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LBRCA young driver effort encourages excellence

The Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association work is paying dividends.

 

Depending on whose study you reference, the average age of an Australian truck driver is somewhere around the 47-year-old mark.

Based on this figure it would suggest there are also a high percentage of truck drivers working within the transport industry well in excess of 50 years old. While on one hand this is a positive in being that the vast majority of the driver pool should theoretically have many years of driving experience and a generally speaking higher skill set that goes with it. It’s a good thing.

On the negative side these figures could also indicate that as the current workforce retires or moves into different vocations, there are not a significantly high enough number of younger recruits entering the industry to take their place. We have been seeing the effect of this for some years now, indicated by the need to import overseas drivers to fill the gap.

Initiatives to make the career of truck driving more appealing should be actively encouraged by all within the industry if we are to adequately address any workforce shortfall, and promote the trucking industry as a viable and rewarding career choice.

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Proactive mentorship programs and awards recognising excellence are just small ways in which young driver excellence can be fostered and encouraged early on in the piece to acknowledge a job well done.

Hard won young driver awards with stringent performance criteria should be worn as a badge of honour and something to aspire to. An award should take pride of place on the mantle-piece in the pool room.

The Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association (LBRCA) in partnership with Safe-Work New South Wales have been running their annual Young Driver of the Year Award since 2015, to recognise outstanding young heavy vehicle drivers that demonstrate a best practice approach to driving and safety.

The annual award is hotly contested with stringent criteria to be met by all nominees. Nominations must come from an LBRCA member and nominees must be aged between 21 and 35 years old. Nominees must also be either an LBRCA member or work directly for a member.

According to Bec Coleman, chief operating officer of the LBRCA: “The award is our way of identifying excellence in young drivers and moulding them into industry leaders; that’s what we aim to do with the award.

“This is highlighted by the progress of our inaugural award winner, Reggie Sutton.

“Since receiving his award in 2015, Reggie has since gone on to currently hold the position of vice-president of the LBRCA”.

“Each year we receive seven or eight nominations who must complete the entry to include two independent references, information about the nominees driving and employment history and answer a series of industry relevant questions and typical scenarios and how they are handled in day-to-day life on the road.

“These nomination forms once received make up 50 per cent of the judging process. In the past couple of years we have tightened the criteria even further to require a clean police check and an untarnished driving record.”

A panel of judges comprising former award winners, award sponsor representatives and award steering committee members evaluate the nominees’ answers and credentials blindly before trimming the list of nominees down to three finalists.

The chosen finalists are then notified and invited to the LRBCA annual conference.

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At the conference the finalists are then interviewed and judged by a five-member panel, which includes two representatives form Safe Work NSW.

The award winner, once chosen, then goes on to represent the LBRCA and young drivers as a safety ambassador for Safe Work NSW. Additionally, the winner receives an industry study tour prize to the value of $5,000.

Stock experience

The LBRCA conference for 2021 was held in Dubbo on March 6, with the Young Driver of the Year trophy awarded to Matt Benseman of Tamworth NSW.

Thirty-three-year-old New Zealand-born Benseman works for Maloney Livestock Transport (MLT), also based in Tamworth.

Before joining MLT, Benseman spent eight to nine years working on a broad acre farming property in Goondiwindi, Queensland, before moving to Tamworth where his stock work skills gleaned on the dairy farms of New Zealand would prove a valuable asset to his next career of the modern-day drover.

Mick and Carolyn Maloney began operations of MLT in December 2018, at which point Matt started with the company as a driver.

Suitably impressed by Benseman’s manner and professionalism on the job since then, Carolyn nominated him for the LBRCA Young Driver of the Year Award.

Originally purchasing four second-hand trucks to kick MLT off, these trucks have since been traded up for new models with the all-Kenworth fleet size now standing at six company trucks and four full time sub-contractors.

From the company’s Tamworth base, livestock movements are carried out all over Australia in predominantly B-double configurations.

