Interview - Dianne Carroll

Interview: Dianne Carroll, CEO - Trans-Help Foundation - 22nd February 2007

Media Man Australia continues to interview people who are making a positive difference in the world, despite the challanges they have had to overcome.

What is your background?

I have been around trucks since as far back as I can recall, as my father was an interstate truck driver. My first memory of actually being in a truck is vague, but I was about 4 years old and I went with my father and mother and younger sister (6 mths old) on a trip to Adelaide in the truck. I recall a bed was made up for my sister on the cabin floor... this was around 1965

My grandfather and uncle also had trucks, so transport was part of life.

I recall mum doing everything, from chopping wood to mowing the lawns to under the bonnet fixing cars, not to mention caring for her 6 children. She did it tough!

I was about 8 when Dad gave away interstate driving, and he done more local driving. He liked a beer and would sometimes become very abusive, with mum copping the brunt of it. He often would come home and say we are moving, so mum would pack up our belonging and us six children and we would move – overnight!. (When mum died aged 55, she had had 99 shifts during her married life)

So the education I received was limited and life at home was tough, so at the age of 13 I left home, I was placed in foster care before going to live with my grandparents. When I was 14 I returned home for my mother’s sake. When I returned I never went back to school – so that was the extent of my formal education.

When I was 15 I met Gary, who was also a truck driver, with his family had generations in the logging industry. We were engaged when I was 16, married at 17.

As a Truckies wife, I soon found out they marry their truck and you go along for the ride. It was tough, plenty of bills, little money and a lot of loneliness. After the arrival of our first child, thing got pretty tough in the logging Industry, so we had to put the truck on interstate. Gary was born and bred in the bush, so city streets and national highways were not his forte. I left my son with my parents and I went on the road with him, to navigate!

It was tough, I remember we would be getting close to Melbourne and I was excited to be going home, then when we got to the depot we were advised there was a load waiting to go back to Brisbane. I would cry till we got to about Seymour.

We would wait months for payments and the finance company was hounding us for payments, which was couldn’t make until we got paid. In the end we decided they would have to repossess the truck. Gary’s father came to the rescue and took over the truck and the payments. So Gary went driving for his father.

By the time I was 23 I had had three children, and things weren’t any easier, so we ended up separating. I was in Melbourne with three young children and often knocked on the door of the Salvo’s to ensure my children were fed.

I then met Peter, who had worked as a truck driver with the CRB/Vic Roads. We had three children and Gary had remarried.

On the 19th of Nov our local police officer rang asked us to go down to the police station… it was then I was told Gary had been killed at work.

I couldn’t understand why, as he was one of the most sought after drivers, because he looked after his truck and was 110% safety in every aspect of his career.

It was later we were told that the night before his death he had found out his wife was having an affair… this answered a lot of questions.. His mind was not on the job!

His wife refused to give our children the Christmas present he had bought for them, nor their belongings or anything of their fathers.

For me I was devastated, as you don’t forget all those years that you were together and the pain in my children’s hearts broke me. I remained strong for them, and then started the 3 year court battle for our kids.

Whilst they didn’t get much, they got a small amount, but we were able to stop her from getting the $1 million she was trying to get and she only ended up with the house and $13,000.

The school of adversity had taught me a lot and I have come a long way become a published author, regional historian, genealogist,.web designer, IT consultant and not a certificate to prove any of it.

What are your aims and objectives?

Our Objectives
“To improve Road Safety Awareness and help to emotionally support personnel and their families within the Transport Industry”.

“The Trans-Help Foundation intends to continue to raise funds and support for people within the Transport Industry, including their families. "

The following Objectives as agreed by the Trans-Help Foundation Board are...

(1) Liaise and negotiate with government departments on a State and Federal level.

(2) Sustain and develop further the current road safety awareness programs.

(3) Establish a support network for the families.

(4) Evaluate and disseminate examples of best practice in fundraising.

(5) Encourage all road users to adopt safe driving initiatives and respect other drivers.

(6) Provide special events for the families.

