In Australia, each area has a different feel, the trucking life changes from region to region. Once you get away from the Eastern Seaboard, the nature of the trucking industry changes dramatically. 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 of larger carriers in this sector, who run 100+ trucks and vacuum up a lot of the creamier work and do a good job at 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 which 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.
“I’ve been out on my own for about fourteen years,” says Paul, sitting in his cabin after we meet up on the road in Coonabarabran. He is hauling a sheep-filled B-double up from the Dubbo area to Tamworth and the abattoir. “I drove for my old man a couple of years before that. When I was young, I travelled with the old man a fair bit and did some driving as a young fella, from day dot. Any spare time was in the trucks – weekends, after school, holidays.
“I always reckoned, when I started, that I could run my own truck and eventually would. In a family show, father and son have their differences, we worked hard, got tired and had blues. In the end I got sick of arguing and tried to buy my own truck. I was only 22; I couldn’t get finance, because all I had was a car.
“I bit the bullet and bought a house and went to work up in the Territory. I had always wanted to work up there. I was driving triple road trains for Hamptons for a season. I came home for the wet season, expecting to go back up after it finished. Then I met Jo, my wife, and tried to get finance for my own truck again.”
Paul did manage to get finance this time around, on a Kenworth T900. He first worked towing his father’s trailers as a subbie, but within a year had bought a trailer set, hoping for an increase in work, which actually did eventuate. By 2008, Paul had bought a second truck, another Kenworth, but this time a T904, plus another set of trailers.
Soon, he was heading up into Queensland with a triple set of trailers for a season. North Queensland and the Northern Territory hadn’t had a wet season in 2007, which meant they couldn’t get enough trucks to move the cattle. This solid work helped the business get onto a more sound footing.
“When I came back, I bought more sheep crates and started picking up a lot of my own work,” says Paul. “I still worked along with my Dad as well, we just worked together, and we still are today.”