Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2010.
John Parnell commenced business in Orroroo at the age of 21 when he took over two aging five tonne tray top trucks from his father. The business was at that time collecting goods from nearby farms and carting into the rail head at Orroroo, and the cartage of superphosphate in bags from the railhead to the farms. The business was expanded with the purchase of new equipment into the cartage of sheep, cattle and wool direct to Adelaide and eventually the implementation of a regular freight service from Adelaide the Orroroo and surrounding areas.
In 1972 an Ampol distributorship was negotiated and John commenced his long association with the outback areas of Australia. The fuel distributorship rapidly expanded through the outback areas of South Australia, Western Australia, southwest Queensland and northwest New South Wales. During this period John was the first fuel distributor to have tankers built to his requirements by Freuhauf Australia and the first to operate in the outback areas. The tankers were further developed over the years, and when Freuhauf Australia withdrew from manufacturing fuel tankers, Mr. Phil Hockney of Hockney tankers, Sydney, worked with John in the further design and manufacturing of off highway tankers.
To further supply his clients with a total service, John designed and manufactured the first skeletal trailers with fuel tanks back and front, and a tray in the centre to operate in outback areas. The purpose of these heavy duty units was to be the lead trailer in roadtrain configuration and have the ability to cart drums and other general goods as required by the client.
In 1981, John Parnell was awarded an Advance Australia Award for his work in developing the transport industry in outback areas. In 1983, with the Australian Road Research Board, Melbourne, considerable research work was undertaken with Parnell equipment to provide information on which the requirements of operation of triple roadtrains were developed. With Dr. Peter Sweatman and others from ARRB assisting, the first triple roadtrain running from Pt. Augusta to the SA/NT border commenced operations under strict supervision. The vehicle was a Parnell owned 400 hp Mack prime-mover pulling one skeletal and two tankers.
At retirement from the business John Parnell employed 150 people and operated 50 trucks of various configuration including B-doubles, triple and double roadtrains.