in an accident and had been repaired across the road at the Body Works smash shop.
By the way John or little John you still have not paid me for the tow, anyway John was out in our back yard loading his son’s
car in to the back of his truck, after he left to head home the Boss’s son Robby came in to us and said "John’s
in a hurry, he just put the park brake on in the car, closed the doors a took off in hurry mumbling something about kids and
their cars". It was fifteen or twenty minutes later John drove straight into our workshop and jumped out of his truck and
said in a low voice Where's your welder?" Robby said, "What’s wrong John? John replied "The bloody car fell out of the
back of the truck didn’t it". Robby had to stop himself from laughing, he said John where's the car now, John said "On
the side of South Road were I left it!" Robby asked John "Is the car OK?" John said, "Yes, but it scared the crap out the
car that was behind me, I took off at the traffic lights and it just rolled out through the back doors". No harm done we send
a tow-truck pick up his son’s car and bring it back to the depot.
I have had people ask me what is it like to do one of those big truck accidents,
way out in the outback of Australia. It is not unusual for Richmond Heavy Towing to travel five or six hundred miles, one
way just to get to the site of a truck accident, although each accident is different their are some things that are the same
for each case. The first thing that makes a difference is if it is a single truck accident, say a driver falls asleep at the
wheel and he goes off the and rolls the truck killing himself, but not involving others. They do not sent up to the site the
major crash police or a van for the body, we just leave the body in the truck and tow the truck back to the police compound
in Adelaide there they remove the truck drivers body. If there is more than one truck involved they sent up a team from the
major crash task force, and a van for the Bodies.
If it is a head on smash between two tractor-trailers you start to see pieces
of fiberglass from the truck bodies before you see the wreck, you would be surprised how far the fiberglass has traveled from
the accident. When you get to the site of the wrecks the whole road is blocked off, and the local police direct the traffic
off onto the dirt shoulder of the road. The main highway is only about twenty feet wide and that includes the lanes for traffic
heading in both directions. The injured people have by the time we get there are taken to nearest hospital, it’s just
the dead bodies that are left. Most of the time in the outback the injured are moved to the nearest hospital hundreds of miles
away by the light aircraft of The Royal Flying Doctor Service, which covers the thousand of square miles of outback Australia.
The local police just block a section of the main highway were the accident is, the airplane just lands on the highway to
ferry the injured to the hospital. As well as the local police being there, the local Volunteer Fire Service are normally
there as well, and sometimes the State Emergence Service as well, if their is one locally.
You notice that the service staff that are walking around keep looking at the
ground, they have to do this so they don’t step on to any body pieces. If you see a section of road were their has been
a fatal, you will see paint marks were the vehicles were, you also see painted rings that indicate were body parts were It
is not like on TV, you don’t see a served body part with a some blood on it, with the force of the impact most times
it is just like a pink jelly. After the Major Crash Investigators have taken their photos, and made their measurements they
pick up the big pieces of bodies and put them in to a plastic bag, all in the same bag. Then the local fire service hose the
rest off on to the dirt shoulder, then the police give us the OK to start the recovery work.
Another thing that most of these truck rollovers have in common is because
the trucks fall on their side, or roof there is a large amount engine oil all over the spot, and being Australian trucks their
is hundreds of gallons of fuel as well, you are sometimes working in ankle deep slush. The first thing we do while the truck
is on it’s side, is remove the drive-shaft so we do not do any damage to the drive train when we get to tow it, then
we check-out the air system to see if we can use it with our tow-truck, it is not unusual for the accident to brake the air
lines or to rip-off the air tanks or even just the air taps. If the wrecked truck cannot hold air we have to release the brakes
by hand, a lot of people do not know that when you put your foot on the brake pedal it releases air and the brakes come on,
so if the wrecked truck cannot hold air, the brakes are on, we release them so we can tow it away. Their is several ways of
doing this the way, I prefer just to release the bolt on the slack adjuster it is a lot quicker than winding then off, once
that is done it is time to put the truck back on it’s wheels.
We have trailed air bags but to tell you the truth they are hopeless not worth
the time and effort, all we do is use four chains, two on the tractor, one on the front axle and the other one on the last
rear axle, both as high as possible off the ground, the other two chains we use on the trailer, one on the last axle and the
other up near the leg support. Then we place the rear of our tow-truck in the middle of the tractor-trailer then connect the
other ends of the four chains to our big pulling winch on the back of our tow-truck. Now we are ready for the big pull, someone
sits in the tow truck with one foot hard on the brakes, and with the other foot they give it some reves to work the winch.