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Starting a livestock carrying business in the midst of a crippling drought didn’t seem to adversely affect the MLT operation. According to Mick Maloney, there was a good supply of work be, it moving stock to better pastures (until they could no longer be found) then ultimately to abattoirs for meat.

Eventually conditions improved and the job of re-stocking began with pastoralists needing to replenish dwindling herds thinned out by the drought.

“At one point we were carting a lot of calves out of Daly Waters in the Northern Territory to Guyra NSW for restocking,” Mick Maloney said.

Benseman can be found carting stock all over during his 11-day stints away from home – Longreach, Ballarat, Kempsey and anywhere in between or wherever the livestock needs to go.

“Usually once a month, I will travel over to Nundroo in South Australia to load sheep from WA into NSW,” he said.

Maloney goes on to explain: “These sheep are brought across to Nundroo by WA carriers and placed into holding yards.

“Our guys will usually get over there Tuesday evening to load Wednesday morning and have the sheep into places like Dubbo, Trangie or Orange in the NSW central west by Thursday afternoon, completing the sheep’s trans-continental trip which started near Perth on Monday morning.

“Doing it this way means we don’t have to take our trucks out of our eastern Australia operations for the whole trip across to Perth.

“This keeps our fleet available to service one of our main clients in the Kempsey area of NSW.” 

Slim Dusty tags

Benseman’s current stead is a six-month old T659 Kenworth that has just clocked up 100,000km. The Kenworth is coupled to a set of Byrne stock crates which are just three weeks old.

Unlike the drovers of old who had a mere handful of horses to move the mob, Benseman has the pleasure of 600 X15 horses provided by Cummins and 2150ft-lb of torque to keep things spinning. An 18-speed Roadranger transmission is used to swap cogs manually.

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Each of MLT’s trucks has the title of a Slim Dusty song inscribed on the side of the bunk. Maloney, a big Slim fan, blames his dad who he describes as a “Slim Dusty tragic”.

Maloney said he tries wherever possibly to give Benseman a three-day break on his stints at home. Benseman adds that reasonably regularly, he manages to get a night at home with partner Amy in the middle of his 11-day roster, working on advanced fatigue management (AFM).

Benseman enjoys the life on the road and (soon to be wife) Amy is very understanding of the truckie’s life. Working in transport herself and having a father and brother who do similar work, Amy has been somewhat conditioned to the truck driver’s timetable.

“My truck is fitted out with an inverter, fridge/freezer and microwave, so I can heat up pre-prepared meals I take from home,” he said.

“It’s hard to find a decent feed sometimes, so I’m pretty self-sufficient.

“We all try to keep our driving hours within the window of 7am to midnight. There are some exceptions at times due to loading and unloading constraints but mostly it tends to work out.”

Driver encouragement

Maloney is quite involved with the LRBCA young driver award having had a colleague awarded the prize when he was working for another employer.

“I like to encourage younger drivers to get involved in the industry; the lack of young drivers coming into this game is one of the biggest challenges the industry is facing,” he said.

Janelle Edgar, MLT’s compliance and training manager agrees. “We like to create a space where drivers feel appreciated and safe in their workplace. That’s why people like Matt thrive, they have a good environment to work in which MLT has put in place.”

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I have seen this harmonious working environment first hand, operating from a small office at the rear of their Tamworth property.

After a few photos were taken down at the main yard, I was invited into the Maloney’s home for a coffee and chat (and an offer of some eggs which I had to decline after overindulging at the motel buffet breakfast earlier).

Maloney said their family dining room doubles as the lunch room with any staff or visitors welcomed warmly. “I won’t employ anyone who I won’t have in my home,” he added.

He says MLT is great to work for and he really gets looked after. He says it feels good to be appreciated for what he’s achieved by receiving the Young Driver of the Year Award and he plans to utilise the $5,000 trip prize to return to New Zealand for two weeks and visit some industry facilities including an abattoir, after which he will take the opportunity to catch up with family while there.

 

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