People working in the livestock transport game are often an animal person first and a truckie second. It takes a different kind of person to work in this sector of the transport industry. This is an important part of the culture in this sector of the transport industry.
“The livestock transport industry, has its own culture and there is certainly a lifestyle associated with it,” says Athol Carter, Compliance Manager at Frasers Transport. “Once it’s in your blood it’s hard to get it out. You make friends and connections for life and, I suppose, the beauty of the livestock industry is that you are your own boss in some respects you get to go to places that other people would never see.
“It’s great to experience the culture and the nature of the Australian outback. One day you can be carting cattle down the Pacific Highway and two days later you can be on the Strzelecki Track in South Australia, or on the Barkly Highway going to Darwin. Livestock transport can be all about helping others out and, working together everyone achieves more.”
Before starting to work for the Frasers Livestock Transport operation in Warwick, Queensland, Athol had a wide experience around Australia in different segments of the rural transport sector.
Originally from Gympie, Athol’s family had a general transport business, Athol worked in this business before heading out on his own. His career in the trucking industry began with 11 years working as a driver in livestock ,general freight and bulk haulage. The jobs stretched across Western Queensland from his current home of Dalby out to Quilpie and beyond Cloncurry.
The lifestyle involving continually being out on the road and away from home did not look so attractive when Athol and his wife were planning a family. It was around this time that he landed a job working for a large operation involving heavy and bulk haulage.
In this operation he began working as a training and driving assessor. The company was hauling bulk materials around rural areas. Athol’s experience, he had worked around road trains for most of his working life, meant he was able to bring new employees up to speed in a time of fast growth in the sector.
Earlier this century, the bulk haulage ,mining and resource industries were in a major boom. The industry was needing to find drivers, train them up and keep them compliant in large numbers and it needed experienced operators to train those drivers and keep the operations safe. Athol’s role as a trainer and assessor saw him running large driver training programs to keep up with the increasing on-road haulage task around the coal mining boom.
“We’d would have 10 or even 12 projects going across Queensland at once, all requiring skilled drivers, at that time,” says Athol. “This was just supporting bulk haulage work in the mining industry and then later, in the coal seam gas boom, in the Surat and Cooper basins and beyond.
“It was unprecedented growth and you had to keep up with it, and keep up with task changes as fast as possible. At one time, during that period, you just could not get enough trucks or drivers to support those infrastructure projects which were opening across Queensland.
“We had to outsource and engage subcontractors to do the work and at the same time, grow the fleet exponentially. We were bringing in a lot of new equipment to keep up with the demand. The coal seam gas, they call it the ‘project of the century’, and it was out of control, you couldn’t get enough equipment and you couldn’t get enough men, it was crazy.”
This proved to be a real baptism of fire for Athol and the wide-ranging experience and problem solving he had been expected to do has prepared him for work in other sectors of the industry. He had moved from his original training role into becoming an operations manager, later moving across to safety and compliance manager within the same fleet.
The opportunity, when it came, to join Frasers was an attractive option, going back into the livestock industry, which he had been involved in when he was younger.