Inspired by his father and uncle, who he now works alongside, second generation livestock transport operator Anton Fitzgerald, 27, keeps kicking goals.
Growing up around trucks and cattle, it was no surprise that this would cement his future career path.
Working for Meandarra Transport Services, Fitzgerald serves as operations and logistics manager. While managing everything that’s involved in the day to day running of the business, he’s also on the road five days a week, transporting cattle between feedlots, paddocks and abattoirs.
From behind the wheel of a 2021 Western Star 4900, he’s clocked up over 180,000 kilometres in the last 12 months alone.
His dedication and determination have led to Fitzgerald being named the winner of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland’s (LRTAQ) Young Person in Transport Award for 2023 – sponsored by Cummins-Meritor.
Fitzgerald was named the winner, among a pool of seven finalists, at the 2023 Bull Carter’s Ball, which was held on September 29 as part of the LRTAQ 2023 Annual Conference in Townsville.
And he was thrilled to receive the recognition. “It was very overwhelming, I didn’t go into it expecting I’d come home with the award,” he said.
“The event itself was really good. It’s the first time I’ve been to the LRTAQ Conference but I’d like to keep going and get more involved with them. There was a lot of info presented in a short amount of time, so it was really helpful in many different areas.”
The LRTAQ Young Person in Transport Award was developed to recognise and acknowledge the contribution younger transport workers are making to the sustainability of the industry, with the award open to those aged 35 years or younger.
As part of his prize for winning the award, Fitzgerald will head to Melbourne in early November for the Melbourne Cup, and for tours of the Cummins-Meritor and Kenworth facilities.
This is the third year that the award has been presented and LRTAQ secretariat manager Tammie Swalling said Fitzgerald was a stand-out among the nominees. “When we talk about all the driver shortages, it was great to see so many young people who are doing really great things. With operators like Anton, the industry is in good hands.”
Fitzgerald was born and raised in Meandarra, a rural town in Queensland’s Western Downs region. He credits his father Russell and uncle Lindsay – who are brothers – for teaching him all about trucking and cattle from a very young age. Like many kids growing up in the country, Fitzgerald was already honing his truck driving skills from as young as 10.
“Dad has been carting livestock for almost 40 years and my uncle has done it for over 25 years, so it’s been in the family for a long time.
“As a kid, I was always in the truck pretending to work. I went with dad in the truck any chance I could – I’ve always enjoyed carting cattle,” Fitzgerald fondly recalled. “I always knew I’d drive trucks. It was inevitable because I’ve always loved them.”
Fitzgerald says he got his truck licence “as soon as I could” at the age of 18 and was able to secure his MC by the age of 19. He joined Meandarra Transport Services in 2018. His father Russell has worked for the business, on and off, for the majority of his working career, and his uncle Lindsay has been there for more than two years.
The company’s main depot is in Tara, Queensland, with a second facility located in Meandarra. “We’re based in south east Queensland but we go everywhere and do the meatworks down south and in south east Queensland. There are 20-odd feedlots in our area,” Fitzgerald explained.
Meandarra Transport Services was purchased by new owners in 2020, after the previous owners retired. Today it is owned by the Hurst and Fea families, who quickly recognised Fitzgerald’s potential, promoting him to the role of operations and logistics manager.
Humble in his achievements, Fitzgerald said, “I was a just a driver and the manager was leaving to go back home and work on the farm. I didn’t apply for the position, but it was definitely something I wanted to get into – it was just the right time and the right place. That was nearly two years to the day.”
Meandarra Transport Services has five company owned trucks – two Western Star 6900s and three Western Star 4900s – and a full-time sub-contractor, with the trucks pulling anything from B-doubles up to triple road trains. “The Western Stars are a good all-round truck – they’re reliable and sturdy and there’s a lot of room in them. The servicing at Brisbane Truck Centre is good too. We’ve also just ordered a Kenworth T909,” Fitzgerald added.
When asked if he thinks he’ll be in it for the long haul, Fitzgerald answered promptly. “Yeah definitely. I enjoy my role here and can see myself here in the next 10 years that’s for sure, so long as everything keeps going the way it’s going.
“I didn’t think I’d be in this sort of role so quickly.
“I wanted to get more experience up my sleeve before I got into it – but I’m also the sort of person that when I’m thrown into the deep end, that’s where I thrive. I enjoy problem solving.
“I’m passionate about cattle and trucking, and I enjoy getting out and meeting people and the relationships you make. You can go anywhere and still know people. I also enjoy seeing the countryside too.
“It’s great to be able to work alongside my dad and my uncle. It’s definitely something you aspire to. Between dad and my uncle, they taught me everything about trucks growing up.”
For those considering a career in livestock transport, Fitzgerald’s advice is, “Just go into it with a good frame of mind and be there to learn. It’s a very underrated profession. I’d never discourage anyone from having a go. You learn so much about cattle, trucking, the land, everything – just have a crack at it and don’t be afraid!”