Warren Caves takes the nostalgic path down Sesame Street – Images by Torque it Up

As 285 historic vehicles assembled at Camden, south-west of Sydney, for the biennial “Haulin’ the Hume” run on Saturday March 30, a wet and misty start to the day did little to dampen the spirits of eager participants.

The inaugural run took place in 2011, covering the 240km run from Camden to Yass following (as much as possible) the original Hume Highway route. The event commemorates the time and effort taken by drivers the complete the Sydney-to-Melbourne trip. Back in the early days of the highway, the time taken to travel between the two major cities was measured in days, rather than hours as it is now.

The torque-sapping hills of the Old Hume Highway and the numerous villages and towns through which the trucks rumbled every night would have been formative in the early driving days of the somewhat older band of drivers involved in the modern-day re-enactment run.

Recalling times when calls over the CB radio of “southbound, hole in the wall” or “green light northbound” sounded, the memories were still vivid in the minds of many of the participants as the procession of trucks, trailers, buses and cars meandered through Picton to the delight of many spectators after traversing the famous “Razorback Range”.

Some of those villages, such as Picton, Yanderra, Yerrinbool, Berrima, Gunning and many others long since bypassed, now provide a sleepy existence for their residents. Many may never have been woken in the night by the cackle of Jake Brakes or the dulcet tones of a high-revving, two-stroke “Jimmy” piercing the night silence. This was once the norm, especially with those running express freight on what was undoubtedly one of the busiest freight routes in the country.

Every two years on Haulin’ The Hume day, Saturday sleep-ins in these hamlets are interrupted by hundreds of historic trucks and buses exceeding acceptable modern-day decibel levels and emitting enough exhaust soot to discourage the hanging of washing on lines.

Put on by the Western Sydney Historic Vehicle Club, the event was conceived by Bruce Gunter whilst on a run to Alice Springs with his father, Geoff, in a Commer Knocker they had restored. During that trip, Geoff suggested a Hume run might be a good thing to do.

Bruce says the fact that his Dad fell ill on that Alice Springs run formed a need to get the idea off the ground. The rest, as they say, is history, with the event gaining in popularity on each subsequent occasion, building from the original 143 entries in 2011.

After seeing the wide enthusiasm for the event and an ever-growing number of entrants, Bruce saw the opportunity to cast the transport industry in a good light and also raise money for a charity close to his heart, Aspect. Aspect is Australia’s largest service provider for people on the Autism spectrum, as is the case for Bruce’s son.

Monies are raised from vehicle entry fees, cash donations and from sponsors, such as Kenworth, Mack, Pace Farms and Park Lea Sand and Soil.

After the rain had cleared, the historic convoy assembled at the Goulburn Recreation Centre grounds for a very chilly intermission and lunch, organised by Bryan Webb. This provided spectators and drivers alike the opportunity to take a closer look at the diverse range of trucks taking part in the event.

The lunch stop also afforded an opportunity to speak with Bruce Gunter, the event founder.

These days actively involved as a consultant for companies conforming to compliance legislation for the transport industry, Bruce says the Haulin’ The Hume event not only casts the industry in a positive light but also that the preparation of the trucks − together with the restoration work involved in getting them ready for this and similar events and rallies − goes a long way towards combating mental health issues such as depression. The camaraderie and common goal of this event fosters a unique bond of shared interest whilst paying homage to the men, women and trucks that make up Australia’s transport heritage.

After lunch, the procession of Internationals, Kenworths, Macks, Bedfords, Peterbilts, Dodges, Mercedes, Fodens, Commers and a whole bunch of makes I’m sure I have forgotten, made their way back to the Hume Highway. The route then following the Cullerin Ranges through Gunning and Breadalbane to terminate at Yass for a dinner and fundraising auction.

There’s no doubt it’s nice to sit in a modern truck with its air-conditioning, cruise control, air-suspended seating, heater and the knowledge the service brakes will actually provide reassuring speed retardation, preventing a bead of sweat forming on your brow at the sight of a “steep descent” sign. But it is equally gratifying to see Australia’s transport heritage cared for in the capable and loving hands of proud owners, still “Makin’ a Mile “even if they are not getting paid for it.

Not in their wildest dreams could these drivers of yesteryear have imagined the kind of creature comforts afforded to the current-day truckie, and they must be applauded for operating what could, at best, be described as rudimentary equipment.

However, keeping things in perspective, the trucks of 2060 and beyond will most likely bear little resemblance to the 2018 model I drive today.

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