Once you get away from the Eastern Seaboard, the nature of the trucking industry changes – there’s a return to an older set of values. Yes, there are still line-haul and supermarket delivery trucks out here, but the world is dominated by livestock and bulk tippers. This is the core of trucking away from the cities, carting whatever the farm produces to the point where it is to be sold, stored or processed.
There are a number or larger carriers in this sector, who run 100+ trucks and vacuum up a lot of the creamier work and do a good job of it. However, the small carriers with fleets varying from one to twenty or so trucks are the heart of the industry. These people rely on a bit of their own work and helping out the big boys, when needed. These operators have to rely on themselves most of the time, it’s all about self-reliance and having the right stuff.
One of those who has the right stuff is Paul Milgate, based in Trangie about 80km out of Dubbo, along the road to Bourke. Paul and his small fleet cover an area all the way up into Queensland and down into Victoria, depending on the season and the markets for sheep and cattle.
Paul is one of the younger operators coming through, something that the livestock game seems to have more of than the rest of the trucking industry. While other segments struggle to get anyone under 50 to drive for them, keen young boys from the country seem to keep turning up in livestock yards looking for some work.
Paul now runs four trucks, two of which work all year round and another two pick up seasonal work as and when it comes around. His father still has his own two trucks and the two fleets work side by side helping each other out when work gets busy, and it always seems to be busy.
The two full-time trucks just handle livestock, the third truck will sometimes pull livestock trailers, but more often pull a tipper loaded with wheat during harvest time and cottonseed in the winter. The fourth truck just hauls the double road train tippers, when needed. The livestock trailers consist of two B-double and two road trains, capable of handling sheep and cattle.
The trailers are a mixture of new and second hand, but are going through a renewal at the moment, with a new Byrne B-double set on the way and a road train set of Graham Lusty step deck tippers, with a triaxle dolly also in the pipeline, expected just before the start of the cotton season.
The truck fleet consists of all Kenworths – two T909s, a T659 with Cummins power and a T900 powered by a C15 – not the original truck, but as close as Paul could get. He can’t get enough of trucks and has two W model Kenworths at home, one a 1972 and the other a 1973, both in line for a restoration, when time permits.
“Trucking’s not like it used to be,” says Paul. “I want it to be like it used to be. I’m only 35, but I wish it was still old-school. The logbooks suit interstate trucks, we can’t keep up. They run faster, but we have to run steadier.
“The time we spend loading, checking the load and then unloading, it does not make sense for us to run to the same rules as them. We run a lot of stock out of the Cunnamulla area, travelling about 500–600km, but if you load two trucks at daylight, you can be struggling to get them off the other end before dark.”
This is what life is like on the road hauling in rural areas. There is no time to be thinking about the bigger picture. When the work is on, it has to be done now. When something goes wrong you have to improvise, but get the job done.
People involved have to do the right thing. In these areas, especially, it’s all about personal relationships, between producers, truck drivers and the end customer. Most of all the people involved in trucking in rural businesses have to be made of the right stuff.