After losing his father when he was just eight years old, third generation truckie Shane Mitchell, 35, says he has an old neighbour to thank for teaching him everything he knows.
Originally from New Zealand, Mitchell was lured to Australia by its big rigs and rugged landscape. Now based in Wodonga, he’s called Australia home since 2011.
For Mitchell, a love of trucks began at an early age. “My father and grandfather drove for our local council in New Zealand. After my father died, my neighbour from across the road, Larry, who was also a truck driver, took me under his wing. I would’ve been stuffed without him. I got taught how to do things the right way and the old school way by Larry and a few other friends,” he said.
On moving to Australia, Mitchell added, “I wanted a bit more freedom and independence, where I could do my own thing and do what I wanted to do. I’d always been interested in road trains and I really liked travelling, so there probably wasn’t a better place for me to move to. I’ve seen a better part of the country now, but there are still many places I haven’t yet seen.”
His career in trucking started across the ditch, as he worked his way through the ranks. First it was working in the yard, then in the workshop doing trailer and body repairs, before securing his truck licence at age 18, in 2004, and starting out in a little tray truck. Then by 2007, he had progressed to long distance work across the country.
When he arrived in Australia, he had his HC licence equivalent and quickly secured his MC.
Mitchell’s driving career down under started with Kelvin Baxter Transport, where he worked for a few years before heading to the US for an extended holiday. Upon his return, he scored a job with Dawson’s Haulage and has been there ever since – that was over seven years ago now.
Dawson’s Haulage operates three depots, located in Baranduda (Wodonga), West Wyalong and Toowoomba. The company offers specialised logistics and Mitchell says the work takes him to all corners of the country.
“We do a lot of flat top road train work, extendable oversize work, as well as a bit of tautliner work here and there. We’ll have a crack at anything you can put on a trailer. There is a saying written on our trucks – ‘She’s no ordinary show’ – and that pretty much sums up what we do, it’s a bit of everything. I go all over the country,” said Mitchell.
You’ll find him behind the wheel of an impressive 2020 Kenworth C509, which he’s had since brand new. “The truck is absolutely perfect. It would be very hard to go back to anything else. The slipper front end we have on the truck is great on the dirt roads.”
Mitchell says his truck is always packed with enough clothes for four weeks, so he’s ready for whatever comes his way. “If we do Perth and back, it’s about 10 days, and Darwin is about the same. But then we get odd jobs here and there too. The longest time I’ve been away was for seven weeks. That was for a job that took us up to Weipa in Queensland. Next week’s job is towing a road train out of Adelaide to Moomba, with about 18.5 metres on each trailer.”
Most of Mitchell’s work is double road trains, with the occasional triple when required. “We can’t pull a triple out of the Wodonga yard so that’s why we do a lot more of the doubles,” explained Mitchell, adding that the Peninsula Development Road and the Tanami are some of the toughest roads he has to navigate.
And yet, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love travelling to Far North Queensland, Perth and Darwin in the winter. I don’t do much work into the big cities, it’s mainly regional stuff. I love going anywhere I can be on the dirt. I enjoy the freedom of an outback road.
“I like seeing the different geographical terrain as it changes out on the dirt. You can go from red dirt to limestone in the space of just 10 kilometres. It’s absolutely stunning. I like to stop and take a lot of photos.
“At the depot, I’m known for taking the scenic route. There was one particular job recently where we took oversize huts to Kings Canyon in the NT. Once we finished unloading, me and two other drivers paid a helicopter pilot to take us over the canyon. The terrain is just unreal over here in Australia. There’s a reason I haven’t moved back to NZ. I love it here. And I met my partner over here too.”
As for roadhouses, Mitchell’s favourite one to stop at is the Barringun Roadhouse near the NSW/Queensland border. “I love that place. It feels very homely. Quite often the owner will sit down and have a cup of tea with you while you have your breakfast and have a chat. I always make an effort to go there when I’m up that way,” he said.
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