Transport industry takes its toll

By: Greg Bush

Date: 10.07.2017

Ray Cooper’s retired 1978 Atkinson at the 2017 Sydney Classic & Antique Truck Show.

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Ray Cooper at his 2015 induction to the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame in Alice Springs.

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A carved wooden plaque commemorated Ray Cooper’s two late sons at the 2017 Sydney Classic & Antique Truck Show.

Ray Cooper has been through many personal battles in his 64 years’ involvement in road transport, but is now gearing up for the fight of his life

Transport industry takes its toll

Ray Cooper at the 2015 Haulin’ The Hume. Photo by Tamara Whitsed

Retired owner-driver Ray Cooper, aged 83, is surprisingly buoyant about his career in the road transport. Amid the years of driving interstate and later involvement in events such as Haulin’ The Hume and the Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show with his 1978 Atkinson, Ray has suffered much personal loss which he attributes to the “heartbreaking industry”.

Ray had to relinquish his truck licence in the past couple of years due to health reasons. He decided to retire the Atkinson as well. It now runs on historic vehicle plates.

“I used to do Perth, Darwin, Cairns … it never broke down on me on the road,” he says. Ray’s 64 years in the trucking industry have been mostly as an owner-operator. “I’ve had AECs and Deutz trucks, but this is my favourite,” he says of the Atkinson.

“Even when we bought new trucks, I still drove this.” Ray was inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at Alice Springs in 2015, much to his surprise. “I didn’t know anything about it,” he says. Ray should be looking back at fulfilling life in road transport, but he’s had more than his fair share of pain, including four marriage breakups which he blames on the industry.

More importantly, he lost two sons, Trevor and Ricky, along the way. Trevor was killed in a three-truck accident at Muswellbrook in 1999 at age 30, while Ricky, died by his own hand five years ago shortly after buying a new truck. Both have plaques on the Australian Truck Drivers’ Memorial Wall at Tarcutta.

A wooden plaque commemorating Trevor and Ricky was positioned in front the Atkinson at the recent Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show, while artwork on the back of the cab paid tribute to the two brothers. “I taught them everything I know,” Ray says. “I taught them the right way.” Ray still manages a smile and, despite the tragedies and his current health issues, he’s not complaining.

He says he’s had a good innings.

See more on Ray Cooper in Owner//Driver‘s coverage of the Penrith Classic and Antique Truck Show, featuring in the July 2017 edition.

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