When Stuart St Clair moved into the role of CEO at the ATA in March 2006, he was very much unknown in the Australian road transport industry.
He had worked as a truck driver in Sydney and took on other hands-on roles in the industry before buying a saw mill in the New South Wales town of Guyra, cutting timber in the bush and dressing it to suit a nationwide client base.
While cutting his teeth in the New England region’s timber industry, he was involved in trucking on his own account, carting logs from the scrub to the mill with a jinker and then loading cut timber on a flat top trailer and heading to Brisbane, Sydney and places in between.
As a businessperson in Guyra, he could see the value of further involvement in the local community and was elected to the local shire council in 1987. In 1991 he then became mayor – signalling a career in politics may actually suit the entrepreneur.
Soon he was elected to the House of Representatives as National Party Member for the seat of New England – a post held from 1998 until he was defeated in the election of 2001 – before becoming Chief Adviser to then-Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson and, later, Chief of Staff in the office of Andrew Stoner MP, Leader of the NSW Nationals – a role he held for 12 months until February 2006 when he joined the ATA.
“When Stuart was appointed CEO of the ATA, we really didn’t know what we were getting us into with a man from the timber industry and politics,” past Chairman of the ATA, Trevor Martyn, told guests at a recent function held in Stuart’s honour in Canberra, which Prime Mover attended.
“The thing is, we did not know how he would relate to trucking. Certainly, he had the experience in politics to open doors, but would he understand the industry? It did not take long for us to find he had a real passion for trucks and trucking and this has benefitted the industry greatly.”
And a passion for trucking Stuart has: In his days operating the Guyra sawmill, Stuart enjoyed driving his 1974 330hp Volvo NL12 greatly; and while he was committed to his sawmilling business, he is the first to tell he was very much at home behind the wheel and looked forward to every trip that was an essential part of his business. That passion extended to his ATA role, and soon after taking up the CEO position he was, as the adage goes, into it boots and all. Looking back, though, it wasn’t just himself who was responsible for the successes the ATA was able to celebrate during his nine-year tenure behind the wheel.