Running a Grain Cartage Business in Country NSW is hard enough, but Steve Davidge also runs a horse breaking and training business at the same time, so Diesel News checked in on trucking out Temora way.
Temora sits at the crossroads of the Goldfields way, between West Wyalong and Wagga Wagga, and Burley Griffin ay, between Yass and Griffith, in the rural heartland of New South Wales.
Steve Davidge and his wife Sam run a small operation from a modest yard on the edge of town. Typical of transport businesses in the area, their operation serves the agricultural industry with sets of tippers geared to handle the cyclical changes of location and product as the seasons change.
The Davidge business was formed in 1970. However, the family had been running some trucks for some time before. Originally, the family business was based on the south coast of NSW at Moruya with Steve’s father and grandfather hauling for the logging industry.
The basic business started off just carting logs, but was extended after 1975 when they began to handle general haulage, in and out of Sydney, up and back from Moruya.
At that time there was also a growing demand for grain in that area and they began to grain from inland NSW back down to the coast. The grain was being moved on flattop trailers, tippers, at the time, were a rarity. Sheets were laid on the bed and over the gates, then the grain was shovelled into place.
“The work was fairly labour-intensive,” says Steve, dryly. “You couldn’t get a driver to do that sort work these days. I remember, when we were kids, we used to go along and help father unload oats at dairy farms with a shovel. The best part of it was when you got finished, they would give you a litre of milk to drink.
“As the grain got busier, Dad just moved out here to Temora. We moved here about 34 years ago, and we just went on growing, bought a few tippers and continued to grow. The business eventually built the fleet up to about 10 Mack trucks. We had a combination of Superliners, a ValueLiner and the rest were Ultraliners.
“Dad always had Macks, so when we took over, we bought three of the trucks and then bought another one a few years later. Since then we have traded two of them in on new trucks. They had taken over the family business in 2015.
Two new trucks are included in the fleet, Superliners with MP 10 engines and 685hp under the hood. The cabins are a new 60 inch sleeper design which has come out of the Mack system and was one of the first to become available in Australia. With the slightly longer wheelbase, it means the trucks also have to be fitted with an extra long driveshaft, something which is a little out of the ordinary for Mack truck buyers.
Steve had been driving trucks for his father as soon as he passed his truck driving test. Later on he began a career as a commodity trader in the agricultural industry. Later, Steve also spent quite a few years working as a fly in fly out logistics manager for an operation laying gas pipelines across Western and Northern Australia.
“I miss hearing the air starter on the old Macks,” says Sam.” They’re not quite the same now. We used to be able to hear them from home and you would know that’s someone was off up the road.
The company run four trucks these days, all of them Macks, of course. The trucks run predominately as B doubles, but the operation does run two of them as double road trains in the busy season. One of the busy periods is the gypsum season, which runs out of Balranald, delivering into the local area. Then there is the series of harvest periods around the state and interstate.
“When the season is right and things are going well, we usually start up around the Queensland border,” says Steve. “We will send three or so trucks up there and then they will gradually work their way back down as the harvest moves south. We will haul down to the ports when the fertiliser is on and there’s grain to go there. However, there hasn’t been any this year, there’s nothing moving.
“It’s going the other way this year, grain’s coming out of the ports into to our area. We have still been very busy this year, hauling grain out of grain stores and into feedlots and the feed mills. Later in the year, it might be different story.
“In a normal year, we would be hauling grain to Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle, and then bringing fertiliser back. Last year was a little bit lean, but we got through okay. This year is even leaner, so it’s probably going to be an even bigger struggle. We might have to look at a different set of trailers or something like that.
“I remember, years ago, Dad got hold of some curtainsiders and started running them for another company to keep the wheels turning. It wasn’t a great money spinner but it kept things rolling along before the grain came back.”
The two newer Macks went to work in Western Australia as road trains in the lead up to the Christmas period in 2018. This was a time when the harvest was going well over there and work was quiet in NSW. The drivers simply drove over there and stayed in WA for the two month period.