(7) Support and raise awareness of Truck Drivers Memorials.

(8) Support our Sponsors.

(9) Provide a Job Network for the Transport Industry

How and why was the group formed?

In 2004, I approached my children to see if they wanted their fathers name on the Australian Truck Drivers Memorial… they all said yes. So I contacted Gary’s parents, as I wouldn’t have done it without their blessing and they were very supportive of the idea.

The President of the Memorial Committee, Ron Pullen and I had a mutual acquaintance, who had informed Ron of what I do and have done for Community organisations over 20 years. Ron and I were introduced and I started assisting. I ended up taking the phone calls from widows of drivers who had been killed within the industry.

I was astounded to think that the industry had not changed in 20 years, and I was on the phone, using my personal experience to console these grieving families.

The following October I attended the Memorial service and there were all the people literally fighting for a change to speak to me, and when they did they broke down and conveyed how my phone calls had helped them through their grief.

It was then I knew that something was needed.

I prepared the concept of what I believed was needed to make a difference and showed it to several people who thought it was brilliant, we then had a meeting with Royan’s of Wagga Wagga, who immediately came on board as the founding sponsor. We would never have got it off the ground without their support.

What have been the biggest challenges overcome?

Establishing Trans-Help has been a big challenge, but after just 12 months we believe we are 2 years ahead of where we thought we would be. Along the journey we have identified many concerns within the industry, and the challenge ahead is to tackle each one to try and make a difference.

Who have your biggest supporters to date?

The many widows, who we have assisted, the truck drivers who have contacted us with various problems, Royan’s of Wagga Wagga, PPG, Cameron’s Transport, beyondblue, Truckin’ Life and Trucks In Action.

What transport companies are doing the right thing, and what firms have much room for improvement?

No matter which industry, there is always people who do the wrong thing, and sadly within the transport industry it is those few that are detrimental to the entire industry. We are not here to name or shame companies, but we have major concerns for those drivers who employers leave them stranded interstate following accidents, claiming no responsibility.

What's the government’s reaction to this matter, and your initiative?

To date we have had no government support, and we have not pursued in the interim, as we wanted to ensure our structure and network of services were secure and working, which they now are.

We have no intent to step into the roll of political debate but we will express our concerns when they are effecting the wellbeing of the drivers and their families.

We applied for the Gift Tax Deduction status, but because we utilise secondary sources, we find were not eligible. We are not prepared to loose lives or reject the urgent need for some humanitarian needs to comply with the criteria set to make us eligible.

The WorkCover possess is a major concern, with many of the interview being more like an interrogation, causing additional depression, making the return to work process longer than necessary. We also have anecdotal evidence that injured workers, under the WorkCover system do attempt to take their lives and a small percent are successful.

There is also evidence that drivers, and in the event of fatalities, their families are not informed of their entitlement – i.e Workcover, with some employers advising their drivers that because they are casual they are not entitle to it… we have several cases where this has been the case, and we have successfully obtained WorkCover payments for them. In other cases, the widows have not been informed that they are entitled to a “death benefit”.

We also want the government to address the fact that transport accidents on our roads are infact “work place’ accidents and should be investigated as such. Currently these accidents are classified under the road toll, elevating the local, state and federal of responsibility. Local governments are screaming for more funding for local roads, they need to get being us to make these changes and then the government would have no choice but to increase local funding.

What media attention have you attracted to date?

Truckin Life have been our primary supporter/sponsor, Overnight Express do talk back each week, as does Nicci at Truck Radio. 5AA has also allowed talkback. Several local papers have published stories, but the main media don’t care… their focus is the impact stuff… like a fatality. They publish the details and photographs with no consideration to the impact it has on the already grieving family.

They are not interested in the fact that we are out there saving lives and being a lifeline to many families who are suffering from the side effects of the industry.

Statistics state that 75% of transport accidents which involve cars are caused by the car, not the truck

How do you know that your making a positive difference?

We have assisted well over 150 transport families since our official launch in September; five of these cases have been the prevention of 5 potential suicides… we are defiantly making a positive difference

What are your current projects?