Some times if it is a heavy wreck we have to chain our tow-truck to another
tractor-trailer to anchor our truck down, now we just have to pickup the front of the wreck and we are ready to tow the lot
back to the city.
Another truck has just come to mind it was just out from the town of Truro,
just seventy miles north east of Adelaide, on the highway to the River land. When we got there it was a Mitsubishi FM model
with a thirty-foot Pan-Body. It was laying on its side about fifteen feet off the road in the dirt, I noticed that there was
a team of firemen from the Adelaide Fire Service there. They were dressed in all plastic splash suits, their was the local
volunteer fire service as well, I went up to one of the local firemen and asked "What’s all the splash suits all about?"
he told me they were the first on the scene and had it under control when one of the Adelaide Fire Service officers rolled
up and said it was still in their area, and that he would take control.
There were some drums with no names on them, just a number, and they were leaking.
The local guys believed it was just some industrial cleaner but the Adelaide officer panicked and called in the chemical control
unit. "I don’t now why" I said, there was the numbers on the drums, CT-18, I asked if it was lime green in colour, he
said "Yes", I laughed "That’s truck wash, we us it by the gallon." So the local fireman went up to the officer from
the Adelaide Fire Service, after a couple of minutes he came back I asked what was going on, he told me that the fire officer
from Adelaide told him that "He was in charge", and he knew what he was doing. I told the local fireman that I was charging
by the hour, so that was all right by me. I sat down and waited for the chemical control unit to unload the truck piece by
piece, stopping every ten minutes to shower themselves down, they did my job for me by unloading the truck.
I will give you one example of how tough the US. Made trucks are, it was a
Mack Super Liner and Richmond Heavy Towing had bought it second hand, just to do trailers that we repossessed for our customers.
The first day we got it I had a job to repo a trailer, when I got to the address I found that the trailer was loaded with
scrap cars that had been flattened and ready to go to the scrap dealer, the repo agent arranged with the transport company
for me to go down to the scrap dealer to unload the trailer before we impounded it. I went down to the scrap dealer at Sims
Metal, at the Port Adelaide suburb of Gillman and drove on to the weight bridge, they worked out how much scrap there was,
I drove over to their magnetic crane and they unloaded the trailer. After leaving the scrap dealer I headed back to our holding
yard at Richmond with the trailer, as I neared our yard the warning bell on the Mack started to ring like crazy, the gauge
read the water temp at 220 degrees, I drove into the yard and left the Mack to cool down. I went up to the boss and said "Bob
you better look at the Mack tractor, it is over heating", Bob said "No worries, I’ll take care of it, I have a job for
you in one of the tilt-trays", so I went of to do a car tow. Later that afternoon, as it was getting dark PJ called me up
to the phone room and said "Got a job for you".
There was a truck accident out near Lamaroo, that is a small town two hundred
and forty miles east of Adelaide. A tractor-trailer truck had a head on with a car, it did not go over on its side, but the
turntable had been ripped off the tractor. PJ wanted me to take the Mack to bring back the trailer and he would send Ron in
the Kenworth tow-truck for the tractor .I asked PJ "Did the boss fix the Mack?" PJ told me he had a look at it and could not
find anything wrong with it. The boss said it must be a faulty sensor, and I just have to put up with it until I had finished
this job. I followed Ron, who was driving the Kenworth all the to Lamaroo with the warning bell ringing in my ears, when we
got to the accident scene it was on it’s wheels so while Ron hooked up the tractor I grabbed the big hammer and gave
the king pin on the trailer a good hit to make sure that it was OK to use, it was a stainless-steel milk tanker, but before
we got there they had drained all the milk out onto the ground. One of air couplings was broken off, so I could get air into
release the brakes, but I could not use them, so I would have to haul it back without brakes. Then they told us that it was
not going back to Adelaide but it was now going straight to Royans Truck Repairs in Melbourne. You never know what you will
be doing in our job, instead of driving two hundred and forty miles back home to Adelaide, we are now go over five hundred
mile further away to the city of Melbourne in the state of Victoria. By now in my truck, there was steam spurting out of the
radiator cap, here we are two hundred and forty miles from Adelaide and over five hundred to go, and the Mack I was driving
was spurting out steam. We decided to let it cool down while we went to the local roadhouse about five miles away to have
a feed, when we got back to the Mack we went over it looking for what was wrong, we found a small hole in the hose between
the heads, we used a piece of hose off the wreck that Ron was towing to fix it, so we were already to roll to Melbourne. I
had driven that Mack with no water two hundred and forty miles, that’s what I call a tough truck, it did not crack the
head and it ran like a dream.
