Mick Baker runs a small fleet of multiple combination trucks out of small base in Dalby, 200km west of Brisbane, on the Darling Downs. Still driving himself, Mick comes from a farming background. His father grew up on the farm and has a farm with a couple of trucks. He spent his youth driving a Mack R600 around the paddock.
The Tulag business began in 2010 after Mick decided to quit the crop dusting profession to stay a little closer to home and see more of his young family. The first work he took on was with a Kenworth T608 hauling a B-double set of tankers full of molasses from the Isis Sugar Mill, near Bundaberg for delivery into a feedlot in his local area, around Dalby.
“I’m a crop duster by trade,” says Mick. “I drove trucks to pay for my pilot’s license. I started crop dusting in 2003 and then had my own business doing it. Then I started having kids and wanted to spend less time away from home crop dusting. That’s when I got back into trucks.
“I started doing this because it was easy to manage. I had two feedlots to supply and it was just getting the job done. At the moment, with the dry, it is getting a bit harder, because I am looking for work. I have had two good drivers for a long time and every week we all knew what we were doing. When I was crop dusting you just had to keep working. Even if I was sick, I had to keep flying.”
As the feedlot has grown, so has Mick’s business. He now has three trucks hauling the liquids the feedlot requires. He also hauls a food supplement liquid into the feedlot from Kingsthorpe on the outskirts of Toowoomba. In recent times most of the molasses comes out of the Marion Sugar Mill inland from Mackay.
The fleet runs two AB-triples and a B-double, plus in addition to the 10 tanker trailers there’s a couple of walking floor trailers now used to move silage, but originally meant to work hauling cotton seed hulls as another food source for the feedlot.
Although the cotton seed work has stopped, the fact Mick has the walking floor trailers has got around and he is fielding calls to move materials like silage on a regular basis. The silage does pay, but Mick reckons it’s hard on the gear getting in and out of the paddocks when loading.
“The dry got us this year,” says Mick. “We even had to go as far north as Tully to get the molasses. That’s a big haul and not very economical for the feedlot, or us.”
Running a small fleet of multiple combination trucks means looking after the assets, the original truck Mick started with in business is still working. The T608 has now done 1.4 million km with an engine rebuild at 950,000km. Mick reckons that’s pretty good for an EGR engine, an engine not known for its longevity or reliability.
This may be as a result of Mick’s insistence on regular oil changes. The old T608 will get new oil every 250 hours and the newer T909s in the fleet will get new oil every 350 hours, well inside the 500 hours recommended by the manufacturer.
“Servicing to me is number one,” says Mick. “I know it costs a lot of money, but I just want to have the reliability. I want to keep my trucks a long time. I think I got very lucky with my T608.”