Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2013.
Jeff Gilbert was born in Mount Barker in December, 1950, the son of one of the owners of Gilbert’s Transport Service (Jack Gilbert) of Echunga. As such, he grew up in a transport orientated environment. Jack, his brother Ron and sisters Esme and Joan had taken over the family business from their father, Caleb, who drove horse and wagons from Echunga to Adelaide. Jeff joined the business in 1977 as the third generation of Gilberts. At the time the business consisted of an International Transtar slim-line prime mover, ACCO tray top and a Leyland Hippo pulling a semi-trailer.
In 1978 Jeff bought a Mack ‘Flintstone’ and semi-trailer and carried general freight from Adelaide to Wudinna on the Eyre Peninsula. While in Melbourne a year later Jeff opted to took a load to Darwin - it was the only backload he could get. It was the start of a 38 year business carting from Adelaide and Melbourne to the Northern Territory. Jeff operated as an owner-driver for the first few years, between Adelaide and Darwin and later also for Peko mines in Tennant Creek. When Jeff started pulling road trains he bought a new Mack R600 and in 1980 upgraded to a Mack Superliner.
The unsealed road on the 600 miles between Port Augusta and Kulgera, on the NT border was often closed due to heavy rains. Sometimes Jeff experienced over a dozen punctures per trip. He had a contract to cart feed pellets from Kapunda to feed the cattle on the boats exporting out of Darwin, Wyndam and Karumba. In 1980 he met Beverly Schultz, a Canadian backpacker wanting a ride to Darwin. They married in 1989 and went on to have three daughters.They started carting bore casing and mining freight to Moomba gas fields in remote SA, and Jackson Oil fields in Qld.
Jeff took over the operations of the Gilbert family business in 1982, which was by then primarily the export of cattle pellets. Around 1990 the road between Adelaide and Alice Springs was sealed and Gilberts were running six road-trains, mainly Mack Superliners with 500hp engines and 12 speed transmissions. Gilberts was one of the first companies to have permits to pull triple road-trains between Port Augusta and Darwin. By the early 2000’s Gilberts were running 11 triple road-trains between Adelaide and Darwin and employing over 25 staff. Completion of the rail link between Alice Springs and Darwin in 1994 gave their competitors an edge and the business was downsized and eventually sold in 2006. Gilberts then concentrated on business in the Adelaide Hills and in spending more time with their daughters.
Jeff’s wife Beverly passed away in early February 2013. Beverly had always spent a lot of time helping Jeff, driving, loading and unloading and is much missed. Today Jeff drives part-time for local farmers.