Another driver who comes to mind is John; John is one of the best blokes you
will ever meet, although he skates on thin ice at times. Like the time he spent half the night in the cells of the Port Adelaide
police station, because he would not tell the police were he got a police radio from. John used to fill in time between job
by visiting his friend Andrew at the old Fire Service Museum, which at that time was in an old gas station across from the
main Adelaide Fire Station in Wakefield Street.
John would see Andrew there a couple times a week, there were several old fire
trucks there as well as a large amount of other fire equipment, along with all the equipment there were a number of two way
radios, one was a police base station.
Because John had towed their old fire truck without charging the museum they
said he could have the old police radio, unknown to john the police radio had been stolen some two years earlier. So when
John took it in for repair he was surprised to find two police officers wanting to know were he got it from, but John thought
someone from the fire museum might have stolen it, so he did not tell the police where he got it from. The police locked him
up, trying to make him drop his friends in to them. But after some hours the had to let him go, so they charged him with receiving
stolen property, as soon as he could get to a public phone he rang Andrew from the museum and told him what had happened.
Andrew said that they did not now it had been stolen from the police, Andrew had bought it from a public Auction. John rang
the Port Adelaide police, and told them he had decided to tell them were he got it from so the police went to the fire museum
to check out his story, when John arrived for his court appearance the police dropped the charge and he was free to go.
Another think about John was that he was a very keen handgun collector and
club shooter, handguns are not common here in Adelaide, you have to have a special handgun license, which John had and each
and every firearm has to be registered just like a car or a truck. The drivers used to ask John "What do you have in your
pocket today/", he would pull out one of his collection of what he called pocket pistols. I think John must have had twenty
at least, you never knew what he would have in his pocket. The like to tell the story of John outside the retirement village
on Marion Road, which is one of the main roads here in Adelaide. John was on his way back from a job as he got to the retirement
village the car in front hit a dog that had run on to the road, so he stopped to see what he could do. Their were so old people
waiting for the bus, one old man came over he was wearing a returned services league badge, (RSL) he took a look at the dog
and said "He needs to be put out of his misery",
John just took a pistol out of his pocket and shot the dog in the head then
drove off like nothing had happened, the boss said he had received a phone call from the manger of the retirement village
complaining that some old lady waiting for the bus was upset because our driver shot the dog.
Harry likes to tell how one day he wanted to hung up the spare parts book;
John said, "Give me the book". John took out his pistol, cocked it, put the book on the floor then shot a hole in the corner
so Harry could put a bit of string through the hole so he could hung it up.
John told us about the time he shot his brothers fire place at his house, his
brother had a lounge in front of the fire and John would sit on a kitchen chair behind the lounge so he would not get the
lounge dirty. One night John was showing his brother a new pistol, and said "You can put one up the spout, and if you take
out the magazine it will not fire I will show you". Lucky John was pointing the pistol at the ground because BANG! It went
off, John said it scared the crap at of him, not to mention his poor brother’s ears, and a nice neat hole in the front
of the metal fireplace. John said he had to send the pistol back to the US. For it to be exchanged, since then the Australia
government has banned that model pistol.
The Repo Agents used to ask for John, because they knew he would have a pistol
in his pocket, so when the person whose car was getting repossessed would threaten to let there dogs loose on to the repo
agent and John. John would take out his pistol and just let them see it, he would say "I don’t think this would do the
dogs any good".
John told me about one good repo he did, when he go to the house there were
already police there, the repo agent meet him out in the street and said "This is going to be a hard one, this bloke is a
biker and their about six other biker’s in the house". The repo agent went on to say, "When I knocked on the door I
showed him my ID card and he took it". John said, "That means he knows were you live, if you repo his car he will burn down
your house, no joke!"
