HAULING ‘GRUMPY’ FREIGHT
Behind the wheel of a Kenworth T409 SAR, Reuben Harrap has the task of hauling ‘disgruntled’ vegetables from Bundaberg to all points south. Peter and Di Schlenk write
REUBEN HARRAP drives a Kenworth T409 SAR for Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport. However, when Owner//Driver caught up with Reuben, he was in Adelaide unloading produce which he hauled down from Bundaberg.
“The produce is headed for Perth,” he explains. “It was cross-docked onto a road train that will go two-up to Perth. We do the occasional load to Perth but it depends on how busy we are and who’s available.”
The Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport fleet, owned by Allan and Les MacDonald, comprises 15 interstate trucks, namely Kenworths or Western Stars.
Reuben has been driving with the company for close to a year, his previous five years spent with Geoff Richards Transport.
However, he was looking at getting a job back around his home town of Bundaberg when the position came up with Bundaberg Refrigerated.
“I am used to bigger Kenworths but this is quite a good little truck,” he says of the near-new T409 SAR.
Reuben is surprised how well the 550hp Cummins performs, especially that it’s a Euro 5 engine.
It’s coupled to an 18-speed Roadranger manual gearbox.
“Don’t mention the word automatic,” he laughs. “I would be applying for another job if someone gave me an automatic. I know they’re getting better and better but no, I am just not a fan of them.”
Reuben says the SAR was bought to a pull a 34-pallet B-double combination, its trailers emblazoned with the livery of Cross Family Farms, one of Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport’s top customers. It’s a clever design with the unhappy vegetables making reference to the name Cross.
“They have taken the Cross theme right through the produce and it attracts a fair bit of attention,” Reuben continues.
The Cross family are Bundaberg growers and were happy to keep the business relationship local by recruiting Bundaberg Refrigerated.
“That’s good for us and keeps us with this freight,” Reuben says. “It’s nice when country people look after the local businesses and, in turn, we give them the very best of service.
“They know that we go direct to wherever they need. Back home the local blokes compete with the bigger boys but we seem to be holding our own quite well.
“It’s all about service, that’s the main thing.”
Oddly enough, Reuben’s first involvement in transport began in Adelaide where his father, Ron Brook, started in the taxi truck business there 45 years ago.
“They were the black and white ones,” Reuben says. “I have photos of me, not even six months of age, perched up on the bonnet of one of dad’s Bedfords.
“My great-grandfather Eric was the first to have buses on the Gold Coast, so the family has been involved in transport for a long time.”
Reuben says his first time driving a truck was in a Ford LTL with a Cummins 903, travelling out to the mines at Townsville picking up
“It’s all about service, that’s the main thing”
electric motors out of the Haulpaks and taking them back to Mackay to be serviced and overhauled before returning with fresh ones.
“That came after doing seven years in the military; I’ve been driving pretty much ever since.”
The mining downturn has had a big effect on many Queensland companies, so Bundaberg Refrigerated has steered clear of mine work and tippers, specialising in refrigerated goods and some general freight. Its trucks don’t even travel further up the coast than Bundaberg North.
“As soon as we get into Bundy we have our breaks, turn around and head back south,” Reuben says.
As with most long-haul drivers travelling the Bruce Highway, Reuben says the conditions are an ongoing issue, although he believes Queensland’s roads in general are better than they were 20 years ago. However, it’s the truck-specific rules that grate him.
“We are probably the most overgoverned, over-policed industry in Australia,” he says.
“We are meant to have a national scheme so there has to be some give and take between the states. Unfortunately, some states will not give and some will not take.”
Reuben would like to see a maximum of 34-pallet B-doubles with extra room given up front to provide more comfort for the driver.
“With companies wanting to be competitive and carry as much freight as possible, the trailers are continuing to increase and that’s the problem.
“You are then restricted to what you can put in front and when you spend 300-plus days annually in a tin can, they can’t understand it.
“Think about the drivers, put us first and not just the big companies.”
At any rate, Reuben was looking forward to a night off in Adelaide, one that he says could involve having a couple of beers with mates.
Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport’s near-new Kenworth T409 SAR
Rueben Harrap calls the Queensland city of Bundaberg home
These vegetables are not just ‘grumpy’, they’re Cross