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French truckie fulfils teenage dream of driving triples in WA

Hailing from Busnes, in the north of France, just an hour or so from the Belgian border, Clément Wantiez made the big move to Australia six years ago at the age of 26.

Now 32, the experienced truckie hasn’t looked back, happily calling Australia home.

He admits that when he came here, the ultimate goal was to drive triple trains – and now he’s doing exactly that. Pulling three trailers, carrying 120 tonne of refrigerated freight behind him, Clément is usually behind the wheel of a 2014 Kenworth T909. Though it’s in the workshop for several weeks at the moment getting an engine rebuild, so he’s currently in a brand new Mack Anthem.

Clément works for Sands Fridge Lines, doing the weekly 2000km run from Perth to Broome, and back again.

After years spent carting goods from busy city to busy city across Europe, Clément has taken to the Australian outback like a duck to water.

He started his trucking career when he was 18 and spent years transporting general, refrigerated and dry bulk freight across Europe – travelling to places like England, Scotland, Germany, Norway and the Czech Republic.

Clément grew up in a farming area which sparked his interest in machinery and tractors, which eventually progressed into trucks.

Prior to moving to Australia, he had never even visited the country. Asked what led him to make the bold move down under, he answered, “It was a bit of a teenage dream of mine. I was really attracted to how big the country is, the big open spaces compared to Europe where there are so many big cities everywhere, the landscape and the tough conditions when you have to travel across the desert, like I do now.”

When he bought that plane ticket to Australia, there wasn’t any doubt in his mind – the plan was always to stay.

“I came here with a job on a farm already lined up. That was just until I could make the transition to get my truck licence here. As soon as I started at that job, I went to get my truck licence,” explained Clément.

“Basically everything is so different here. Even though I had been driving for eight years in Europe, I started from scratch – I had to go back to the beginning.”

Though he originally flew into Melbourne, he didn’t stay long. “It was much easier to get my truck licence in Queensland than it was in Victoria – as in Victoria it would have taken a lot longer,” said Clément, pointing to the licencing disparities between states.

“I would’ve had to go from HR then wait a year for my MC licence. In Queensland, I only had to do a test about the road rules to get my HR – because I held a French HC licence previously – and then I was able to go for my MC straight after that.”

Stopped at the Sandfire Roadhouse, on the way from Perth to Broome. Image: Clément Wantiez

He quickly secured a job in Brisbane, carting general freight to Sydney and Melbourne, and stayed in that role for about a year.

“It was B-double work, which was good but I came here to drive the triples and that sort of stuff so I realised WA was the best place to do that and decided to move there.

“All the bosses I spoke to said they didn’t give triple road trains to everyone, because you had to earn their trust, so I said I’d start in something smaller and work my way up.”

After his move to Perth, Clément spent around two years in double road trains, carting grain and hay for the farming industry, before securing his current role at Sands Fridge Lines – which has company depots in Broome, Bunbury, Busselton, Albany, Esperance, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Karratha and Port Hedland.

When he first moved to Perth, Clément spent around two years in double road trains, carting grain and hay for the farming industry. Image: Clément Wantiez

He got into the triples once he started with Sands, and he’s now been with the company for about two years.

“I carry all refrigerated transport. We have a depot in Broome, so I unload a trailer when I get there at the depot and the local driver does the deliveries, then I do a delivery at a food retailer, then a full trailer of alcohol for the local pub, then the last delivery is to a fast food business in Broome. From June to December, we cart melons back to Perth and a bit of grapes,” Clément said.

“I leave Perth on a Wednesday and when it’s quieter I can get back by late Saturday night, but when it’s busy or I get held up, it’s more like Sunday morning.”

As for the T909, Clément says it’s a great truck to drive. “It’s a good looking truck. I love the fact that it’s still a manual Roadranger gearbox, because we don’t have that in Europe, so I had to learn it here.

“I prefer the bonneted trucks because they’re much more comfortable to drive because you’re further away from the steer axle so you don’t feel that bounce as much. An American truck for a European driver is a bit of a dream, because we don’t have that in Europe anymore either.”

This 2014 Kenworth T909 is Clément’s usual ride. Image: Clément Wantiez

Career-wise, Clément says he much prefers the situation in Australia compared to back home.

“It’s the freedom here. I love going up north, I think I need that time alone. I guess that’s just my personality. I enjoy going to do my own stuff, without too many people around.

“I enjoy the atmosphere when you pull over somewhere to sleep or have your break in the outback, and the sky is so clear you can see all the stars. That feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, that’s what I like.

“Because I do the same job every week, once I leave Perth I don’t hear from management unless there is a drama. At the same time, management is great with us. We have a good relationship and they listen to their drivers too.”

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The post French truckie fulfils teenage dream of driving triples in WA appeared first on Big Rigs.

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