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Johno is in retirement heaven

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Johno's retirement workplace suits him down to the ground - even if it on the wrong side of the cab.

 

EVERY morning, Monday to Friday, John McCarroll turns up to the yard of Kreskas Bros Transport and climbs up into his daily drive.

He then proceeds to do a 750 km trip and returns to the yard. On Saturdays he's back there cleaning the truck for the coming week. This is what John calls "semi retirement". His drive is not one of Kreskas' trucks. The company kindly allows John to park up in their yard.

I'm sitting beside John in what is going to be a new beast on the Australian roads next year, being the Freightliner Cascadia.

John is not a truckie by trade but rather a diesel mechanic, whose working life has mostly revolved around the Freightliner brand.

He started his apprenticeship "way back when" at Mid Star Motors, the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Shepparton. From there he moved on to run the workshop for a large transport company in the area, looking after some 36 vehicles - a big fleet fort the time.

"I went back to Mid Star Motors when they became the Mack dealership. Then came Jones Truck Repairs - the local Freightliner dealer - where I went on to become foreman, service manager and sales manager. That business was taken over by Hartwig's Trucks in 2002. I followed and became branch manager for Shepparton and a shareholder in the Hartwig group."

In 2015 John turned 60 and sat back to contemplate the future with his wife.

"The doc said do you want to be here for long time? If you keep doing what you do, you probably won't be. It was high blood pressure and general 60-year-old problems. Stress is a big thing. It's not only your job that you're responsible for. It's all the people that work for you and their families. They have mortgages too."

So he walked away. Too young to sit around, he did a bit of farm work, driving tractors and headers, helped erect sheds and played with a demolition company, "Wrecking houses and stuff. There was a good deal of satisfaction in that," he laughed.

Then from out of the blue came a call from Freightliner. The brand had entered Australia in 1987 and John had worked on their product from 1988 right up until 2015. This had not gone unnoticed by the company. They asked John if he'd like to hop into a test-bed Cascadia, run it around and, using his fount of knowledge, give feedback on the truck. John jumped at the opportunity.

Along with Leon Beard, the men test-drive a 13L (single) and 16L (B-double) on a daily basis around a 750km route. "Head office can change various configurations of the trucks via computer and I report back on it. There can be distinct differences, depending what parameters are put into the truck - some good some bad. That's the whole point of the exercise - to delete the bad. What we're doing is refining the truck down to be the best it can be so the truck can be tailored to an operator's particular needs. I can say that Freightliner are not shirking in their duty to produce the best possible truck for the Australian market. They have been absolutely awesome and I've had no dramas at all."

It's a credit to John that Freightliner thought enough of him to put a brand-new product in his hands and tell him to go and play with it.

The two men swap backwards and forwards between the trucks. "We'll drive one for a couple of weeks and then jump out and into the other. Depending what the boffins have put into the computer you can really notice the changes, which can sometimes be startling.

"What we're doing here is cutting edge in some respects. I don't think that they've even tried some of it in the United States, given they don't run B-double applications over there. It's all about making a better product.

"Being involved in the mechanical side of things, I understand the vehicles and I can report back, using the knowledge gained over the years as to what does and doesn't work. That mechanical knowledge is probably paramount in this role." John calls this semi-retired?

"It's better than having 40 staff and running a business. They obviously have the trust in me to do it. I don't have to hop in it at 3 o'clock in the afternoon to head off somewhere overnight, and I don't have to be anywhere at a certain time to unload. I just check it every now and then to make sure the chains are nice and tight and that the concrete in the trailers hasn't moved. A lot of guys have said tanker jobs are pretty good but this is the best job of all."

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