It is a fine Sunday afternoon on the historic Barragunda Station, in rural Victoria when a distinctive turquoise and white International Eagle livestock truck rumbles up the valley.
Kicking up a plume of dust along the dirt road, James Shaw heads into the station’s yards to load out sheep for the next day’s market in Corowa.
Shaw negotiates his way along the farm track and swings around the station’s outbuildings before neatly backing his B-double into the loading race attached to the shearing shed.
The back trailer is part-loaded, with Shaw having spent the morning running around the local area in an Iveco Stralis rigid collecting sheep from numerous smaller properties in the area before cross-loading onto the larger unit, and once these sheep are pushed through into the a-trailer the back trailer can be fully loaded.
The International 9900 Eagle is the flagship of the Shaw Transport fleet, which is based in Mansfield and is celebrating its 50th year of operation being established by Shaw’s father Steve in 1971.
At just 23, Shaw has been involved in the business all his life and is poised to take the five-truck operation well into the future.
“I have been behind the wheel of a truck ever since I could touch the pedals and grab the steering wheel,” Shaw said with a grin.
“As a kid I would hook trailers up in the yard, Dad might have been away and said he needed a B-double hooked up so I would muck around doing that. Eventually that progressed to going out on the road in all the spare time I could after school. I finished Year 12 in 2015 and I have been in the trucks ever since.”
Shaw climbed the ladder starting out in with a medium rigid licence at 19, then on to a heavy rigid which got him behind the wheel of the Iveco Stralis before getting his HC classification which allowed him to tow a pig trailer behind the Stralis, finally he worked up to his B-double licence and into the Eagle six months later.
Over the last five decades the Shaw operation has run a number for trucks from an International Accos in the earlier days to a White Road Commander, with the fleet having predominantly an Iveco/International focus for the last 30 or so years.
Today, the fleet consists of Shaw’s Eagle, two Iveco Powerstars and the Iveco Stralis rigid, along with a variety of livestock trailers in various configuration for sheep and cattle transport. A set of flat-tops rounds out the equipment at the company depot which is part of the 800-acre farm also owned by the family.
“The flat tops are mainly for our own use as we cart a fair bit of our own hay and we do cart a bit of machinery. We operate predominantly for livestock, but we will do that sort of work if people want it,” Shaw said.
In the last few weeks, the operation has taken delivery of a new Kenworth T610SAR out of Twin City Truck Centre/Kenworth-DAF Wodonga which will in time replace one of the Iveco units. Having purchased the International out of Larsen’s Truck Sales in Melbourne a few years back it would seem that Shaw is not ready to pension his Eagle off in favour of the new Kenworth just yet.
“The Inter is my toy, those that know me know I just about live in the thing. It was just by chance Larsen’s listed it on their Facebook page and I just happened to see it as I was driving along with Dad, and I said ‘I reckon we ought to go along and have a look at this’.
“We went and had a look and purchased it in September 2018. It’s a 2007 model with a Cummins Gen2 Signature set at 600 horsepower, with and 18 speed Road Ranger. Originally it did belong to a bloke in Queensland, and it was painted silver with a black roof. We had it fully resprayed.”
The Eagle had 1.3 million kilometres on the odometer at the time he bought it, and Shaw has added another 400,000km with the only major issue being the replacement of a turbo in that time.
Given the longer distances Shaw can cover he reckons the International is well spec’d for his line of work.
“The Eagle is by the far the smoothest ride with the 5.7m wheelbase, so it definitely rides a lot better than the Iveco’s and it’s a lot better on the road-for going away in.
“On the longer trips it is a lot roomier with the 50-inch bunk on it-very comfortable for long distance driving. International definitely had a good product.”
As is the nature of livestock work, the terrain covered on and off road and the destination of the livestock carried varies considerably.
The majority of Shaw’s work is off-farm directly to the abattoirs in Melbourne or to Colac with a lot of work in recent times for Coles to the abattoirs in Gundagai. The company also does weekly saleyard work with cattle into Yea, Euroa, Wangaratta, and Barnawartha along with sheep to markets at Bendigo, Corowa and Wagga.
As a result, Shaw has seen a fair bit of Australia out the windscreen of the International and is happy to be out in the wide-open spaces rather than driving in the built-up areas.
“In my time behind the wheel I have been as far as Tamworth-carting lambs to an abattoir up there was a fairly regular gig last year, probably the furthest been by myself would be Toowoomba along with Mt Gambier and Adelaide.
“I’ve always been keen on running the Newell up to Tamworth, you get out on the open road or up the Kidman Way to Griffith, I definitely like getting out on the open road rather than into Melbourne and the city traffic.”
With Mansfield based at the foothills of the Great Diving Range the winter months bring their own unique challenges with cold weather and increased ski traffic to the Mt Buller snow resorts requiring Shaw to keep his focus.
“I have been in a few situations heading to Omeo over the top of Mt Hotham you find yourself in the snow, around Mansfield there’s been a bit of snow on the odd occasions…basically once the snow season, or the silly season as we should call it starts the Mt Buller road is a constant flow of traffic.
“Our depot is located off the main road to Mt Buller, some days you can be fifteen minutes trying to turn out on to the main road because of the traffic. It disrupts our business a bit somewhat, but you just have to live with it.”
The unique turquoise paint scheme of the Shaw trucks sets them apart from a lot of other livestock operators and has been the colour of choice for around 25 years.
“Originally Dad had a White Road Commander SE9 that back in the late 80s it had a similar paint design, but it was a straight green colour.
“When he sold the White and purchased the first Iveco Turbostar it was painted this turquoise shade of green and we have stuck with it, the turquoise has been our colours since the around 1995.”
Upon the completion of loading at Barragunda, Shaw was looking at heading out to Benalla via the Midland Highway and on up the Hume before turning off to Corowa, aiming to be at the receival pens on the Sunday night well in time for Monday’s weekly market.
Despite the trip only being around a 350km journey it would seem that there is still a few more miles for Shaw and his International to make before he considers anything else, or getting into the new Kenworth full-time.
“I will definitely be doing it as long as I can physically do it, if all goes to plan, I can see myself taking on the business and looking after our valued clients in the wider Mansfield district. I absolutely love the job.”