Mixed fortunes for transport industry drivers

By: Greg Bush, Photography by: Greg Bush


A group of truck drivers reveal the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on their livelihood

Mixed fortunes for transport industry drivers
A slow day in the grounds of the BP Archerfield truck stop on Easter Thursday.

 

The BP Archerfield Truck Stop in Brisbane is generally a hive of activity of trucks fuelling up, drivers taking a rest break or simply waiting on a load. However, it was a relatively quiet scenario when Owner//Driver called in on Easter Thursday.

We spoke to a number of drivers, some whose workload was barely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. But one owner-driver was readying himself to head south empty.

Greenfreight driver Gary Finley, behind the wheel of a Kenworth K200, says supermarket, alcohol and timber freight had kept the work flowing.

"We do a lot of Woolworths’ deliveries and we have a CUB [Carlton United Breweries] contract. People are staying at home drinking obviously," he smiles.

It's business as usual for Greenfreight driver Gary Finley.

Based in Wodonga, Gary’s usual run is Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.

"We seem to be busy enough," he says. "I’ve had plenty of work anyway.

"Obviously they’re [Greenfreight] a good company and well organised. They haven’t got all their fingers in one pie."

Others, however, are not so lucky.

Monique Miorandi delivers locally for Western Landscape Supplies.

"A mate of mine is losing his business," Gary continues. "He supplies nurseries; he transports plants interstate."

In contrast, Monique Miorandi, driving an Isuzu tipper, says she has noticed minimal impact from the coronavirus pandemic. Monique works locally for Western Landscape Supplies, subcontracting through the Alex Fraser Group.

Normally operating five days a week, Monique says her work has slipped to around four days at the least.

"It’s dropped but not dramatically but not for myself personally," she says.

"Everybody in my business – we’re in landscape – is in high demand at the moment.

"Everyone’s been stuck at home so they’re doing their gardens," she laughs.

However, the majority of Monique’s work is for local government, which has mainly remained unaffected. "We can still survive for now."

Also at the BP Archerfield, Owner//Driver caught up with cousins Bardeep and Parm Singh. Bardeep runs general freight from Melbourne to Sydney and Brisbane for Flying Horse Transport, while Parm carts general around south-east Queensland for Owens Transport.

Both say that business was quieter than usual, although Bardeep was preparing to head back to Melbourne with a full load. He’s also happy that roadhouses have reopened for long-haul drivers.

Cousins in transport: Bardeep and Parm Singh

We also had a chat with a Damorange Transport driver named Jordan, who gave an insight into the effects of supermarket panic buying. Jordan hauls produce for Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.

"When the virus struck on the first week we were absolutely flat out," he says.

"The toilet paper hoarders, they’ve already been and gone now, but it’s slowly starting to pick back up again.

"I think people are starting to realise that half the stuff that they bought they didn’t really need."

Jordan, who runs Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in a Kenworth T908, says Damorange was more fortunate than some other transport companies.

"Melbourne is a little quieter than up here, and last week Sydney took a bit of a hit.

"But Brisbane’s not too bad. We still take a lot of stuff out of north Queensland."

As far as roadhouse access goes, Jordan was full of praise for BP.

"They’ve been outstanding. Everywhere you go it’s been super clean.

"BP is definitely outshining everyone else that I’ve seen so far."

Damorange Transport driver Jordan says toilet paper and other grocery deliveries have kept him occupied.

Jordan has been driving for more than three years, a passion handed down from his father.

"I always wanted to drive trucks," he says. As for the T908, he adds: "They’d have to shoot me to get me out of it.

"It’s a 2011, it’s done just over 2 million ks now, but it’s not as old as a lot of the other trucks around. "

Not such good news for John, an owner-driver from Melbourne who was about to depart Brisbane with no load.

"Work started dropping off two weeks ago," John says.

"Normally I have a load, but since last week it’s been quietening off, but just this last week it’s been nothing.

John, an owner-driver based in Melbourne, is finding the going tough.

"I can’t afford to run like this. I mean the rates are already low, and there’s the fuel," he explains.

"Fuel for cars is lower, but diesel is still expensive. How do they work that one out?"

In addition, John is not pleased about the food offer from truck stops amid the crisis.

"What are you going to get take away? Dim sims? I’ll be bringing my own food."

Almost all agree, however, that they can’t see things improving for some time yet.

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