SHIFT OVER: John Lievore, a heavy vehicle inspector, calls time on a legendary stretch.
SHIFT OVER: John Lievore, a heavy vehicle inspector, calls time on a legendary stretch. Contributed

Retiring NSW scalie reflects on long career

"I CAN'T afford to sit here anymore,” said the frustrated truck driver.

He'd been holed up in his truck, trying to avoid the heavy vehicle inspectors who'd been sitting on him for three or four days straight.

The inspectors knew he was inside his truck, which was parked up at his home, but when they tried to approach it, the driver's wife came out to tell them he wasn't there.

But they knew he was inside so they just played the waiting game until the truckie couldn't take it any longer.

Eventually, he came out and was booked for being too heavy.

That's just one of the amazing stories that retiring "scalie” John Lievore has to tell.

"That was just some of the lengths drivers would go to to avoid getting caught,” he told Big Rigs, who spoke to him just before he officially retired on September 19 after 44 years of continuous employment with the New South Wales public sector.

John started out with the Department of Main Roads of NSW on June 22, 1976, initially as a clerical officer before becoming a weight of loads inspector.

Loving working outdoors, he then became a vehicle regulations inspector with the Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW, which then became the Roads and Maritime Services before Transport for NSW took control this year.

"There's so many great things that I love about this job,” John said.

"First and foremost, it's the camaraderie, the guys I work with are great. That's always been a big thing in a job like this you need to have your colleagues heading in the same direction as you and (you need to) have a great support network.”

While he said he'd made many a firm friend from his workplace - he had also struck up friendships with the other side - the transport operators.

"I've made some firm friends from the industry itself,” he said.

John has worked at stations all over the state - but said he mostly spent the nights out and about chasing truckies who played a bit of cat and mouse in the middle of the night.

"That was a bit of an eye-opener,” John chuckled, remembering some of the stories that were told about drivers trying to avoid being found.

"We had truckies jumping onto tarps before we even pull over so you can't find them, and we've had a driver once who ran into a block of units never to be seen again. That was before the comm- unication that we have now.”

John's day at work was a busy one, with he and his fellow inspectors checking over about 30 vehicles a shift.

However, the number of trucks that went down the screening lanes of the inspection station was in the hundreds and could go well into the thousands.

He said one intercept could take considerable time but the next could be only four or five minutes.

"It varies greatly and the best thing about the job is that you never know what's going to happen next, it's a known unknown.”

He said inspections were full on, underneath, on top and around the trucks.

"We're looking at things like fatigue, loading restraints, mass, regos, it can be quite busy and you're always aware of what you're looking at.”

He described his role as one that was "magnificent for road safety” and one that gave a lot of comfort to drivers when it came to getting vehicles off the road that needed to be off the roads.

"There's a lot of operators who do the right thing,” he said.

"I like to try and treat people with respect, sometimes within the first 30 seconds you know that's not going to happen.

"More so now than 15-20 years ago, the industry really understands that we're here to do a job to protect everyone on the road. The amount of times I've had drivers say that if you weren't here the industry would be chaotic.

"I think times have changed. Equipment, trucks and trailers are getting bigger, there's more weights, braking performances are better and attitudes seem to be better.

"You still get the small percentage that really just don't want to know, they don't care, they've got a job to do and they'll do it how they see fit.

"They give the industry a bad name and they're the ones we know we'll have trouble with but all in all, I've only been threatened on a small number of occasions.

"I try and talk and treat them with the respect that I want in return and I think I've been pretty fair. I'm getting softer as I get older some of my colleagues like to say.”

But the truckies aren't the only ones in the industry that deal with the stigma that comes from working inside the transport industry, with John saying the public had their own ideas about his job.

"I've been called a highway Gestapo and they've said things like I'm taking food out of families' mouths, but I try and educate them and turn around and say if we weren't here there would be more fatalities and accidents,” John said.

"Some people just don't want to hear that, but the majority of people fully comprehend the job that we do and, in the end, they end up thanking us.

"They're the fair dinkum drivers, they appreciate who we are just as we appreciate theirs is a hard job.

"If we work together that'd make things a whole lot easier.”

As for whether he'd seen any crazy defects before, John said he hadn't seen anything that bizarre in his four-decade long career.

John had some parting words of advice for drivers - and that was just to make sure they were constantly maintaining their vehicles.

"A lot of time is taken up maintaining a heavy vehicle and a lot of drivers spend every Saturday or Sunday doing that because they know they'll be working all week and won't have the time,” he said.

"I think they need to do that more often, just walk around the vehicle and check it. Any driver that's out there and not checking his gear is an accident waiting to happen.”

As for what he's going to do next, John said he was a bit anxious about retirement, wondering if he'd made the right decision to step down from full-time work.

But, he said, he was planning on spending some time playing a bit more golf, going fishing, travelling and spending more time with his family.

He said he was also going to buy a caravan, get off the beaten track, and see "this great country of ours”.