‘We gave up our jobs to become a trucking family’: Making a life on the road

Three years ago, Roger Coombes barely saw his partner Emma between her late-night shifts in hospitality and his fly-in fly-out roster for BHP. After COVID restrictions made flights difficult, Coombes decided to buy a truck and started doing deliveries interstate with his truck. After a few months, Emma joined him. They are now spending more time together than ever.

“We’ll try and do a 10-hour day. Then we just pull up where we want on the beach somewhere, let the dog have a runaround, and we just kick back and relax,” Coombes says.

Working together, they bring in $240,000 gross a year. Diesel is their dearest expense and last year was $50,000.

The couple regularly travel between Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney with their border collie Bailey picking up and delivering packages along the way.

“We really want that work-life balance. We’re making enough money and keeping our heads above water, just working away. We’ll do between seven and 10 days. And that’s it,” Coombes says.

Alaa Khachan bought a van and stumbled across web-based platform Truckit in April 2022. His wife, Suzi Zaiter, was working from home in an administrative role at the time and started to join Khacham on the road.

The couple now work together, with Zaiter managing all the bookings. Often they will travel with Khachan’s eight-year-old son Ali and have taken Suzi’s mother and even friends along on their interstate trips.

Alaa Khachan, with his partner Suzi and son Ali, and their truck.Credit:James Brickwood

When they are away, they eat out at restaurants, go shopping and spend time at the gym and hotel pool.

“When we first started, we would leave after Ali would finish school, and then we’d be back by Sunday.”

Since they started, the couple has done more than 500 jobs, advertising on Gumtree, finding work on transport apps like Truckit and Loadshift, and doing private jobs.

When Rob Russell, CEO of Truckit, launched his online freight marketplace in 2013, he was not aware work-life balance would be an attraction for his providers.

“We do have a number of husband and wife teams that travel together and book their freight and go from destination to destination for jobs,” he says.

“Some providers say ‘I just want to travel and see Australia’. So they buy a vehicle where they can move items around. It’s basically paying for their way, and they’re making a bit of money out of it as well.”

The inspiration came from Russell trying to relocate 850km and realising there was an opportunity to leverage off backloads, which means using available space on trucks and reducing the number of empty trucks driving around.

As a web-based platform, Truckit allows customers to post a job that transport providers quote on. The concept is similar to Airtasker, however Russell says his platform is not a gig economy.

“We’re about people who are trying to be real transport providers. We’re an entry point for a lot of them. Because we provide all the tools that they need to find jobs and grow their business,” he says.

John Quiggin, an economics professor at the University of Queensland, said the pandemic led many of us to reassess our choices regarding the balance between family life and material living standards.

“The experience of lockdown showed that the way we work isn’t set in stone, and created opportunities for workers to take more control over their lives,” he says.

“The strength of the labour market following the stimulus that got us through the pandemic means that many workers are free to explore alternatives without worrying about job loss and unemployment.”

Zaiter enjoys visiting new areas and will book jobs specifically with a desire to explore a new destination, building up jobs along the journey.

“Last week, we actually took two vehicles, and I took my mum with me. We stayed at the Sofitel in Brisbane,” she says.

“Sometimes I take my friends. Last month I took my friend to Melbourne. So we went to Canberra, Wagga, Melbourne and then back, and we stayed in a really nice hotel and went shopping in Charleston and to the zoo in the afternoon. The flexibility is amazing.”

The combination of working for themselves, having flexibility and enjoying working holidays is satisfying for Khachan and Zaiter.

“We’re happy to stay small. Obviously, there are times you’re thinking of the cost of fuel, at the moment they’re very expensive. And we also get a lot of customers who want things very cheap. And it’s just not possible. It is hard at times also to compete with the bigger trucks on the road,” Zaiter says.

As for the Coombes, their 12-pallet tailgate truck is fully equipped with fridges and gas cookers. For sleeping, they stay in the truck or at a pet-friendly motel.

Roger Coombes and partner Emma with their dog. They use Truckit and other apps to travel the country in a truck.

“Got a couple of swag rolls set up. At this time of year, we mainly do motels. Last time the weather was between 27 and 30 [degrees] all the way up the east coast. It was down to about 13 degrees at night. We’ll sit deck chairs out and cook up whatever we want. It’s just perfect. It’s beautiful,” Coombes says.

“We don’t have want for anything. I’m not the sort of guy that wants to get the biggest TV, we don’t care about that. We just enjoy life. And that’s what I say to people. I’m just rich in life, not rich in bloody assets.

“We don’t advertise or nothing like that. We just use our business card. Because we’ll end up getting too much work. You know, and people say ‘we want to get more trucks’. I don’t want that. It’s about the simplicity. I do not want more work. I don’t want worrying about, you know, Joe Bloggs driving and other trucks broken down. So I don’t want that. We just worry about ourselves, you know?”

Coombes took his son Jamie away for a week to see what he thought.

“He said this is the sort of lifestyle I want. He’s jumped on the same sort of bandwagon with us, he’s bought himself a 12-pallet truck as well.”

Make the most of your health, relationships, fitness and nutrition with our Live Well newsletter. Get it in your inbox every Monday.

Most Viewed in Lifestyle

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article