Livestock legend honoured with an OAM

Outback owner-operator Mick Pattel, who received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his work in the livestock transport industry, was hard at work cleaning the double decks of his trailers when Big Rigs contacted him.

Road transport “legend” would be an apt description of Mick, who at 71, is still fit and enthusiastic about the job.

Based at Richmond, which is 500km along the Flinders Highway from Townsville, Mick drives a Mack Titan with a 685hp motor and an automatic gearbox.

He hauls livestock in triples from the Gulf of Carpentaria region and outback centres to meat works on the coast and for live export from Townsville Port.

“I am dealing with wonderful clients some of whom are the third generation of families, I used to carry for their fathers and grandfathers,” he said.

Born named Kevin Michael Pattel at Winton, he has been known as Mick because his father was also Kevin Pattel.

“Dad’s middle name was Thomas, so I just took the Christian name of Mick to avoid confusion,” he said.

This dedicated truckie has strong views on many issues regarding the industry and one is rates.

His motto is that there are two types of operators: “Price makers and price takers.”

“I am a price maker and quote a fair price and if it is not accepted than I don’t do the job,” he said.

Having said that in 50 years of driving, Mick said he had never been the victim of a bad debt.

“It is because the clients I deal with are good people,” he said.

Although Mick said that rising fuel costs were “hard to manage” for the industry.

“But I own everything and have no debt which I can factor into my rates. Some who have lots of debt charge higher rates and let maintenance of their trucks do down which becomes a safety issue,” he said.

Some years back Mick had a second truck – a B Model Mack and employed a driver but it didn’t work out.

Mick’s father Kevin, a big influence on his life, also received an OAM in 2019.

The Pattel name is well respected name at Richmond, around the Gulf region and big cities like Townsville where his father who also has received an OAM in 2019 when aged 92.

“I catch up with Dad as often as I can and he played a big part in my life,” Mick said.

I asked Mick what the worst road was he has travelled on and he nominated the Flinders Highway.

“When I haul cattle from the Gulf to Townsville I use the back roads through Georgetown, Greenvale and Charters Towers. The Flinders between Richmond and Hughenden is rough and further on towards the Towers there are many narrow bridges,” he said.

On the subject of rest areas, Mick feels there is not enough, which is a sentiment of many other drivers.

“Along the Flinders Highway there are only a few and if you try and pull up after 10pm at night at one, most times you won’t find a park. So, you have to stop at one of those pull off areas to check the livestock,” he said.

Mick said that the Gregory Development Road stretch between Charters Towers and Clermont also needed more rest areas.

“There are only two at Cape River and a newer one at Frankfield which is a beautiful set up,” he said.

As for roadhouses, Mick said he doesn’t stop at many but when he does the BP Cluden on Townsville’s outskirts is a preference.

“I have a microwave and an induction hot plate in the Mack which I can cook in and my favourite food is steak,” he said.

Mick has led a wonderful life focusing on his beloved family and the road transport industry.

At the age of eight, Mick left Winton for Richmond and attended Richmond State and Secondary schools before leaving to work in the building and wool industry for a short time before deciding to drive trucks for his living.

From the age of 11 on weekends he would help his father work in the yard and go out with him in a Leyland on mail runs away from town and learnt to drive out on the remote bush tracks and the start of a long-standing career in transport.

In 1969, Mick joined the family business to drive road trains hauling livestock and general freight.

The livestock legend hauls triples from the Gulf of Carpentaria region and outback centres.

Mick had his semi licence by the time he was 17 and by 21 he had his own business up and running and had an R model Mack with two single cattle trailers, then later on bought a Super-Liner with three double deck cattle crates. His current truck is Mack Titan.

In 1969, Mick joined the family business to drive road trains hauling livestock and general freight.

Four years later in 1973 he married Janet and is very proud of his three children, Angela, Simon, Kellie, and their families.

Mick has also been inducted into the Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs, he was a member of the Livestock Transporters Association of Qld (LTAQ) which won a lot of concession for the livestock industry, he was also instrumental in the introduction of volumetric loading of cattle.

In 2008 Mick held many meetings along the east coast over fatigue laws, fuel taxes, and other injustices to the transport industry which led to the shut down for three days of the transport industry across Australia in July that year.

After the shutdown, and still unhappy with government treatment of the transport industry, in August 2008 he cofounded the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) alongside lifetime friend Peter Whytcross. Mick was also the inaugural national president and is now a life member of the association.

Mick was behind a nationwide protest against the banning of live cattle trade in 2011.

Unhappy with the Gillard minority government and the banning of the live cattle trade, in August 2011 Mick planned and with help from NRFA and others ran the Convoy of No Confidence from all over Australia to finish in Canberra with massive support behind him.

Mick has been involved in many community organisations such as Apex, the school P&C as president and he also served as a local councillor on the Richmond Shire council.

Whilst many drivers criticise the habits of caravans and often declare some as dangerous, Mick said he gets on well with most he contacts on his radio.

“If they are travelling at 80km per hour and you are behind them most will understand that you are doing a job with deadlines and fatigue management and they will let you pass,” he said.

In conclusion, I asked Mick how long he reckons he will be driving the highways and byways doing what he loves.

“I have had sickness along the way but recovered and have also had family and friends who have died much younger. So hopefully for many years to come,” he said.

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