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Over 50 years behind the wheel and still going strong

The Wyton family name is synonymous with the Australian road transport industry, not just for its connected history, but for the values it stands for: hard work, respect and humility. 

The second of three generations in the industry, 2008 Wall of Fame inductee Gordon Wyton has clocked up over 50 years behind the wheel with no plan to stop yet.

The 1940s saw the US declare Australia eligible for aid under its Lend-Lease Agreement with the British Commonwealth of Nations. 

American machinery and materials were loaned to countries deemed vital allies of the US during World War II, including Ford, Studebaker and Chevrolet trucks. 

In 1946, an agreement signed directly between the US and Australia, deeming Australia to have acquired full title to all lend-lease articles in its possession, left a surplus of these vehicles to be disposed of to the Australian public.  

Doug Wyton, Gordon’s father, was a carpenter by trade but soon found himself the owner of a Chevrolet lend-lease tipper. With its wooden tray, this Chevrolet, driven for the Department of Main Roads in Charleville, was the Wyton family’s introduction to the transport industry. 

Doug eventually acquired an International R190, a R200 and a DCOF. When Moonie oil field, Australia’s first commercial oil field, was discovered west of Toowoomba, Doug took to carting for Oil Drilling & Exploration Pty Ltd. Doug’s Australian-built Internationals served alongside imported American Kenworths, the preferred choice of the expat oilmen working in the area. 

By 1965, having grown his business to support several operators, Doug purchased a Kenworth W923 – the very first Kenworth sold by Brown and Hurley. 

For £15,000, Doug not only played a pivotal role in establishing the relationship between Kenworth and the Australian transport industry, but also the relationship between the Wyton family and Brown and Hurley that continues today. 

In 1966, Doug purchased Somerset Transport in Muttaburra. With some livestock and general haulage contracts already in place, Doug required all hands on deck to keep the business moving. Gordon, aged 12, would be tasked with washing the trucks, including the stock grates. 

Doug Wyton’s Kenworth W923 carting wool. Images: Gordon Wyton

He recalls that the hours of cleaning were made worthwhile when his dad would let him jump in and “back up to a trailer or hook it up to the dog”. 

“That’s how you’d learn.” 

By 14, when Gordon left school, he was driving a mail truck, running from Muttaburra to Longreach, Hughenden and surrounding central Queensland towns. 

When he wasn’t occupied with his mail run, Gordon could be found in the shed with the tyre changer. 

“We’d do wheel bearing, brake liners and all that sort of thing.”  

Earning $15 a fortnight, Gordon remembers, “I got taxed 50c a week and Mum used to take $5 off me in board, which left me just enough to get to the Muttaburra pictures on a Saturday night.” 

For Gordon, a strong advocate for experiential learning, the time spent working with his father was crucial. 

“You go too fast into a corner and you go ‘oh crickey, that was a bit close!’ and next time you won’t do it”, Gordon says of his early years learning the ropes.

“If you’re lucky enough not to lay it on the side, you’ve done well.” 

Beyond driving, Gordon had the opportunity to watch as his father navigated the highs and lows of business ownership. When the wet season hit Muttaburra, the town could be shut off for three months at a time with no trucks able to come in or out. 

The RAF was required to fly food in, which Gordon and the team at Somerset Transport would be responsible for collecting via backtracks through the sandhills. 

With careful negotiation, the bank would not chase payment for the three months with the promise that Doug would catch these up once the town dried out and his trucks were moving again. A testament to both Doug’s reputation and the time, Gordon believes “it would be a different story today”.

In 1977, when Doug stepped away from transport and split the business between his four sons, a 21-year-old Gordon headed east to Brisbane. He quickly gained exposure to the various facets of the industry, from fuel and bitumen to pipelines and heavy earthmoving equipment. 

On one occasion, Gordon was asked to move a load of horses on a flat top trailer, which he rightfully describes as “an experience”. When asked his favourite, Gordon recalls “I enjoyed wool when I was young and fit”. 

Gordon carting a fully-dressed CAT D9L Crawler Dozer on a tri-axle (approx. 60 tonnes).

By 1997, Gordon, ready for his next challenge, started his business, G&D Partners. With over 25 years in operation, Gordon has plenty to be proud of, from winning the Industry Excellence Award at the 2008 QTA Road Freight Industry Awards to his contributions to the Waterfront Carriers and Queensland Trucking Associations.

However, Gordon says he is most proud of the support of his family – his wife Brenda, sons Troy and Michael and daughter Becky, and his loyal staff. 

“Brenda is my biggest supporter. She’s a rock…and I can sit her up behind a triple no worries,” Gordon adds. 

When Gordon handed over the reins of the business to Troy and Michael in 2022, many of his team had been with G&D Partners for over 20 years. 

Gordon explains that reliable staff are not bought but earned. 

“It’s pretty simple. You do the right thing by people, and it comes back to you.”  

He does, however, acknowledge “it is getting harder and harder to find decent operators now” in an aging industry. Gordon says the unfortunate reality is that “they’ve either got a good job or they’re dead”. 

At 68, Gordon is “taking it a little steadier”, but still enjoys driving when he can. There is one truck that Gordon insists he will keep – the first of the Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Kenworth T909s he purchased from Brown and Hurley in 2015. 

Although his father Doug passed in 1979 and was not able to see it, Gordon’s T909 pays homage to the W923 his father bought half a century earlier. 

The T909, having now done over a million kilometres, serves as a legacy not only to the Wyton family but to the Kenworth brand.

The post Over 50 years behind the wheel and still going strong appeared first on Big Rigs.

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