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Heavy haulage legend sells up to run island beach bar

It was a bittersweet moment for heavy haulage legend Brad Imber as he watched his gear roll out of the Hemmant depot for the last time.

After 44 years in the game – much of it moving some of the biggest and meanest looking loads ever seen on Australian roads – Brad, 63, has called time on life behind the wheel to run a beach bar and grill on idyllic Coochiemudlo Island, Queensland, that he now owns with wife Karen.

Edge Heavy Logistics, the company he started in the later part of his long and illustrious career with Karen in 2019, will carry on as a going concern in the same name, initially at least, but managed by well-established parent company ColPak Logistics.

The Imbers put the wheels in motion for a seachange some years earlier – Brad also bought his parents’ house there before buying the bar. But Brad admits that he still had a lump in his throat when it came time to say goodbye to an assortment of trailers, and a 2013 Kenworth Big Cab and 2010 Western Star – and all the blood, sweat and tears that go with it.

“I had a bit of a happy smile on one side of the mouth, and a droopy one on the other, if you know what I mean,” said Brad of the recent equipment handover.

Brad’s been too busy at the bar – they took the reins there last November – and the sale of the trucking business to have too much time to reflect, but it’s clear the big move is going to take some time to process.

“As you watch all the gear drive out the gate, you realise just how long it took to start a business from nothing. You put your heart and soul in it for five years. We had a lot of customers that wouldn’t even ask for a price. They just wanted us to do it because it was us. 

“We were proud of what we had, we worked very hard, and Karen was behind me every step of the way.”

Although Edge Heavy Logistics started small, a drop-deck was soon joined by a triple-drop tailer after winning the contract to cart 320 reels out to Coopers Gap Wind Farm.

A second truck soon followed with a similar set of trailers and when that worked finished, Brad’s engineering skills modified the trailers to carry giant dump truck tyres.

“That carried us through the next couple of years, doing dump truck relocation for some of the major heavy haulage companies.

“That was very profitable and rewarding because I built all the frames and designed all the trailers.”

Edge Heavy Logistics featured on the Big Rigs’ cover twice in recent years. Images: Prime Creative Media

The Imbers also quickly forged a reputation with the armed forces as a trusty pair of hands in the transportation of all manner of equipment, from tanks to mine sweep boats and decommissioned planes – two of those collaborations earning cover story slots in Big Rigs.

The first, a Mirage fighter jet from Amberley to Townsville in 2020, and the second was a de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou in 2022.

Both projects were commemorated with framed Big Rigs covers on the wall at Edge Heavy Logistics and Brad is hoping they’ll also find a pride of place at the bar on Coochiemudlo Island.

“It’ll be nice to have a Wall of Fame, so people can see who you were. The average Joe who comes in, doesn’t know our background at all.”

Brad started out as an apprentice mechanic for Bryan Byrt Ford before graduating to driving the team’s race car transporter at just 20.

A stint towing semi-trailers for J.N. Nicholson Transport soon followed, before Brad moved to concrete agitators.

A good mate then coaxed him over to McAleese Transport, circa 2004, where he started out doing general linehaul with semi-trailers.

Brad then moved to North Queensland Heavy Haulage in 2007, before he worked as workshop manager at Lindores Crane and Rigging for a couple of years.

After that, Brad started working for Heavy Haulage Australia (HHA) under Jon Kelly for “seven or eight years”, which also included a high-profile role on 2012’s TV reality show MegaTruckers.

“When I first started with Kelly, I think he only had seven trucks and six drivers, and when he sold it, he had 75 trucks and 130 staff by the time he finished.

“John and I had a good relationship. We were 20 years apart but thought the same. We had some very robust conversations and arguments, but he left me alone and didn’t worry me much. I think he appreciated my ability, and I appreciated him for who he was, and we just kept moving forward.”

Brad and wife Karen with the Mirage jet they safely transported from Amberley to Townsville in 2020. Image: Edge Heavy Logistics

After leaving HHA, Brad took a break from driving, starting up his own seafood business with Karen for a couple of years.

Some casual work followed for Brad with National Heavy Haulage, then Russell Transport, and Lee Crane Hire in Biloela, before launching Edge Heavy Logistics in 2019.

“I just thought heavy haulage was the pinnacle of the industry and I just strived to get there and gave it everything I had.

“Opportunities knocked and opened up for me and I just went for it and gave it 150 per cent and ended up the top of the shit heap at a couple of places that I worked.”

Heavy haul highlights abound for Brad; if you had a large and heavy load to move, particularly those others thought were too tough, chances are he was at the top of your list to call.

Pushed for a proudest moment, Brad offers up the blemish-free, back-to-back delivery of 17 930E Komatsu dump trucks out of Brisbane to Clermont (943km) when they were first introduced to Australia.

“They were 9.6m wide and coming out of Brisbane through the suburbs was challenging, but we did them all.

“I think the highlight for me in my career is that I came out of it pretty clean actually, and I’m pretty proud of myself that I carted all those wide and heavy loads, for all those years and never blew up a truck, never killed anyone, and never rolled one over.

“Every 10 seconds, the order of things coming at you changes carrying a wide load, so you live on the edge for a lot of years.”

Brad and Karen have settled in to their new life running the bar and grill on Coochiemudlo Island in Queensland. Image: Karen Imber

Brad is also grateful for having driven in one of the best eras, when truckies lived by the creed of never leaving anyone behind.

“You’d pull up an entourage with two police and two pilots and help a bloke who was broken down; you don’t see that much anymore, and I miss that. And it’s so over-regulated now. During Covid we were classed as an essential service, but as soon as it was over it was like we were back to being grubby shitheads again.”

If Brad has any regrets, it was that he didn’t start his own business 20 years earlier than he did.

“Instead of making everyone else millions, I could have made it for myself. But I couldn’t have done what I did in that last chapter without all the knowledge I accumulated through all the different jobs I had.

“I suppose for me the thing that touched me most, and even at HHA where I was the national manager for the Goldhofer self-propelled trailers, I got such a kick out of teaching people and standing back and watching them achieve the goal we set out to tackle.

“The only reason I got to where I was is because I had guys do that for me, and I always said to Karen that if I could just inject back into the industry what the transport industry gave me, I would leave on a happy note, and I am.

“I had a lot of successful years in heavy haulage and to own my own business at the end, and to come out doing okay and selling it to another reputable company, why wouldn’t I be proud.”

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