Compliance has become a very large part of many trucking businesses and this can make it even more complicated, when ensuring compliance throughout the business, in the livestock transport sector with the addition of animal welfare concerns on top of those relevant to any other trucking operation.
There is nothing simple about hauling livestock in the modern environment. A task which was formerly one which was simply that of getting livestock to the saleyards or abattoir is now fraught with a wide array of regulatory and compliance issues.
Gone is the ‘she’ll be right’ method of running a business. Not only are the issues of driver competence, fatigue, safety and well-being paramount, but ensuring all vehicles on the road comply with the rules around the task they are handling is also vital.
On top of all of this are the animal welfare expectations which are paramount in the livestock transport game. These concerns are also very important for the consignor and the consignee, but the transport between the two parties is the most visible in the supply chain, and the one where issues can often occur.
It takes a different kind of person to work in this sector of the transport industry. People working in the livestock transport game are often an animal person first and a truckie second. 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.”
At the time of Athol’s arrival at Frasers, four years ago, there were changes in compliance procedures, new ideas needed to be integrated into the business. Policies and procedures needed to be reviewed, some new paperwork would be needed and other paper work could be streamlined.
The Frasers operation prides itself on being ahead of the game and ensuring the business can keep up with trends and market insights in the industry, as they appear. The operation covers a wide swathe of Queensland with depots in Warwick,Toowoomba, Goondiwindi, Roma and Rockhampton.
“It’s all about getting our drivers the tools and information that our clients expect,” says Athol. “They need to be leaders in what they do. Carting a cow from A to B sounds pretty simple but there is a lot behind-the-scenes that goes with that. We have got huge animal welfare expectations now, there are consumer and market sentiments that drive the protein supply chain, not only just in Australia but also globally.
“Our drivers need to be connected to the task, animal welfare needs to be front of mind all day every day. So does driver wellbeing, it’s also about the safety of the person, making sure that they get home safely and are not at risk of any concerns. You are working with a live animal, which is quite unique in the transport task. You need to be connected to that task and have the skills that go hand-in-hand with that.
“We achieve that by training and educating drivers, sharing our market insights, keeping them abreast of what is happening in the industry. We have seen unprecedented times in the last five years, compared to any other droughts we have had in Australia. We are having to deal with significant water restrictions, the condition and temperament of the cattle can vary, from time to time. Drivers need to be able to deal with and adapt to these problems.”
The company tries to instil a paddock to plate mentality within the drivers. They are asked to think from the point of view of the end consumer and understand their own importance in the process of bringing a high-quality steak to the dinner table for people all over the world.
“Sometimes you need to look over the fence,” says Athol. “You need to be connected with your industry, and for us, that is the pastoral industry. Whether that’s grass fed, organic or grain fed beef, also pork and lamb, we need to all work together in the supply chain to minimise any disruption, but also to keep the whole issue of animal welfare front of mind.
“Consumers have expectations and we need to recognise the important role our drivers play. We have to have them engaged in the journey, the whole paddock to plate journey.”