· We are currently establishing an “Employee Assistance Program” to offer to companies

· We are structuring a Road Trauma Response Package model within the Wagga Wagga district, which will then be offered to other regions to implement.

· We have established the “National Emergency Database” known as NED, which records the emergency details of all members, including if they have a will, their Superannuation fund, their employers emergency contact details etc.

· We are working with beyondblue to establish a workplace program based on depression within the transport industry.

When will you know that your efforts have been worthwhile?

They are already… We receive many words of appreciation, and when it gets tough I read the following text message which I received at 7.30 am on Australia Day.... I must admit it bought me to tears, but it is the message that inspires me every day to ensure the THF succeeds, no matter what the hurdles.

"Hi Dianne, I didn't see your name on the honour board but any 1 who would give up her time for truck drivers should be given the highest order of them all lady. Was talking 2 an ex driver last night at tea & couldn't tell ya his name but he praised you for the help given by u. He stopped & we had tea at West Wylong. He and his wife were off on a holiday that they never had. He told me he was going to end it 8 mths ago & 1 phone call woke him up, thanks to transhelp.

Another… our first case, which we invited Phil to our official launch… here is his speech and following is comments he also made to me, which I proceeded his speech with.

My name is Phil Maple, I used to be a truck driver..

I was the driver of a 12 ton rigid from Brisbane through to Bowen. I had a bit of an accident up outta Cohen, 50 minutes north of Mackay, Nth Qld. I rolled the truck four times at 100km on the 24th Aug 2005.

I got banged up pretty bad, sustaining multiple injuries and having to be kick started twice. I went to the café upstairs twice, it had a sign saying “back in 15 minutes”, guess they had other plans for me… eh

Because it was the first night for me with this company, the manager at the time came with me to show me what was to be done. So we were 2 up driving, he escaped the accident with 25 stiches to his leg apparently and was discharged from Mackay hospital the same day. From that day to this I have never heard from him, guess he has his own demons to deal with.

As far as the company goes, the only time I have heard from them was 2 months ago, an office girl seeking my address to send me my group certificate…. Fantastic support – NOT!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m not here tonight looking for sympathy or pity, as that is not me.

I am hoping by being here and you hearing what a ride this has been for me, maybe you and I can improve the circumstances of drivers going through or unfortunately about to go through similar horrific situations that I faced… the humiliation, the vulnerability, loneliness, depression, lack of moral and emotional support, the suicidal thoughts and the social isolation. You might say what an exaggeration, I’m sorry no! It is the reality of the situation I faced and to a certain extent what I still face.

I guess I’m lucky my own strong will and in the clear light of day not really wanting to die has kept me going.

I got very desperate one night and I rang a radio station in Sydney and asked for a friend. Fortunately a lady truck driver named Betty was listening and rang me. She drives for Toll on contract to Woolworths out of Minchinbury, NSW. Finally there was someone from the industry who knew what I was going through and could relate to all this as she was in the industry. It was exactly what I needed, someone to understand, we remain in contact to this day.

In May, this year, whilst reading Truckin Life, I saw an article about a foundation newly formed, which was aiming to assist drivers and their families in situations similar to mine.

I thought Thank God! Not that I am religious. I decided to contact them and offer my assistance in any way I could… so maybe some other driver could be saved from the stress and crap that my journey has taken me through.

It was after the story in Truckin Life that I found my self in a situation where I needed desperate assistance. I contacted the Trans-Help Foundation as I had no where else to turn. Within 20 minutes the Trans-Help Foundation had every resource in place for me to be helped. I wasn’t humiliated in any way for asking for help, I was treated like a human being, which was kinda nice for a change.

Later that same day, just out of the blue, I got a call from a fellow named Rick Lay, also from the Trans-Help Foundation. Just making sure I was OK.

He is a truckie on the road himself and again he had been through a horrific circumstance too and knew where my ride had taken me.

