Hardworking half century for Ross Smith Transport

By: Steve Skinner, Photography by: Steve Skinner


IMG 3629 The Ross Smith Transport crew: Left to right, Jay Jones, Geoffrey Cochrane, Tony Myers and Ross Smith with their prize-winning fleet at Wagga Wagga. IMG 3629
IMG 3639 Life partners in trucking: Ross and Maureen Smith. IMG 3639
IMG 3651 Ross Smith’s pride and joy: the 1989 Ford LTL he drives himself. IMG 3651
IMG 3652 The Ford ‘Dieseline Drover’. IMG 3652

Ross Smith Transport has notched 50 years carting livestock in south-east Australia.

 

Ross Smith has a simple answer to the question: what’s the key to your success in 50 years of trucking?

"It’s just work," he quickly replies.

"And having a good partner beside you.

"We probably never made much money but we’ve got through. Unless you’ve got someone pulling with you, you can’t do it."

That "partner" in both marriage and business is wife Maureen who, like Smith, comes from a farming background.

"We never had real good beginnings," Smith says.

"We both did it pretty hard in younger life. All we’ve known is work."

The couple’s humble beginnings were around the Ladysmith and Kyeamba districts, near Tarcutta, halfway along the Hume between Sydney and Melbourne.

From the age of 11 the young Smith was driving the family dairy farm’s big old Chevvy ute along the Sturt Highway into nearby Wagga Wagga for groceries.

Encouraged by then girlfriend Maureen he bought his first truck – a traytop Bedford – as a teenager and carted grain and hay for a short time before moving into livestock, where he’s been ever since.

The Smiths married in 1968 and since 1982 have lived in their house adjacent to the yard, office and sheds on high ground at North Wagga, near the Murrumbidgee River and beside the main Sydney-Melbourne rail line.

Ross still drives up to 3,000km a week while working the phone in the truck, while Maureen holds the fort with a staff member in the office, handling the pays, banking, tax, jobs, personnel and so on.

 

OLDER TRUCKS AND STAYING POWER

Owner//Driver caught up with the Smiths at the recent Riverina Truck Show and Kids Convoy at Wagga. Ross Smith Transport won the award for best fleet participation.

Four of the company’s 16 trucks were there including the eye-catching 1989 Ford LTL, which Smith drives himself, pulling a single trailer. It has a 400hp (295kW) Cummins matched to a 13-speed Roadranger, with air bag suspension, quad tanks and twin stacks.

It’s a big truck but of course with modest grunt by modern standards. As Smith says, you can get 400hp in rigids these days.

Also representing the company at the show were an old Western Star, a bonneted Kenworth and a cab-over Kenworth.

"We run all breeds," Smith says.

Ross Smith Transport carries only sheep and cattle, through New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

Like the rest of the trucking industry, livestock carting is a highly competitive game, and Ross Smith has seen many others come and go.

"We’ve had a lot of new ones start up just lately, but we’ve had that all our life," he says.

"They start, then they die, but we’re still here."

Amazingly, Smith is still working for some of his original clients from half a century ago.

Smith says his trailers don’t carry their own sheep ramps.

"We gave that away 10 years ago," he says.

"If there is no ramp we don’t go."

You can read the full feature on Ross Smith Transport in the January issue of Owner//Driver, out now.

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