Growing up on an SA dairy farm, 26-year-old Kyle Nicholas-Benney became fascinated with trucks, tractors and machines at a young age.
“I didn’t know anybody that drove trucks, so I just went out on a whim and decided this is what I wanted to do,” he said.
Based in Mount Mcintyre, Nicholas-Benney has been in the driver’s seat since he was 19. For the past four months or so, he’s been working as an interstate livestock driver for Edmonds Transport. From behind the wheel of a Kenworth T909, he pulls B-double stock crates, carrying sheep, cattle and pigs, throughout South Australia, western Victoria and southern NSW. It’s mainly travelling from farms to abattoirs.
Edmond’s Transport is a small family-run operation, based in Naracoorte, near Mt Gambier, with a fleet of about half a dozen trucks and a few sub-contractors.
“When I first got my truck licence, I got my start with a feedlot. First it was tipper work and then I moved onto carting sheep in and out of the feedlot, and then started heading out further. I was there for a bit over two years, then I started doing livestock full-time,” he explained.
Wanting to broaden his horizons and try other things, Nicholas-Benney moved into general freight for about 12 months, but it wasn’t for him. That was followed by a stint working on a farm, but the road was calling, so it wasn’t long before he was back carting livestock.
When asked what he enjoys about the livestock work, he said: “With livestock, there’s no set run, so I’m always going somewhere different. I especially like going into the outback. And it actually keeps you physically fit too, especially with carting sheep. I love working with my dogs as well. I have two kelpies, Ben and Sadie, and they come everywhere with me.”
When he chatted with Big Rigs, he was travelling through Broken Hill, with a load of cattle on. Though with the recent rain and floods impacting the east, he had deviated from the usual route.
At the time he said, “We’ve had to make some significant detours lately to get the livestock to their destinations. Normally, I would be going over the Newell today, but instead I’m going through the Barrier Highway, across Broken Hill and then south through Mildura. That’s added about three hours to the trip.
“That has been happening a lot lately. It depends where you go. Up around Tamworth and Gunnedah, which was shut due to flooding, is all better now. But in Kerang and Swan Hill in northern Victoria, there is still a heap of water laying around on some of the main roads that we take.”
The T909 is Nicholas-Benney’s home away from home. “Normally I’m away from home for a week at a time, but every now and then, I’ll do 12 days at a time. But now I just finished a two-week lot last week and now I’m halfway through another two-week lot. Spring is our busiest time of year, especially with the suckling lambs,” he explained.
When asked what he enjoys most about the work, he said, “It’s the people that you meet and the places you get to go. Nothing is ever the same, it’s always something different. You get to travel to farms that your normal average person wouldn’t get to see. And there’s the friends you meet too – I’ve made a lot of friends in this industry.”
For those considering a career in trucking, Nicholas-Benney’s advice is simple and straight to the point, “Give it a go and take on as much advice as you can. That’s how I’ve learnt, I’ve had awesome mentors. Listen, do the right thing and try and have a common-sense approach about what you do and you’ll find it’s very easy to get along with people, and people will want to work with you too.”
While he’s loving life as a livestock transporter, Nicholas-Benney says he’d like to experience other parts of the transport industry one day too. “I’d like to broaden my horizons eventually, and maybe one day try some heavy haulage or oversize work.”