Primitive loading standards the norm for WA sheep transporters

By: Steve Skinner, Photography by: Steve Skinner

Lack of ramps, cramped space for manoeuvring and farmyard obstacles cause problems.

Primitive loading standards the norm for WA sheep transporters
­­­­­­Concerned for the next generation: David Fyfe.


There’s not too much about sheep that David Fyfe doesn’t know.

The former shearer has been trucking them around Western Australia for more years than he cares to remember.

For nearly three decades he’s been carting sheep with his own company Fyfe Transport, based at Lake Grace four hours east of Perth.

Now his son Liam has started out as a livestock specialist with his own prime mover.

But there’s no more consideration for older or younger truckies now than there was 30 years ago, laments Fyfe.

This includes his observation that most WA graziers don’t even have ramps for loading sheep onto trucks.

"I started our business in 1987 and now my son has started in 2015 and he’s still using the same facilities that we were using in 1987," says David Fyfe.

"If the sons of these people went to work at a workshop in Perth and they were still using the same electrical leads and the same spanners and the same workshop ethics from nearly 30 years ago, they wouldn’t be that happy about it.


Some things never change. Just ask Fyfe Transport.

Posted by Owner Driver on Tuesday, 22 September 2015


"You’ll go to a property and there are no available facilities, so instead of having a loading ramp you’ll back up to a set of yards and then you might get a couple of panels and a bed head and a bit of wire and you’ll make a bit of a race, and then you’ll put your own race into the thing and away you go.

"It can take up to 20 minutes, 30 minutes every farm by the time you set up your own portable loading system, because you’ve got to be absolutely spot-on and you’ve got to have the right angle."

Liam agrees that an hour out of the day can easily be wasted mucking around with a lack of loading ramps at what is commonly three pick-ups.

Fyfe says it doesn’t seem to make a difference whether the property is owned by a big corporation or a traditional farming family, most of them still don’t have ramps.

Which is why he carries his own narrow ramp if the back door of the trailer proves too wide when lowered, as well as his own aluminium sides.

On top of the lack of ramps comes time wasted manoeuvring B-doubles around in confined spaces where no thought has been given to drivers.

Quite often there are sheds, trees, fences, silos, augers or other obstacles in the way, leaving little room. Drivers can easily get tied up in knots trying to back doubles in on the blind.

"It would be good if the farmers could help us, but it just seems too hard for most of them," Liam says.

Owner//Driver sought responses to the Fyfes’ comments from peak farming bodies in Western Australia.

"Western Australian livestock producers are aware of their workplace health and safety obligations to staff and other people who come into contact with or use their livestock loading facilities," WA Farmers Federation Meat Council president John Wallace claims.

"WAFarmers has worked collaboratively with the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) to produce a Guide for Safe Design of Livestock Loading Ramps and Forcing Yards.

"The guide has been developed to promote safer workplaces and to improve animal welfare outcomes."

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia did not respond to a request for comment.

You can read the full story in the October edition of Owner//Driver.


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