Eagle’s a Shaw thing

By: David McKenzie

An International Eagle 9900i, specially prepared for the Brisbane Truck Show in 2007, is the shining light in the small fleet of Shaw’s Transport

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Steve Shaw and his son James were picking up a load of bullocks from a Comdain-owned property at Ancona near Mansfield in their International Eagle 9900i when Owner//Driver caught up with them.

Operating as Shaw’s Transport, their small fleet is based in Mansfield, where Steve has 800 acres and 200 head of cattle, as well as his original property in Gobur.

Most of Steve’ business comes from stock agents in Mansfield but the Shaws also have a number of private clients such as Comdain. Although primarily hauling livestock, James says during the low times they will cart anything.

James has been with the business for a couple of years now, firstly obtaining a medium rigid licence at age 19, and then his heavy rigid 10 months later. His semi licence came soon after.

Steve has been in business for the past 48 years. His father Les was an owner-driver from the Victorian town of Yea, starting out in 1946 with a Chevrolet Maple Leaf. He carted general freight around Alexandra and Euroa, but would also occasionally take the local footy team to their games. According to Steve, his father would offer the odd intoxicated individual a lift home as well.

Steve recalls Les regarding himself as being a fairly successful operator back then. "He would often brag to the family about having paid off three trucks," he says. Les would eventually pay off around eight or nine.

After a break from the industry in 1959, Les returned to trucking in 1971 in partnership with Steve’s eldest brother Mervyn, hauling livestock. A few years later Shaw’s Transport was born, operating out of Gobur.

The Shaw’s Transport team. Steve and James Shaw

In the early 1980s Steve and another brother, Phillip, joined the business, carting pine logs.

Steve’s first truck was a Ford F600 with an 18ft tray, although his fondest memories are of a Dodge with a Cummins 185 engine. "It used to do 80km/h with only 3000 revs", he says. A White Road Commander soon followed.

However, in 1985 at the young age of 63, Les passed away leaving his three sons to continue what he had started.

Further tragedies were later to follow. Mervyn was killed in a car accident in January 2018 and Phillip suffered a heart attack behind the wheel of one of Steve’s trucks just two months later.

Phillip had been driving for Steve but spent time in hospital suffering from osteomyelitis, keeping him bedridden for about a month. Back behind the wheel, he felt the heart attack coming on and managed to pull the truck safely off the road. The first Steve knew of the incident was a phone call from another driver who saw Phillip in the gutter. Steve contacted emergency services, however Phillip passed away about a month later in hospital.

In June 2018 Steve placed a plaque on the wall of the Victorian Truck Drivers Memorial at Alexandra for both his brothers and plans to put one on this year for his dad.


Special Eagle

Over the years Steve’s small fleet has fluctuated between two and three trucks. His most recent addition is the International Eagle, bought specifically for James to drive. It has a Cummins 600 Signature, which Larsen’s Truck Sales rebuilt for the Shaws, and an 18-speed Roadranger "truckie box", replacing the previous three-pedal auto.

"The salesman at Larsen’s Truck Sales said it was a special edition made up by Iveco for the 2007 Brisbane Truck Show," Steve says.

"If you can believe a used truck salesman," he laughs.

Apart from putting out 580hp, what makes it special is a toolbox under each door and a longer wheelbase, which Steve says makes for a comfortable ride.

The Eagle is in fact one of two special editions built in 2007. James says he’s seen the second Eagle running around the district hauling a bitumen tanker.

Usually Shaws carry around 47 bullocks in one trip but on the day Owner//Driver visited, it was limited to 40. These were extremely well fed animals weighing nearly 30 tonnes, so it was onto the B-double trailers for the trip to the abattoir, which Steve and James affectionately refer to as "Mrs O’Conner’s farm".

Steve recalls one trip to an abattoir in Brooklyn outside Melbourne where a group of animal rights activists had formed a picket line. The police arrived and told Steve to stay in the truck so the activists could "bless the animals" as well as take photos.

The view from the cockpit!


Handing the reins

According to Steve, the cattle business has changed over the last few years. "Eight years ago moving cattle around was a year-round venture, but today the peak months are November to February."

Importantly, Steve is training James to take over the reins in the not too distant future, although he’s hopeful his other son Michael will also drive for Shaw’s Transport one day. Michael currently delivers bread each night for a local baker, but is keen on getting his truck licence.

Meanwhile, Steve is enjoying being behind the wheel of his preferred drive, a 2012 Iveco Powerstar. "I’ve been following the bonnet of them around for years," he smiles.

The Powerstar has a Cummins 550 engine and a Eurotronic ZF gearbox. Unlike many traditionalists, he’s more than happy to drive an auto these days after changing gears for many years. "The first time I drove an auto I was converted," Steve adds.

Steve believes James is the future of Shaw’s Transport for the next 40 years. At any rate, thoughts of moving out of the business have entered his mind in recent times.

"I’m 59 and I’d like to spend some time on my farm."

A Benz 2224 prime mover which Steve cut down to a heavy rigid. This truck was used to cart horses for the movie The Man from Snowy River div>

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