Features, Road transport company, Truck driver

A day in the life of a tanker driver

Jess Ludorf has always loved trucks, so when the opportunity came to work for McColl’s Transport, she jumped at the chance.

She does milk pick-ups for McColl’s, from farms located right across Gippsland, a rural region that stretches from outer Melbourne to the eastern-most point of Victoria.

Typically she’ll do multiple pick-ups in a day, sometimes in a single and others in B-double tankers. Each day is different and that’s one of the things she enjoys most about her role. “What I like about the job is that I enjoy driving the truck and not every day is the same,” says Ludorf.

She says she enjoys the diversity of the role.

McColl’s has been transporting milk since it put its first truck on the road in 1952. Today it is Australia’s largest independent bulk liquid carrier of milk, food and bulk chemicals, with the country’s most modern and specialised food grade and chemical tankers, which are spread over 23 depots.

The company prides itself on its highly skilled drivers, which range from those who have been steering the big rigs for decades, to those just starting out in their career on the road after undergoing McColl’s thorough and extensive training.

“At McColl’s we’re very proud of our drivers,” says Andrew Thompson, group business development manager at McColl’s Transport. “They’re our ambassadors, they’re at supplier and customer locations multiple times throughout the day. They do a great job and represent us well.”

McColl’s tanker drivers undergo extensive training.

New drivers at McColl’s undergo the company’s induction and training program, which includes having an experienced tanker driver – or “buddy” – in the cab with them for a few weeks. They are then assessed by an external assessor before going out on their own.

All of McColl’s milk tanker drivers are also qualified as milk graders, having completed an in-house course which focuses on all the skills required to correctly collect raw milk.

Ludorf’s workday begins with a look at her run sheet to see which farms she’ll be visiting. At each farm, the milk is carefully inspected and tested, so she grabs her supplies which include sample bottles and labels to ensure samples are correctly labelled.

Upon arriving at a farm, the first thing Ludorf does is check for any signage directing trucks to the milking shed. “Then I unhook my hose, start opening the toolboxes and connect the hose to the VAT,” she explains.

Next, Ludorf does a visual check of the milk in the VAT. “It smells like milk and there’s nothing floating in there, so I check the temperature – it has to be below 5°C,” she says.

Two sample bottles are collected – the one with a red lid is a sample of the milk in the VAT; and the one with the yellow lid is collected from the drip in the trailer. Then, it’s time to start pumping. On the shed card, drivers are required to document their name, the number of litres out and the milk’s temperature. “Then we’re all done and off to the next farm,” Ludorf says.

Further testing of the milk is conducted once she arrives at the factory.

Upon returning to the factory, Ludorf prints off two dockets showing the farms she’s visited that day and how many litres were collected at each stop.

Then she gets a sample from the tanker and grabs all of the day’s samples too, which are then tested in a lab, with the test results going into a report that the farmers receive the next day.

A further test is conducted to check for any residue of antibiotics used to treat cows – once that’s checked and all clear, it’s time to get the hose connected up so the milk can be pumped out of the tanker and into the processors silo.

“I check the total litres that have come out after a flush and write that number down,” adds Ludorf.

Once emptied, the tanker undergoes a chemical wash.

Once the tanker has been emptied, it undergoes a special chemical wash, which is part of the company’s safety and cleanliness regime.

And then, it’s ready for a new day. “I enjoy meeting the farmers and I enjoy the fast pace of it all,” adds Ludorf.

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