The Trans-Help Foundation has been so encouraging. I have started to feel confident. Believe me, the Trans-Help Foundation has been there though some of my darkest moments, even though they will probably never realise it. Knowing that the Trans-Help Foundation is just a phone call away, I am finally starting to feel safe again.

What has amazed me is they were not trying to blow their own trumpet or being FIG JAM, these are just genuine real people assisting others in real situations. Situations they have experienced and knew how to deal with it and inspiring other people to further help themselves.

I would like to thank the Trans-Help Foundation for the assistance given to me. I would also like to thank Truckin Life for their care and support in telling my story.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I encourage you to form a partnership with the Trans-Help Foundation, as you will be saving lives by helping and supporting drivers and their families out there who need it within the industry.

It is through the inspiration of the assistance given by the Trans-Help Foundation that has given me the courage to speaking here tonight. If my story can assist to make sure life is easier for any driver when they encounter the unfortunate situation of trauma it has been worth it.

Thank you for taking the time to listen..

The following is worth you reading.. these are notes that Phil sent to me

1. Being told by the hospital after 7 days in intensive care and 7 days in general ward that I was being discharged and that I had to arrange my own flight back to Brisbane

2. Being told by the hospital that I had to arrange a taxi to the airport, as no ambulance transport was available. Fortunately a nurse contacted a Rotary who had voluntary support and to me to the airport at MacKay and seen me onto the plane. I slapped them $20 donation for the help (they didn’t want to take it)

3. Having a letter from the surgeon at the hospital advising airport security staff that I had a full back brace so I could get through security. Not accepted and they took me to an office where I had to strip off so they could check. Totally humiliating.

4. Trying to fill out the WorkCover forms so I could get a claim so I could see doctors etc in Brisbane and get some money through. After several phone calls and a lot of stress I was finally put in touch with a person from WorkCover was able to assist me to ensure it went through rapidly.

5. Seeing the neurosurgeon in Brisbane, his secretary couldn’t get hold of the rehab people at the Prince Charles Hospital. So I was given the Drs name and number to make my own appointment. After many phone calls to an answering machine, I finally received a call to advise me that I was unable to obtain an appointment until March 2006. This was just great… why the hell was I kick started from the accident, why couldn’t I have been left to die. I relocated to NSW to get Rehab there, 2 weeks after I shifted I received a phone call from Qld to say they had a cancellation and could fit me in… that was 3 months after my accident.

6. I was treated to a flogging by a person I trusted who was drunk was all banged up, not long out of hospital at the time, normal circumstances I would have put this person on their arse, but due to the circumstances I had to ring the police.

7. The police ended up assisting me to get me out of the situation with my gear. I had no where else to turn in Qld, so the police to me to a homeless men’s home in Brisbane, where I had to hand in my pain killers and was only able to take them when a nurse was on duty. I was frightened, depressed and really did want to die. I was now amongst drug dealers, alcoholics, con men and criminals… I just had to survive somehow.

8. I was there for 5 days, when friends in NSW became aware of my situation and organised to get me to NSW. In mid September opened their home to me, where I stayed for the next 2 months until I got a unit. As I was experiencing flash backs, lots of pain and walking all hours of the night, I needed to be on my own so I didn’t disturb no one.

9. I was walking the streets til 1,2,3 o’clock in the morning here in Springwood, the pain was becoming too much, the depression, anxiety, loneliness and lack of support and a feeling of actual worthlessness wanting to throw myself off the bridge here onto the freeway or under a truck on the highway. Somehow I got through wall this, I don’t know how to this day, but the fact I got through is all that matters.

10. Not opening up to the doctors about any of this for fear of ending up in a Psych hospital and being forgotten

11. I made a conscious decision not to have any prescription drugs in the unit so there was no temptation.

12. All the humiliation, vulnerability, depression I got through, by myself proved useless in the end.. I was a coward and I didn’t want to die alone.. but thanks to Betty and you and Rick, Dianne you have all made me see life’s worth fighting for.


Trans-Help Foundation






To find out more contact:

Dianne Carroll
CEO for the Trans-Help Foundation
03 56342060 or 0410 990 060