Outback, Truckie Profiles

Outback truckie answers call of the road

After getting out of the game for several months, this experienced truckie is back in the driver’s seat, pulling anything up to four trailers of cattle.

As a kid, Nic Risk was fascinated by aviation, though he’s now more at home on the ground, keeping the wheels turning.

For the past few months, he’s been in a 2019 Kenworth T909 driving for family owned and operated business Hale River Transport. He works there together with his wife Kattie Risk, who also drives quad cattle trucks. Though the couple is based in Darwin, the depot is in Clare, SA, just north of Adelaide.

“Hale River Transport has a small fleet of six prime movers and there’s six drivers, including Kattie and I – and we’ll all give everything a go. We travel all over the place, throughout the Northern Territory and Western Australia, wherever the boss sends us,” said Nic.

Nic says that after his breaking from trucking, he’s really enjoying the work once again.

“At some of these bigger companies, you’re just a number. But I really enjoy working for these guys because it is a small family business. There’s more of a personal touch, I speak with the truck coordinator often and he’ll call to make sure everything is all good. As a smaller business they look after you a bit more.

“I do anything from B-doubles up to quads, it’s usually cattle. Hale also carts a lot of hay and general too, so I do that on occasion as well.”

Originally from New Zealand, Nic was raised on a sheep and cattle farm, starting his truck driving career across the ditch. Although that first role did involve both planes and trucks.

“I got a job in crop dusting, working as part of the ground crew – driving the truck and loading the fertiliser into the plane. I did that for about three years before I moved into other trucking roles,” said Nic. “I got my truck licence in my early 20s. I’m now in mid 40s.”

Both Nic and his wife Kattie are road train operators. He drives the 2019 Kenworth T909 on the right and she drives the 2017 Western Star 6900 on the left.

Nic also got his pilot’s licence in NZ at one stage, but admits it’s been while since he’s steered a plane, so that’s since lapsed.

From there, he moved into a driving role that revolved around earthworks, though he knew that was never going to be long term. “I was in that role for around nine or ten months and during that time, I saw all the cattle trucks coming in and out. I got talking to one of the livestock truckies who said there was an opening at their depot, so I went over there and did a drive and got the job three weeks later,” Nic explained.

At first it was bulk haulage before he eventually moved into carting livestock.

Then in 2011, Nic made the decision to move to Australia. First it was on the Gold Coast, doing changeovers between Brisbane and Mackay, with the odd interstate trip to Sydney or Melbourne. It was refrigerated work. “I got tired of doing that, so I pursued a job in cattle carting. I moved to Mt Isa and then to Darwin, working for RTA (Road Trains Australia) and delivering cattle.”

From there, he and Kattie spent a few years doing two-up for Shaw’s Darwin Transport.

“I did two up with Kattie not long after we first met. I know there are a lot of two-up teams around Australia. You need to have a very special relationship with the other person for it to work.”

Nic joined Hale River Transport a few months back.

Before his current role, Nic had also worked for Linfox and Neil Mansell Transport; before stepping away from trucking completely. He originally moved away from linehaul work for family reasons; and then stepped away from trucking all together last February, before his recent return.

“I’ve been driving for 20 odd years now. When I was over in New Zealand, even though it’s a smaller country, I did longer trips regularly. But with the amount of kilometres I was racking up here in Australia, I took some time out for myself for a change. I also had a couple of close calls with caravans, so I decided to give it up for a while,” explained Nic.

“Kattie was also still wanting to pursue her career in trucking and she has two boys, so I took a local job in town. A friend of mine offered me a leading hand position and that meant I could be home for the boys,” Nic said.

Then one thing led to another. “With Kattie being at Hales, the boss said when I wanted a job, I had one here as they were looking for a driver – so I took it with both hands!”

After having that break, Nic is enjoying the work once more, working for a great company.

“I love going any place I haven’t been before. I enjoy getting out and seeing what many people wouldn’t see. A lot of people use the phrase it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle and I do enjoy the lifestyle. Out there in the outback, there’s no traffic to worry about, it’s really serene,” he said.

When he was with RTA, Nic says he could be away anywhere from a few weeks to well over a month; however with Hales, the longest he’s been away to date is two weeks. “So you really learn to be self-sustained in the truck,” he added.

With both Nic and Kattie spending so much time on the road, Hales has also been great in trying to marry up their runs where possible. “Our man here tries to work it out so we’re home together when we can be. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but we’re in constant contact all the time anyway. And we’re really understanding when things don’t work out that way too,” said Nic.

If you’re an outback truckie and want to be featured on our driver profile pages, email editor@bigrigs.com.au.

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