Western Australia has had a massive grain harvest, and there’s a big job in trucking it to port.
Western Australia is the biggest grain producing state in Australia.
Last harvest, after years of poor seasons, WA produced a record 16 million tonnes, worth about $5 billion.
That’s on giant properties using giant machinery, transported by giant trucks and trains.
Trucking grain has become a huge exercise in eastern Australia but not too many companies cart 900,000 tonnes a year.
That’s what Michael Harding’s trucks will be carrying between the start of the last WA harvest and the beginning of the next one.
“Mate, it’s crazy at the moment,” says Harding, who does big business with WA grain handler and exporter CBH from his base at Esperance, about half way along the south coast of Western Australia.
“CBH have to move all the grain…down in our area it was 2.6 million tonnes I think.
“There’s a lot of that in the bush bins. That’s all got to come into town.”
When Harding refers to “bush bins”, he means gigantic grain storages which dwarf any you will see on the east coast.
And when he says “town”, he means the Port of Esperance – shire population 14,000 – with its own massive silos.
One ship this year posted a WA record cargo of nearly 80,000 tonnes of CBH feed barley bound for Saudi Arabia.
CBH grain is being carted from bush bins up to 300km from Esperance, and as close as 75km. Only a couple of these are on a rail line.
Harding is the owner of Esperance Freight Lines, which has expanded to now include Kalgoorlie Freight Lines, Geraldton Freight Lines, and most recently Albany Freight Lines. There is also a depot in Perth.
The big WA operator’s loads include not only bulk grain for cockies and CBH, but bulk fertiliser and bulk inputs for the mining industry. There is also the company’s original line of work: general freight.
Esperance Freight Lines and its offshoots comprise about 75 prime movers and 250 trailers.
The grain combinations involve two and a half trailers, what Harding calls an “A-B-double” set, with a payload of 85 tonnes or so.
Harding jumps behind the wheel of one of his own trucks for a couple of months every harvest from October to December.
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