“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” goes the saying and in the case of 22-year-old Nick Madden from Nathalia in northern Victoria, this statement certainly has some resonance.
Madden is the proud custodian of a near-new Kenworth T659 which is owned by Rex James Stockfeeds, with the young driver clocking up the kilometres hauling bulk stockfeed commodities across south-eastern Australia.
He had made his way over the Murray River from Nathalia into the Riverina in late October for the Deniliquin Truck Show and Industry Expo, and having put in the hard yards until 11pm the night before, polishing and preparing the Kenworth for the show-and-shine, he pulled up a chair and a cool drink to give a bit of insight into his time on the road thus far.
“Well I come from a trucking background, my grandfather had trucks and my dad, Danny Madden, had his first Kenworth when he was 18, so trucking has always been in the blood. I have always been mad on trucks. I did panel beating for three years then started out driving on harvest work. Dan Wiltshire from Kotupna gave me a start when I was 18, I got a harvest exemption on my semi licence for working within 100k’s of the local silos. I was in an International S-Line to start with and it was a good thing to learn in,” he explained.
Madden made the move to Rex James in 2021, hitting the road with a single tipper behind a Kenworth T402, with the young driver delighted to receive the keys to the T659 early in 2023 when it rolled out of Graham Thompson Motors in Shepparton. Usually hooked up to a GLT B-double tipper set, this young driver has put over 70,000 kilometres on the clock in a relatively brief period of time.
The Kenworth has the trusty Cummins X15 under the sloping bonnet, with an 18-speed Roadranger pushing the power through to the back end.
Kitted out with a 50-inch sleeper, air-conditioning, microwave, fridge and television, Madden reckons the T659 is well appointed and suited to the type of work he does, which includes some manoeuvring through farm gateways and so forth. “I reckon it’s a good bit of kit – these are very practical, you can see what you’re doing, as they have a good turning circle. We are always right up there around 68.5 tonnes and it’s been a very good handling truck to drive. Although coming up here bobtail this morning she was a bit funny!” he said with a grin.
Madden is primarily involved in hauling both raw product such as canola meal into the Rex James Stockfeed processing plant and finished product direct on farm to some of the larger customers, allowing for a variety of work over generally a two-week rotation. “I do a bit of local and some longer distances, there’s a couple of farms up at Forbes I go to, and I get up to Ladysmith near Wagga every week. We usually work to a set run but you’re not doing the same thing every day, for example I have had a couple of trips to Newcastle, and I did two trips to Melbourne this week, but I hadn’t been down there for six months. It’s good doing your own work and carting your own products as there’s no waiting, just tip it on and tip it off and James’s are adaptable if things change.”
Madden is of the opinion that tippers are the way to go, having sampled doing some market freight, with the stockfeed work keeping him going throughout the farming year as well particularly through the harvest months. “I did a couple of trips down to the Melbourne Market there at Cooper Street for a mate of mine, but I wasn’t into it, it wasn’t my cup of tea! We are flat out now, and we are always flat out during the harvest. We lost a bit of ground with the floods in 2022 but we were still busy.”
With Madden and the Kenworth making their debut at Deniliquin, the pair have also made a few visits to shows around the place, with the social aspect allowing him to catch up and unwind with his mates. “I have taken it out and about a bit this year, we have been to Boort, Alexandra and Oaklands with the truck shows – a few of us met up at Mathoura and convoyed up this morning, it was great. We will have a great night and head home in the morning,” he said.
With a variety of destinations to travel about to, a good working environment and a new truck to drive, Nick is pretty settled and looks like making his home behind the wheel of a Rex James truck for quite a few years yet. “I have known the family all my life and they were pretty good to give me a start, and then allowing me to work my way into a brand new T659. They couldn’t be better people to work for and they look after the trucks and look after their drivers.
“I can see myself being here for another 10 years – I don’t think I’m going anywhere, I just love my job and I’m excited to go to work and I love what I do.”