FAST LEARNER TAKES AWARD
Business and communication skills helped Brady Fitzpatrick win the 2018 LRTAV Young Driver Award. Tamara Whitsed meets him at the Bendigo Livestock Exchange
Business and communication skills helped Brady Fitzpatrick win the 2018 LRTAV Young Driver Award
EIGHTEEN MONTHS after loading his first stock crate, Brady Fitzpatrick has accepted the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria (LRTAV) 2018 Young Driver Award. “I was pretty chuffed to be nominated and the win was a bonus on top of that,” says Brady, 35. “I suppose it’s a little bit of a reward for effort.” Brady drives a 2013 Kenworth K200 for Thomas Transport of Campbells Forest and was nominated by his employers Graeme and Diane Thomas. Luke Ewing from TGR Transport and Devin Lafranchi from IG & J Dance Livestock Transport also made the finals, which were judged during the 2018 LRTAV Conference in Bendigo in August. Devin was announced runner-up.
Owner//Driver caught up with Brady at the Bendigo Livestock Exchange recently. He unloaded 400 ewes with help from his 15-month-old Kelpie-Koolie cross, Winston. Brady says having a good dog makes it easier to load and unload livestock. “He’s still got a bit to learn, but he’s getting there.”
Brady is rarely in the same place two days in a row. In an average week he is likely to cart sheep and cattle to regional saleyards, wool to Melbourne, and pigs to South Australia. “What I like about livestock transport is the variety – getting out, meeting farmers, talking about their operations.” He feels at home in the K200, which Thomas Transport bought in July. “It’s got a good big bunk, plenty of room inside, comfy bed – and it’s a nice truck to drive.”
Unlike most livestock carriers, Brady didn’t grow up around trucks, farms, cattle, or sheep. He studied accounting at university but chose not to complete his course. Instead he became a qualified carpenter and joiner, and worked as a builder for his parents’ business. However, after eight years he felt like a career change and started driving trucks for McKinnon Earthmoving of Bendigo.
He carted his first load of cattle in March 2017 when he started working for Thomas Transport, which operates five trucks – two Freightliners, a Western Star, a Kenworth, and an International Eagle.
Brady admits he was “pretty green” when he started carting livestock. “Graeme taught me a lot about different aspects of the job. Having a willingness to learn about it and ask questions, I think, goes a long way.
“We cart sheep, lambs, cattle, and pigs, and they all require their own different loading methods or technique.”
Brady admits life on the road can be lonely. “It’s always good to get home to see the wife and kids. They’re always excited to see dad when he comes home.”
He knows spending nights away in the truck is hard on his wife Leanne and their young children, Arlie and Harper. “Leanne works hard herself as well as raising two kids on her own sometimes, when I’m not there. She does a really good job.”
Brady likes to spend Saturdays with their children while Leanne works at the hairdressing salon she owns. They are in the planning stages of building a new family home, so the Young Driver cash prize of $4000 from sponsor Griffith Goodall Insurance Brokers is a great boost for their savings.
Looking to the future, Brady says he wants to keep learning and enjoying his work. “Maybe one day, I’d like to own my own truck, but if that isn’t to be, it isn’t to be.”
He recommends livestock transport for any aspiring truck drivers who are keen to get off the beaten track and see the countryside. “If you want to drive trucks, start by getting your licence and just ringing around and asking for a day here to fill in. Or just go for a ride in the truck and learn the different aspects of it.”
Thomas Transport employs three drivers and Graeme Thomas says he is “honoured to have them all sit at my kitchen table”. Graeme says Brady stands out because of his management and communication skills, and because he thinks beyond his own work to see the bigger picture of how the whole businesses is running. Graeme appreciates Brady’s suggestions about planning loads for the days ahead. “He could take over this business and probably operate as well as or better than I do. He’s just got that ability. He’s obviously got a flair for business management.”
Before employing Brady, Graeme believed it was essential to hire drivers with stock-handling experience. “I always had the theory that you couldn’t teach someone stock sense. You could teach them to drive and you could teach them to work, but you can’t teach them to handle stock.”
But Brady has proven otherwise. “He’s got no rural background at all, but he’s certainly picked it up and learned how to handle stock,” Graeme says. “He listens to what you say.
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Besides that, he’s really good with our clients. Ninety per cent of our work is farm pickup and he’s very good at relating to our clients. He talks their language. He can communicate with farmers and rural people very well.”
Graeme is glad the LRTAV is raising the profile of young rural carriers. “Our industry profile is not that great,” Graeme says. “These young people in our industry need to be encouraged, and they need to be supported. And I also think it’s important for their families to know how good they are.”
LRTAV Vice President Marla Stone encourages young drivers working in rural and regional areas to nominate for the 2019 LRTAV Young Driver Award, whether they are owner-drivers or staff drivers.
“All the finalists receive public recognition of their success and are invited to attend the LRTAV conference dinner where the award is presented,” Marla says. “The selection process gives any young driver a very worthwhile experience in evaluating their driving skills and attitudes.”
Nominees don’t have to be livestock carriers, but they must be aged between 20 and 35. They also must either be LRTAV members or work for a company which is a member of the LRTAV.
“The driver or company can join at the time of award nomination,” Marla says. Driver membership costs $50. Companies joining the LRTAV for the first time are eligible for a discounted membership of $150 for their first year. Applications for next year’s LRTAV Young Driver award open mid-2019. Visit www.lrtav.com.au or the association’s Facebook or Twitter feeds for more information.
“He’s got no rural background at all but he’s certainly picked it up and learned how to handle stock.”
Above: Graeme Thomas says it is important to recognise the contribution of young drivers and the challenges faced by their families. Graeme nominated Brady Fitzpatrick for the LRTAV’s Young Driver AwardBelow: The 2013 Kenworth K200 was recently added to the Thomas Transport fleet
Left: Winston makes Brady’s job easierBelow: Award presentation: From left, David Ryan from Griffiths Goodall Insurance Brokers with finalist Luke Ewing, runner-up Devin Lafranchi, winner Brady Fitzpatrick, and LRTAV vice president John Beer
Above: Leaving Bendigo Saleyards. Brady’s next job is carting cattle from local dairy farms to Shepparton