Ryan Mckenzie’s path into trucking is quite a familiar one. The son of a truck driver, he decided he’d get a trade before getting his start behind the wheel. Though he confessed, “I was always going to drive trucks. I never liked the trade but I loved the trucks.”
He’s a diesel mechanic by trade. “I started doing my apprenticeship in year 12 and kept at that for eight or nine years.”
That all changed when he was asked for a favour from a mate. Having already secured his MC licence when he was 25, that one trip turned into an 18-month role with Sprenger’s Rural Traders, doing molasses transfer.
“He asked if I could do a trip for him in his truck and I’ve been driving ever since,” said Mckenzie, 35.
Though he has fond memories of his father’s truck from his early years, after his parents split up when he was five years old, Mckenzie didn’t see as much of him for quite some time. “I’ve always loved trucks, I used to go out with the old man. When I was really young I was always in the truck with him. He was an interstate driver. As I got older, my interest in trucks kept growing – it’s a stupid thing to be interested in though!” he said.
“I taught myself how to drive and picked it up fairly quickly. When you’re interested in something, you make an effort to learn how to do it.
“I just liked being in a truck, I didn’t care what it was – and then before long I was in B-doubles.
“I’m based in Ipswich and Dad is in Melbourne – he just does local work now, so I see him when I’m down that way.”
The father and son have their own Kenworth T608, which Mckenzie was driving up until recently. “But that’s at the workshop waiting to get fixed, so I’m in the process of buying this truck that I’m in at the moment. It’s a 2021 model Kenworth T909.”
Since taking up truck driving full time, Mckenzie has done everything from general and refrigerated, to container work and oversize.
After the role at Sprenger’s, Mckenzie was offered a job doing local refrigerated transport. As he quickly found, it just wasn’t for him. “I only lasted about two months because I wasn’t really interested in the local work,” he said.
From there, he began working for Fred’s Interstate Transport before giving local just one more crack, this time transporting containers on A-doubles from the Port of Toowoomba, while still doing odd interstate trips to Sydney for Fred’s.
“I don’t do very well on local, I don’t like the hectic traffic,” said Mckenzie. “Anywhere that’s not repetitive is what I like. I enjoy general freight because you need to use your brains to put the load on. It’s always different, you learn new things all the time and there’s different rules everywhere, so you have to figure out all of that too.”
These days Mckenzie sub-contracts to Brisbane based Tareve Plant Haulage, a small family owned outfit that’s been running since 2017. It specialises in the transport of general freight, bulk haulage, earthmoving equipment and oversize loads.
“All the work I do now is for Tareve. I’ve been with them since the end of last year. I travel all over Australia. A lot of our work has been over to the west but we’ll go anywhere and everywhere,” Mckenzie said.
When we chatted, he was somewhere between Pardoo and Port Hedland in the Pilbara. Mckenzie says his favourite roadhouse to stop at when over in the west is the Roebuck Plains Roadhouse up near Broome. “It never disappoints there – the food, the people, plus they sell beer there which is great!
“The only state I haven’t travelled to is Tassie but if it ever comes up, I’d be willing to do it. There’s still a lot of places I haven’t seen yet.”
Mckenzie says the work usually sees him on the road for three to three and a half weeks at a time. “It’s definitely not a Monday to Friday job. I enjoy going to Darwin, which is really laid back, and north Queensland is beautiful too. I’m not a big fan of heading into Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide though.
“I enjoy seeing the countryside. Most people have to take holidays to see this stuff, I get paid to go and see it. There are so many people who want to leave Australia to go overseas and explore other countries, but they never really explore what we have here.”
Though he loves the job and the places it takes him – being away for long stretches at a time is also the hardest part of the work. “I have a wife and four kids, aged 13, 10, five and 21 months. My five-year-old loves the trucks but I tell him he’s not allowed to do it. And my oldest has been away with me a few times, but doesn’t like being away for too long,” revealed Mckenzie.
“Their mother already stresses out with me doing it, I couldn’t imagine me and our kids doing it.
“The things you miss with your family are definitely the hardest. I’ve missed all my kids’ birthdays this year – and the look on their faces when you tell them you can’t be there. It’s always hard to tell them you can’t make it. But I’m not the only truck driver in that boat, we’re all doing the same job. I missed Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter too this year.”
However, Mckenzie recently enjoyed a well-earned family break. “I’m on holidays from September 22 and have about 10 days off, I’m going to Fraser Island with the family, to watch the kids go swimming and have a beer or two. All my kids love the beach and they love camping too.”