Truckie Profiles

All in a week’s work for two-up couple

Fresh off trialling the first Freightliner Cascadia to tow road trains over 100 tonne, an expat Kiwi couple chat about life on the road.

Sarah and Berin Diprose made Australia their permanent home five years ago. “This is our home now, there are amazing opportunities here that we couldn’t get in New Zealand, so we’re pretty fortunate to have that,” said Sarah.

The pair relocated to Darwin almost a year ago to take up a job with Neil Mansell Transport. “We had been living in Port Hedland, driving quads over there and that was a pretty insane experience too, but we came to Darwin because it gave us a balance with the sort of lifestyle we both wanted.”

Sarah, 53, and Berin, 52, do the 6600 kilometre round trip between Darwin and Toowoomba each week, carting refrigerated goods on the express run. “This is our first job doing two-up together. We’ve worked for a number of the same companies, but in the past we had a truck each and were following each other,” Sarah added. 

The truck runs the entire time and they work on about 43 hours each way. “We’re fairly new to two-up but we’re really enjoying it. I love the fact that we’re together – and I’ve got Berin there. He’s great with his knowledge of how to get us out of situations with his mechanical know-how.” 

They do the 6600 kilometre round trip between Darwin and Toowoomba each week, carting refrigerated goods.

When asked what it’s like to be in the truck together 24/7, Sarah said, “You need to sort things out pretty quickly. You can’t worry too much about the road behind you because you have to deal with what’s coming up.”

Berin added, “We only stop to fuel up and do driver changes. We don’t really stop otherwise. You have your moments obviously, but they are generally of the lower percentage. I think we make it work – it’s a long walk home otherwise!”

The two have known each other for over 30 years and have been married for the past seven. Add in the truck and Sarah says it’s like a marriage of three. “You’re married to the job too, the truck never goes away. When we get back home our time is very limited. Our 48-hour break comes around and we’re away again. It’s a lifestyle that’s not for everybody. But this works for us, it’s part of our marriage and part of our relationship. Berin is good with the paperwork and I’m good with cleaning the outside of the truck so I’ve banned him from cleaning the truck because he gets covered in grease!

“We think the grass is pretty green where we are at the moment. We’re very grateful that we had the opportunity to do the trial with the Cascadia and to work for such a great company.”

A third-generation truckie, Berin started driving trucks when he was 17. “My father and grandfather were both truckies, so I was born into it. My father owned a transport business as well,” he said.

“I’ve been backwards and forwards between Australia and New Zealand for many years but have probably spent most of my working life in Australia. The first time I came here was in 1989. I’ve also driven in the US and Europe too. I did interstate in the US and got to do a short six-week stretch on the ice roads in Alaska too. 

The couple put the trial truck through its paces, racking up 175,000 kilometres.

“The ice roads were exhilarating and scary at the same time. That was certainly an experience never to be forgotten. There was always the fear of the unknown but I had a great time doing it.”

Sarah’s foray into truck driving came a little later. “I grew up on a sheep and cattle station in New Zealand, so you learn how to drive tractors and the hay truck from quite a young age. Then I always had horses so I got my truck licence so I could drive the horse truck. Then I did the school bus driving when the kids were younger; and when my boys got older, I wanted to get into truck driving a bit more. I got an opportunity to drive a log truck about 18 years ago. That was my first job as a professional driver.”

Fast forward to now and the couple are loving every minute of their role at Neil Mansell Transport. The pair’s knowledge and experience led to them being chosen by Neil Mansell, owner of Neil Mansell Transport, to trial the New Generation Freightliner Cascadia 126 – just two months into the role. 

That truck made its debut at the Brisbane Truck Show in May 2021. Featuring a 60-inch raised roof sleeper cab, Freightliner has described it as “the burger with the lot”. The engine is a 16-litre Detroit with 600hp and 2050lt-lb, and it’s linked to a DT12 12-speed automated manual (AMT) transmission. It’s also rated to a GCM of 145 tonnes.

“This was the first road train trial of the Freightliner Cascadia that we had in Australia – it was long awaited. That truck worked extremely well. They absolutely loved it,” said Steve Martin, fleet sales business development manager at Daimler Trucks.

The trial went so well in fact that Neil Mansell has ordered four Cascadias to the exact same spec, due for delivery in the next couple of months. And Sarah and Berin are first on the list to get their hands on one when they arrive.

“That truck was specifically fitted out for two-up and it was the first truck in Australia to have done the running that we’ve done with it. It’s a beautiful truck and the fuel efficiency, comfort and technology at the wheel is unbelievable. It certainly wakes you up when go from that back to an older truck,” said Sarah. 

Though it was initially supposed to only be a three-month trial, it went so well that the couple were able to keep it for six months instead – having to reluctantly hand the keys back over to Daimler at the conclusion. 

The pair’s knowledge and experience led to them being chosen by Neil Mansell, owner of Neil Mansell Transport, to trial the New Generation Freightliner Cascadia 126.

The Cascadia ran with a triple road train – usually pulling over 100 tonne, and sometimes up to 130 tonne. “We did 175,000 kilometres in that truck, and in that time, it averaged 1.39km/l. There’s nothing else that’s close to it at the moment. The truck we’re in now is doing about 1.1km/l,” explained Berin.

“The truck we had before that was running at 1.25km/l which was considered reasonably good – until the Cascadia came along. Everyone who is running the Cascadias is reporting the same thing, it has unbelievable fuel efficiency.”

With the fuel efficiency gains noted on the truck’s maiden journey, it took just one month for Neil Mansell to be convinced of the truck’s worth before ordering four of his own.

Martin added that Sarah and Berin were very meticulous throughout the trial. “They provided written evaluations about the truck throughout the trial. You couldn’t ask for better people to evaluate your product. Neil hand-picked them because he knew he’d get some constructive criticism, but the vehicle performance was above and beyond their expectations,” he said.

“The choice of that 16-litre engine with the DT12 transmission is what the trucks prefer because it’s our own proprietary transmission talking to our own proprietary engine. And that’s why we’re seeing this sort of fuel efficiency. These trucks were designed for fuel efficiency and with the numbers they’ve been getting, you can save up to $25,000-30,000 a year per truck.”

With the new Cascadias almost ready for delivery, Sarah and Berin are eagerly awaiting the chance to call it their own. “The thing at Neil Mansell Transport is that once you get assigned a truck, it’s your truck. For us, we like to keep the rig well maintained and clean – it’s our home and our office. These new trucks are an amazing piece of investment for the company but we get entrusted to run it like our own truck,” said Sarah.

Berin added, “Here if we have a week off, the truck is parked up. We’re lucky with Mansell Group that most of the drivers here do take a lot of pride in their gear. The trucks are kept really clean. We’ve both worked for other companies where morale is really low and people don’t care about the gear, so it’s nice to be somewhere where everybody gives a shit – everyone has that same sort of focus, from the office to the workshop to the drivers.”

‘Truckin’ in the Outback’ is proudly supported by Loadshift, Australia’s largest freight marketplace for individuals and businesses seeking to buy and sell road transport services.

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