Bush battler Rod Pilon notches four decades

By: Steve Skinner


Regional NSW-based operator and colourful character Rod Pilon is celebrating 40 years running nationally.

Bush battler Rod Pilon notches four decades
Still going strong: 2015 marks 40 years since Rod Pilon began operating his trucking empire.

 

Rod Pilon enjoys the trappings of a successful trucking entrepreneur, including a prime riverfront farming property and a small plane which he flies himself.

But unlike some other trucking tycoons who have come and gone in recent years, Pilon’s business foundations are not built on sand.

Pilon owns outright three of his five major depots in eastern Australia and 40 of his 45-strong Kenworth prime mover fleet, which pulls 130 trailers including road trains. He employs 100 staff.

Not bad for a bloke who is one of 11 children, whose mother died the day after he was born, who left school the day he turned 15 to become a jackaroo working "14 days a week" at 6 pound 2 a fortnight, and who went on to serve in Vietnam.

This year is the 40th anniversary of Rod Pilon Transport based at Dubbo ­­­– halfway between Melbourne and Brisbane in western New South Wales – going national.

And it sounds like the bush character is ready to return to where his working life started, on the land.

The 66-year-old Rod – otherwise known as ‘Roddy’ or ‘Roddo’ ­­­­­­­­– is in the process of handing over the reins of the trucking business to his son Ben, 36.

"Benno is the future, Rod’s the past," says the straight-talking truckie who still occasionally jumps behind the wheel, and whose language frequently includes the word "mate" as well as another one we can’t print.

"It’s a very fast-evolving industry," he says.

"I’m stepping back from the business. I don’t want it, Benno can have it, and I don’t envy him.

"I’m not that big a dill that I want to run until I’m 75 and then drop dead."

ATN recently spent an enjoyable Friday afternoon hanging around with the Pilons at their Dubbo HQ while they went about their daily business.

Ben was running the operations room on his own this particular day, while a steady stream of staff consulted Rod about stuff in the big sheds out the back.

It was impressive to see how Ben handled a pretty frantic situation on the phones and computers with calm good humour and it was a blast from the old-school trucking past to see Rod asking staff how they were going, what they were up to on the weekend and giving them pats on the back for jobs well done.

Rod has also been known to give staff blasts of a different kind, but apparently all is forgiven and forgotten the next day.

He says Ben is a lot less volatile and a lot more family-oriented than he ever was with his own wife and four children (Ben and three daughters).

"Trucks always came first for me in the old days. These days things are different," Pilon says.

You can read the full story on Rod and Ben Pilon in the February issue of ATN, out now.

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