Back around the paddock


This month's driver of the month is preparing for another spin around the great Australian paddock

Back around the paddock
Back around the paddock

By Sean Muir | June 8, 2012

If you could drive a bus in a straight line as far as Robert Frankcom has driven for Campbell’s Coaches you would go around the world about 31 times.

The 67-year-old has driven about 1.25 million kilometres since starting with Campbell’s Coaches at Townsville in 1991.

Now, after 21 years behind the wheel, he is preparing to retire.

But what does a man like Frankcom do after driving people around the country for more than two decades? Bingo? Lawn bowls? Join the Toastmasters to perfect dinner party speeches?

No.

Frankcom plans to drive his wife, Annie, across Australia in a caravan.

"Fifth of July, my boy, that’s it, I’m out of here," Frankcom says.

"Bought myself a camper trailer, so I’m going to go and revisit all those places where I travelled in the bus and couldn’t have a beer, and have a beer."

Included on his list of places to visit is South Australia and Western Australia’s Margaret River, where Frankcom says he might even drink a glass of wine or two.

"I do love a red wine," he says.

But as much as Frankcom is going to enjoy, wine, beer, his new caravan, and ‘retiring’ from driving, he says he is genuinely going to miss working at Campbell’s.

"I’ve met a lot of people, done a lot of travel, been all over Australia, and really loved it," Frankcom says.

"That’s the thing about it — you come to work and know you are going to go out and have fun. I’m definitely going to miss it."

"The boss reckons I’ll be back in six months."

Frankcom started with Campbell’s Coaches, where he mostly does charters and tours, after living at Airlie Beach in Far North Queensland for more than a decade.

At Airlie Beach Frankcom managed a caravan park before moving to a nearby island for a year.

He then returned to Airlie Beach to buy an Avis car-hire franchise.

But the pilots’ dispute in 1989 devastated the business, leaving Frankcom wondering what to do next.

"It was absolutely devastating for us — we lost everything," Frankcom says.

"With the pilots’ dispute we went from having 14 flights a week into Proserpine (inland from Airlie Beach) to two. There was just nobody coming into town. So we finished up getting out in ‘91, and that’s when we moved to Townsville."

Now, perhaps the only person sadder to see Frankcom leave Townsville than Frankcom is Karen Hoey, who has worked with him at Campbell’s for 21 years.

"He is not only a very good driver, but also a friend that I have had the pleasure to work with for the 21 years," Hoey says.

"Rob is always there to lend a hand wherever needed, and he is very popular with all our drivers. Hopefully he will get the travelling bug out of his system and return as a casual. But he is adamant he won’t be back."

Campbell’s Coaches owner Wayne Campbell says Frankcom’s personality is what sets him apart from most drivers.

"He relates to people," Campbell says.

"He’s been a real good driver and he looks after the newcomers and teaches them the right way to go about things. He’s been real good for the company – he is a real loss."

A farewell gathering will be held before Frankcom retires in July.

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