With a great contract already lined up, things were looking bright when this Cobar based couple decided to buy their own truck – but then Covid hit and that all went out the window.
Add to that the rising fuel and registration costs and four logbook fines – and John and Faye McGrath were left with no other option than to close their small transport business JFM Haulage.
John, who is just 40 years age, was born and bred into trucking and farming. “He’s been trucking all his life. It’s in his blood and he loves it,” said Faye. “His grandfather was still driving at 70-odd years of age and John is still so young to be giving it up.”
The couple purchased a 2013 Freightliner Coronado three years ago, in early 2020. They had secured a great contract with a business in South Australia. “We bought the truck and went to pick it up right around the time that Covid hit, so we lost that contract,” explained Faye.
She said they had high hopes when they decided to take the plunge and go out on their own. “Our goal was to pay our house off a little bit quicker and get ahead of things. That contract would’ve brought in $15,000 a week. Then Covid hit and it was gone. We didn’t know what to do.”
Working to get a new business off the ground is hard at the best of times, without throwing in a raft of unprecedented restrictions, border closures and everything else that came with the pandemic.
“We struggled for a while but were able to buy a flat top trailer and keep working. With Covid, it was really hard. We then sold that trailer and bought a tautliner,” explained Faye.
The couple were able to secure a new contract running from Newcastle to Perth each fortnight. They then hired another trailer and dolly as they worked to build up their customer base.
“With the rising cost of fuel around March/April last year, it was getting really hard. At one stage, it was costing us $10,000 just in fuel to go across to Perth and back. Then there’s the costs for rego, the truck repayments, insurances, etc,” revealed Faye.
“We pushed and struggled, and there were many times John wanted to give up, but I said let’s just keep trying to push forward.”
They made the heartbreaking decision to sell the truck, and it went to auction in June last year. “We made just enough to cover paying it out and then we sold the tautliner. Without the truck, John decided to use a ute and a 6-metre trailer with ramps. He tried that for a while but it wasn’t any easier, even with the reduced fuel costs, the rising cost of everything still made it hard.”
Things went from bad to worse when John received four logbook infringements in SA, each carrying a maximum penalty of up to $11,450.
After being adjourned several times, the matter was brought before the Port Augusta Magistrates Court in South Australia on December 12.
As these fines were a first-time offence and with an early guilty plea, the total penalty actually imposed was $7024. They’re now having to pay that off in instalments as they work to get back on their feet.
Now John is working at a farm in Narromine, some 250km away from their home in Cobar, while Faye has just found work locally.
“Even though we’ve sold up, we still need to pay our bills just like everyone else,” Faye said. “At the moment, John doesn’t feel like he’ll ever get back into truck driving – I’m hoping one day he will, because it’s in his blood. Both his grandfathers were truck drivers. His brother was too but gave it up 12 months ago. I just don’t know what the future holds.”