WARD, Ernie and Bill

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Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2012.

Ernie and Bill Ward began driving trucks in 1951 carrying general freight interstate from Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Ernie drove an ex-army NR Desert Mack. It was a very basic truck with no windows, a canvas roof and travelled at a top speed of 31 miles per hour.

Bill began his career carting cement from Kandos to Sydney in a secondhand Commer. By 1952 Bill was subcontracting to Ivory and Barton (later IPEC) and Ernie was carting coal in the Blue Mountains driving a Vulcan tipper truck although he eventually returned to general freight work after replacing his tipper body for a semi-trailer.

By 1955 both Ernie and Bill were sub-contracting for Barton driving Sydney to Perth across the Nullarbor, known as “the paddock” by the trucking fraternity in those days. It was an arduous trek. The road was corrugated dirt and the red bulldust so deep that the trucks would often be buried in it. It was powder-like and permeated everything.

“No matter how well tarped, the load inside, mainly refrigerators enclosed in padded canvas bags, would be full of red dust.”

Much time was spent tightening every nut and bolt as the vibrations of the corrugated roads continuously shook them loose. Damaged tyres were also a major cost factor. Not many trucks made the crossing at that time and usually drivers would travel in convoy so they could assist each other in times of need. It was an era of camaraderie and mateship. The return trip from Sydney to Perth took approximately 10 to 14 days depending on backloading.

When the Trans Australian Railways started the “piggy-back” system of loading semis onto railway flat tops from Pt Augusta to Kalgoorlie the Ward Brothers were among the first to try the scheme. Both agreed it was much easier on both the trucks and drivers.

As the company grew a depot was started at Homebush to enable servicing and loading. Freight was primarily Malleys, Metters, Johnson and Johnson out of Sydney with tractors and farm machinery as return loading. When the Wards sold out to TOPs Transport in 1977 there were 14 trucks and 22 trailers in the fleet.

Ernie and Bill Ward typify the legend that is the outback truckie from an era when trucks weren’t made tough enough for the roads they had to operate on so the men who drove them had to be tougher. They well deserve their place in the National Road Transport Hall of Fame.