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Rolling start

Sydney Morning Herald

Friday February 11, 2011

Steve Skinner

It's not every day that crashing lands you a job behind the wheel, writes Steve Skinner. When Bernie Ledger went for an interview for a truck-driving job, he admitted upfront that he'd rolled a big rig in the past.Not surprisingly, Corey Matthews, the owner of refrigerated transport specialist Roadmaster Contracts, was taken aback.But Bernie soon explained he rolled the International ACCO prime mover and trailer as a stunt for the telemovie Stock Squad in the 1980s."Anybody can roll a truck but rolling it at the right spot in front of five cameras was the hard part," Bernie says. "The worst thing would have been if the pin snapped, the trailer would have come through the cab and wiped me out. But the whole thing worked perfectly and the rig came down with a hell of a bang. I laid down with a lap belt on, inside a roll cage. I wasn't hurt at all."Bernie has rolled cars countless times, not to mention being "shot" and "beaten up" more times than he can remember in a stunt-and-acting career spanning 36 years and including such high-profile movies and TV shows as The Matrix, Wolf Creek, Peter Pan, Bellbird, All Saints, Water Rats, Cops L.A.C. and Who Dares Wins.But the Australian film and TV industry has been so slow in recent years that Bernie supplements his stunt work by driving semi-trailers for Roadmaster Contracts, based near Windsor in Sydney's west.He's part of a film industry double-act working regularly for the company - the other half is old mate Ralph Clark, who drives B-doubles interstate.Ralph, 63, has his own amazing story. A diesel engineer by trade, he drove the Bourke to Hungerford mail truck for a while in his younger days. He's run tippers and dogs and for 30 years he and his wife Sue had their own company specialising in transport for the film and TV industry.Their involvement in the TV industry began by chance late one night in 1974 when an old petrol Dodge pulling a trailer-load of horses for the ABC series Ben Hall broke down almost out the front of Ralph's mechanical workshop. Ralph refused to take payment for fixing the ignition problem but then one thing led to another.Ralph was able to advise Bernie on rolling the truck for Stock Squad because he'd already supervised the famous rollover of the tanker in Mad Max 2. He was the transport manager for Crocodile Dundee and Burke and Wills, among many other productions filmed in the middle of nowhere. He knows how to improvise. Ralph is modest about the celebrities he's known but speaks proudly about his work."I haven't had to call a mechanic yet," he says. "I've had gearboxes out on the side of the road in the outback. I've had engines apart, with the conrods out. One time in the Northern Territory we had a semi-trailer on the back of another semi, towing a rigid, which had a dog trailer behind it." Ralph's regular loop takes in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. He loves the open spaces involved."I love the outback and in the film industry I got plenty of that," he says. "In this job it's the semi-outback, which has gone from desert to lakeland. For me, it's all fascinating."

© 2011 Sydney Morning Herald

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http://www.mechanics.com.au/mechanics-articles/2011/2/11/rolling-start/