Speaking to Brad Russell, 37, he recalled the first time his late father let him get behind the wheel. “The first time my dad asked if I wanted to have a drive of the truck, I thought I was king,” he said.
“I would have been about 13 years old. He was very passionate about his truck and very picky about who he let drive it. It was an old Kenworth T900. He sat there next to me and said this is what you do. I’ll always remember that.”
For Brad, trucking is in the blood. Along with his father Neil ‘Willie’ Russell being a truck driver, so too were his cousins. “So I followed suit – even though my old man said not to!
“As a kid growing up, at school they’d ask what I wanted to do when I was older, and I always said I wanted to drive trucks – and that was from about five years old.
“I was always passionate about trucks so I followed through and did it.”
Through his career, Neil did interstate work carrying livestock and general freight. When Brad was younger, his dad would call home after school to see if he wanted to come for a ride.
“The truck was always around. Dad would get home and we’d get out there and help him wash it. There was always something to do on the truck.”
And their strong bond continued into adulthood. “There were even a couple of times where he’d come with me and we’d do a two-up trip together. He was driving trucks for the best part of 30-40 years. But he passed away a few years ago.”
Based in Hay, NSW, Brad has worked for Dawsons Haulage since November 2022, running out of their West Wyalong depot, some three hours away.
His usual fortnightly run is a nine-day, 7400 kilometre, multi-stop journey from West Wyalong to Perth, carrying all manner of general freight, including oversize – from behind the wheel of a Kenworth C509. “It’s mainly general freight – anything that can go on a flat top or drop deck, we can carry. I do a little bit up to Karratha but that’s only every now and then. I also took a C540 mine truck to Geraldton about a month ago too,” explained Brad.
“I enjoy the work. We do multiple drops and pick-ups which keeps you active as well. You’re not just sitting in the truck the whole time. And a lot of customers we go to are great people that you can have a laugh and a coffee with and then do what we have to do.”
Brad got his heavy rigid licence as soon as he was able to, at the age of 18 and began doing local work in Moama, then he got his HC at 19, which is when he started on interstate, transporting tractors and machinery. Within about two years, Brad upgraded to his MC.
“I prefer the interstate work. You’re out and about and never in the same rut of doing the same thing every day. You get to meet new people, go to a lot of different places and get to see a lot of the country that a lot of people don’t get to see,” said Brad.
Though he added that things are now quite different to what he recalled growing up. “There was the fun they used to have out on the road. There was that mateship out there, everyone looked out for each other. If we pulled up and had blown a tyre, at least two people would pull up and see if you needed a hand.
“A lot of roadhouses were completely different to how they are now too. These days a lot of them have Maccas and KFC. But I remember as a kid that any roadhouse you pulled into, you could get a good feed. Now it’s getting harder to find a good home cooked meal at a roadhouse.”
Although there are a few stops he highly recommends. “The Puma at Port Augusta is always a good feed. And when I head up to the Territory the Hi-Way Inn at Daly Waters is top of my list. I love it there.”
Brad says Dawsons is a great company to work for and even allows him to take his kids along on trips – just as he did with his father growing up.
“I have two sons and three step-kids. The boys all want to drive trucks just like dad.”
“Anything to do with machinery and trucks, they’re always there. My sons are three and seven years old, and my stepson is 17. They’ve all been in the truck with me. They fight over who comes with me every time. They really do love it. And I take the truck home all the time, so if I’m washing it, they’ll come out and give me a hand too.
“Dawsons are really good like that. It’s like when I grew up. We just need to let them know. It’s a thing that’s dying out really and I think it’s sad. How do kids get to spend time with their dad or their mum or whoever it is that’s driving the truck, and get to see exactly what goes on?”
When asked if he could see himself doing this sort of work for a long time, Brad answered without hesitation. “Yeah, this is what I know and what I’m comfortable with. I love my truck and take a lot of pride in it. A lot of people would say being away is hard, but I’ve grown up with it so that’s just a part of the job.
“I also enjoy getting to go to places I’ve never been. I have a lot of mates out here that you don’t generally see on weekends, so I get to see them out on the road.”
When he’s not behind the wheel, Brad says he enjoys going camping and spending time with his family and good mates.