Sweet for a canecutter’s haul
A tough job requires a tough vehicle, writes GRAHAMSMITH
ARVESTING sugar cane is a tough business requiring tough men and equally tough gear, like Paul Donnelly and his Mercedes-Benz trucks.
Donnelly has been cutting cane for more than 30 years and Mercedes-Benz has been his truck of choice for most of that time.
But cane-cutting is more than a job to Donnelly; it’s his passion.
When the veteran Queenslander steps out of his enormous harvester he often picks up a knife and cuts cane by hand.
It was common to hand cut before harvesters came along in the early 1970s, but today it’s only done for fun at competitions such as the recent Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships on Donnelly’s property at Dalberg.
Donnelly was knocked out in the preliminary rounds this year, but reckons he’s still fit enough to match the younger cutters who now dominate the championships.
‘‘Over the years you learn a good technique: you need a bit of power, a good technique and a good cane knife, and away you go,’’ he says.
A car crash a few years ago slowed him a little, but before that he dominated competitions nationally and internationally.
In a long career Donnelly has notched up four Australian titles and several world titles, beating the world’s best cutters in Africa and South America.
‘‘I was never beaten in any competition in the 1990s,’’ he says.
Cutting cane is a tough job, the days are long and sometimes hot, the work dirty and sweaty, but he has no intention of giving it away even now he’s approaching 65.
He’s so determined to stay in the business that he has just bought a new Mercedes-Benz Actros 3244 to support the harvester in the cane field and deliver the cane to the rail yard for shipment to the sugar refinery.
This takes his fleet to five Mercedes-Benzes and the original trucks he bought more than 20 years ago are still going strong.
Each carries two bins, about 2.5m long with the capacity to carry six tonnes of cane.
In a full day, Donnelly will harvest about 800 tonnes and in a six-month season he will cut up to 90,000 tonnes.
Choice of champions:
Paul Donnelly relies on his Mercedes cane-cutting truck.