Hi, I’m Demi and I’m 11 years old, and this is my first big road trip with Grandad. He takes us kids out with him on short day runs and we take turns. This is part one of our trip from Perth to Mt Newman.

Someone has a hand on my shoulder and is shaking me gently.

“Come on sweetheart, it’s time to get up.”

It is my grandad waking me up. I am going with him today and we are driving from Perth to Mt Newman, although Grandad said that we won’t get to Newman, as he calls it, until tomorrow.

“What time is it?” I ask.

“A quarter past four and we need to get moving so come on, get dressed. I’ve got the bread in the toaster and there’s some milk in a glass for you.”

Grandad goes back to the kitchen, and I get myself dressed and clean my teeth. I packed my bag last night so I would be ready this morning.


Grandad drives road trains out of Perth going all over northwestern Australia for MTA Transport and is often away for a week or more at a time. A month ago, he went to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and was away for 12 days. Today he has got a double road train with an excavator on his back trailer that he calls his dog and a front-end loader on his front trailer that he calls his lead.

I walk into the kitchen with my soft pack with my clothes and stuff in. Grandad has my milk and toast on the table waiting for me. I eat my breakfast and wash up before getting into the Suzuki to head to the transport yard where Grandad’s truck is.

“Why do we have to be so early?” I ask.

“Because I still have to flag up, put my banners up then put the flashing light on before we go anywhere, as well as check all the straps and chains to make sure that the load on each trailer is secure and we need to be ready to go at daybreak, which is at 5.50am this morning,” Grandad says.

“I don’t want to be late getting out and be caught behind any of those eight-meter loads that always come out on Saturday mornings.”

We get to MTA’s yard at 5:05am.

Grandad checks his truck out and starts it up. His truck is an almost new Mack superliner with a 600-horsepower engine, and it is an automatic, not an 18-speeder as he calls the other trucks that have a manual shift.

“Put your gear on the bunk and the food in the fridge Demi and then you can help me flag up,” he says to me.

We walk down the side of the truck and Grandad pulls a roll of four yellow and orange flags out of a black bag. The flags have got elastic cords running through the top end with hooks on them. Grandad is putting a hook onto a metal bar on the side in the truck at the front of the excavator and the hook on the other end onto the rail that runs under the edge of the trailer. Grandad said that it is called the rope rail. We walk a bit further down the excavator and Grandad puts another flag at the back of the track frame.

“You have to have a flag at each end of any oversized load, and you have to do the same with each trailer and on both sides of each trailer,” Grandad explains.

Grandad works down the second trailer putting flags onto the front-end loader and then we go around the other side and work our way back up to the front of the truck.

“Now we will put the oversized banner on the back and put the flashing light on the back. Then we will be ready to go – and on time too,” Grandad says.

“Why do you have to put a flashing light on the back, Grandad?” I ask.

“When you are over 2.7 meters wide, you must have flashing lights going at the front and back of the truck, and we are 3.4 meters wide this morning, so we have to have all the flashing lights as well as headlights on. That’s the law and we are not just a single oversized, but an oversized road train and the heavies will be watching, it being Saturday morning.”

“Who are the heavies, Grandad?”

“They are the Main Roads inspectors that enforce all the rules and regulations about what trucks can go where and what they can carry. It is my job to make sure all my permits are current,” he says.

“Ok sweetheart, jump in and put your seatbelt on,” Grandad says as he opens the passenger door for me. It is too high off the ground for me to reach so he lifts me up onto the fuel tank so I can get in the passenger’s door.

We get in the truck and Grandad checks to make sure that all his paperwork is up to date. He puts his paperwork folder beside his seat, puts his seatbelt on and puts the truck into gear.

“Spot on time sweetheart, ten minutes to six and we are rolling, none of those eight-meter loads have made any noise on the radio yet so let’s hope that we are in front of them all.”

We hadn’t been going for more than five minutes when the radio came to life. I didn’t understand what they were saying but Grandad said that it was one of the eight-meter loads. It must take a lot of organising because Grandad said that those eight-meter loads must have a pilot out in front and then another one behind them, and then the police traffic warden and then the eight-meter load or loads and then another pilot behind the load to stop traffic passing where it shouldn’t. I see now why Grandad wanted to get out in front of them.

We get going and are about 20 minutes up the Tonkin Highway when Grandad says, “Damn.”

“There is another big load in front of us and they are just getting ready to pull out of the Chittering Roadhouse now, so we will catch them up the other side of Bindoon in the hills. We may be stuck behind them for a while until there is a spot where they let traffic around them. When we get close, I will tell you what they are saying, and you will see what I mean.”

Forty minutes from the yard and we are getting close to Muchea. The radio is quite busy with two or three big, oversized loads getting out of Perth and Grandad said that the load that came out of the Chittering Roadhouse is just going through Bindoon and he doesn’t think we will catch them in time to get around them, so we may have to sit behind them until we get to the three lane at Long Bridge Gully, which is about 10 minutes further north. We come past the Chittering Roadhouse as another oversized load is getting ready to pull out heading north as well.

“It looks like it’s going to be a normal Saturday morning,” Grandad says.

We come down the hill and across the bridge before getting to Bindoon and the radio is going almost nonstop, and Grandad is listening to it all and I know not to talk when he is listening like that. He told me that he must know what is going on in front of us as well as behind us because being oversized we can only do the speed allowed on the permit, which is 80km/h. At that speed there are a lot of trucks coming up behind us and wanting to get past. Most of them call up on the radio.

“North bound over sized, I’m just behind you, let me know when it’s good to come around.”

Grandad waits until he knows it is safe and there is the room and calls the trucks behind us.

“North bound behind the double oversized. Get your boot into it mate, you are good to go.”

The overtaking truck or trucks get past us, and Grandad will call them to let them know they are past and can get back on the right side of the road.

“You are done mate, have a good trip.”

Five trucks pass us before we come up behind the 7.5m-wide load that came out of the Chittering Roadhouse. They are at the top of Bindoon hill and Grandad said that we have just missed getting around them on the three lanes, so we will have to wait until we get to Long Bridge Gully now before we can pass them.

We sit behind the 7.5m over size, which is a huge front-end loader. Grandad says that it is a Caterpillar 992, which he says is a big loader.

The radio goes just as we are coming up to the three lanes at Long Bridge Gully.

“MTA oversized, copy.”

Grandad picks up the microphone. “Copy pilot.”

“Great, are you good to go when I call.”

“Good to go pilot. I’m 3.4 wide and a double road train at about 65 tonnes.”

“Thanks MTA, get ready.”

“Will do,” Grandad says.

There was a lot more chatter and then:

“MTA crank her up mate, you are good to go.”

“Rodger pilot, I’m on my way.”

You can feel the difference when Grandad puts his foot down, the truck changes gear and then we start to move onto the other side of the road and slowly pass the big front-end loader. We get past and the lead pilot calls us back into the left lane.

“That made you grunt, MTA,” the lead pilot said.

“Yeah, but I will stay out of your way from now on, have a good day guys.”

Stay tuned for part two in the next issue of Little Trucker Down Under.