There were two police officer there and they agreed with what John had said,
the repo agent said "It’s my job, I have to do this repo". One of the police officer said to the agent, "If you still
want to repo this car I will have to call in for the "Heavy Squad", from Port Adelaide". John took out his pistol with the
police officer there and said,"If you want me to repo a biker’s car, I take this with me!" John said one of the police
officers just shook his head and said "Tow-truck drivers don’t change".
I just heard the other day of the death of one of our local tow-truck drivers,
I did not know him personally but it goes as a warning that our job is still a dangerous one.
How it happened is not really known as he was on his own when it happened,
but he was unloading a car that was on his tilt-tray. The tray was up in the air with the car on it, and for some reason he
was bent over looking at the truck chassis, maybe looking for a leak, or a wire that was shorting, it looks as if he knocked
the hand controls that operate the hydraulic. It must have been very quick because no one heard a thing, a worker from the
Body Shop, were he was to drop off the car came out and saw the truck then discovered the poor driver. (My deepest regrets
to his family).
Another interesting truck rescue was one we did from the middle of the Murry
River at the Swan Reach ferry crossing. The Murry River is Australia's longest river, some two thousand miles long. It starts
in the Snowy Mountains of the State of New South Wales and cuts across the rear corner of the State of Victoria into our state
of South Australia, then runs down to the sea at the town of Goolwa . The little town of Swan Reach has no bridge across the
River Murry, they have a ferry operated by cable from each side of the river. A five-ton Iszu truck with a fifteen-foot pan
body rolled off the Ferry in the middle of the river. The ferries they have at some river crossing are quite surprising when
you look at them, you think they would only carry a few cars, but they can carry a loaded tractor-trailer . When they have
a tractor-trailer on board they can not close the gates, I must take a photo of them one-day.
With this job we were going to need a bit of help, although the river was not
that deep it is muddy and not clear, too dangerous for us to go swimming. We called in Rodney Fox, who runs a diving center
in Adelaide. Rodney Fox is well known as a diver, some twenty five years ago when he was diving in local waters he was attacked
by a Great White Shark, Rodney had one of his legs bitten off at the knee, but he still goes diving he just as good as a normal
The truck was full of water, it would not be safe to try lifting it up from
the ferry, so we had to winch it along the muddy river bed, back to the road again .It was Rodney’s teams job to attach
two chains to the front axle of the truck that was under the water in the middle of the river. The other end of the of the
chains were attached to the end of our pulling winch which was on the back of our Mack 9000 ultra liner. We started to winch
it in, surprising it was easy, it was floating under the water, but it did get hard when the truck was about fifteen feet
from the roadway, but we got it out OK.
Now that truck is back on the road doing the same work for the same driver,
but I bet he makes sure that the park brake is on when he goes on the ferry.
Rodney Fox has done a number of Jobs for us under water, including a concrete
mixer in the man made lake at West lakes, lots of stolen cars dump at the same place, as well as a number of cars in the Torrens
River that runs through the heart of Adelaide. Rodney also works on major moves and TV shows.
After doing work for a number of rental car companies over many years, I know
why they like their customers to pay by credit card . You would be surprised how rough people treat the cars, one car I had
go and get was a little Volkswagen Golf it was at Coober Pedy, that is in the outback of South Australia some five hundred
and fifty miles from Adelaide. Normally if you want to drive a long way in Australia you have to rent a bigger sedan like
an Australia Ford Falcon or a Holden Commodore, this customer, a German tourist told the Rental car company he was only driving
around Sydney . Not only was he seventeen hundred miles from Sydney, he had been up to Darwin and was on his way back, that’s
a round trip of five thousand miles . He had hit a Kangaroo and the little car was a right off, he had been really moving
when he hit the Kangaroo . Up in the northern part of Australia there is no open road speed limit, you can legally drive as
fast as you want, (so long as you are driving within the capability of your vehicle and yourself).
Some years ago the Northern Territory government held a Cannon Ball Run race
from the city of Darwin, down to Alice Springs (a distance of one thousand miles) sadly two Japanese drivers were killed,
and all the bad publicity stopped them doing it again . The two Japanese drivers, driving an F40 Ferrari were racing too fast,
in an area they were not familiar with, they paid the price but they also spoiled it for everyone else.
Well that’s it from me for now, if you liked my stories let me know and
I might put some more down on paper for you.
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