Growing up on a farm in Briagolong, Victoria, Melissa Ryan began driving horse trucks when she turned 18. These days, you’ll find her behind the wheel of a 2022 Kenworth T909, pulling B-doubles and road trains loaded with cattle.
She’s on the road for up to four weeks at a time, transporting between farms, abattoirs and feedlots. “It’s all interstate. I go anywhere from Queensland to Victoria to South Australia. I haven’t been to Western Australia – this is one of my goals along with the Northern Territory,” she said.
“Four weeks is the longest I’ve been away so far – and that was only a few weeks ago. I went to Burra in South Australia, Roma in Queensland, then onto Victoria and NSW. But normally I’m away for two weeks at a time. It just turns into one big week really, you don’t think about the days because they go past pretty quickly.”
Based in Gippsland in Victoria’s south-east, Melissa works for Transedel Livestock Carriers, together with her father Paul Ryan. “My dad drove for the boss Ian Einsiedel too, for about 15 years and is in the workshop there now,” Melissa said.
“I started off in a Mitsubishi horse truck, transporting my family’s horses to competitions. My current boss wouldn’t stop asking me to drive for him, so that’s how I got into it.”
Having grown up on a dairy farm, Melissa was no stranger to cattle. Her first job was at the local saleyards, receiving cattle from transporters and putting them through the scales on sale day. “Getting to work with animals, there’s always something different – I’ve always loved animals,” she said.
Prior to the current T909, which she’s been driving since it was delivered brand new earlier this year, she was in an older T909. “The new truck is good, it pulls better than the older one,” she added.
“When the cows are really big, like over 800kg each, I’d typically carry about 42 of them, but if they’re a bit smaller it can be up to 60. It just depends how big they are. The biggest cow I’ve ever moved weighed 1.1 tonne!”
Transedel operates a fleet of around 25 trucks. Melissa started with the business in early 2020, first with a truck and dog, then she went on to a semi and now tows anything up to a triple road train.
She says the role has her going to new places all the time, seeing different things, meeting different people and making new friends.
Her hard work and dedication saw her recently presented with the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria (LRTAV) Young Driver of the Year award. She came out on top out of a pool of nine nominees. “It was a little bit of a shock to win the award. I wasn’t really expecting it,” Melissa said.
“Thank you to my boss for nominating me and to my parents for being there, and to all the people who have helped me along the way.
“Thanks also to the LRTAV and their sponsors PSC Griffiths Goodall Insurance Brokers for promoting young drivers in the livestock transport industry.”
For those considering a career in livestock transport, her advice is simple, “Give it a go, everyone is always willing to help you and show you how to do things the right way.
Everyone is usually really friendly too.
“There may not be as many females out here on the road, but we are here and if you’re tempted, then come and join us!”