Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2010.
With a career spanning more than six decades, having driven countless miles across, up and down and around Australia carrying everything from elephants to whale oil, from oysters to plane propellers, Joe Biltz is a pioneer of modern day road transport.
Born in 1926 in Holland, Joe was probably destined to take over his father’s publishing business. However, WWII intervened and, aged 25, Joe left Holland, bound for a future in Australia. He arrived in Melbourne in June 1951.
Six months later he was working as a loader at Collier’s Transport and in another six months found himself at the wheel of a truck. The love affair that would take him criss-crossing Australia by road for the next 60 years had begun. Joe moved on from local driving to interstate driving which he would continue doing for another twenty years or so. He spent more than eight years with Colliers, driving an International R195 tanker for most of his time. His next job was with TNT driving Leyland Beavers and Hippos, twin drive, refrigerator vans. The fridge vans got into his blood and he moved to Frigmobile for a couple of years and back to TNT Refrigeration, driving an International 20, bogie drive, as an owner-driver.
By the early 70s he had a growing family and three young children at home meant interstate driving was no longer feasible. He got a job driving locally with Ansett Freight Express. He would stay with them for 25 years becoming a regular sight in Richmond and Collingwood in his distinctive blue and yellow Thames Trader. He still found time to add another two kids to the family. Joe is a pioneer of road transport in Australia. Consider that trips then lasted days and weeks and now only take hours and days. Driving was on almost non-existent roads, with no synchro gears, no air-conditioning, no sleeper cabs and no mobiles or radios to call for help. Any problems had to be sorted out by him alone. It was tough going by today’s standards, but reckons he’s seen a lot, made lifelong friends and had a hell of a time doing it.
And the elephants? That’s fair dinkum! In the mid-1950s a circus needed its star attraction freighted from Melbourne to Sydney. With all the elephants chained to a low-loader, it took just two days to complete the trip safely.