Freestones acts to address driver shortage

Melbourne-based express freight haulier Freestones Transport, in conjunction with the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), is doing its bit to develop young talent in its driving team.

Several years ago, then 17-year-old Jake Caulfield walked into the company’s office and asked if he could get a job driving a truck.

Instead of turning him away due to his lack of experience, Freestones Transport owners Paul and Christine Freestone saw an opportunity to give back to the industry and offered him an apprenticeship as a diesel mechanic in the company’s workshop.

Now in his third year, in addition to excelling in his mechanical trade, Caulfield has completed the VTA’s Driver Delivery Program and is now the proud holder of a Heavy Combination (HC) licence.

He works every second weekend driving semi-trailers for Freestones from Melbourne to either Sydney or Adelaide and is looking forward to finishing his mechanical apprenticeship so he can commence driving full time and obtain his Multi-Combination (MC) licence.

Caulfield’s connection with Freestones goes way back as his father, who sadly passed away when he was four years old, used to drive for the company back in the 1980s.

“I’ve always enjoyed being around trucks and my Dad used to work here a long time ago – Freestones have an amazing fleet of top looking trucks,” said Caulfield.

“A couple of years back I came in and spoke with Paul (Freestone) about how I could get into the transport industry and I was gobsmacked when he offered me a job. I’ve always been like that – not afraid to walk in off the street and see what happens.”

Caulfield said he didn’t really mind what sort of work it was, as long as he was around trucks.

“I was over the moon when they offered me a job, whether it was washing trucks or working on them – whatever it was I knew I’d be happy.”

A key advantage was that he had already obtained his Heavy Rigid (HR) licence while in a previous labouring job, giving him a solid foundation on which to start.

“I got my HC licence under the VTA’s five-day course which was great because it gave me the extra practical experience and knowledge about driving semis on top of gaining my licence,” said Caulfield.

“Those courses aren’t cheap, so I was really stoked that Freestones provided this opportunity for me.”

According to Freestones Transport co-owner, Christine Freestone, giving young people like Jake Caulfield the opportunity to join the industry is a win-win for all concerned.

“Jake knew that his father worked for our company and loved working here and he had a dream to drive trucks just like his Dad did,” said Freestone.

“When he first walked in our door and asked for a job, we promised we would help him to fulfil his dream and we offered him an apprenticeship with us.”

Freestone said over the ensuing years Caulfield has been an exceptional apprentice and through the VTA course he was able to gain his HC licence and become a semi-trailer driver.

“He passed the course with flying colours and today he is still doing his apprenticeship and also doing our FedEx or DHL semi-trailer runs every other weekend,” said Freestone.

“It’s a win-win for everyone – that we had the ability to take Jake on as an apprentice and that the VTA was able to provide the training for him – subsidised by the Federal Government – which enabled him to gain his HC licence.

“As a result, we have gained an exemplary employee and a great interstate truck driver,” she said.

Freestone added that she hoped this story would encourage other young Australians to consider a career in the trucking industry.

“Our message to young people is that there are companies that will train you,” she said. “Don’t give up – your dream is achievable.”

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