It was a tough choice to leave a secure job after 12 years, but this hard-working Victorian livestock carrier is glad he took the plunge.
It is no secret that transport is a tough gig and one of the toughest things to take on is making the move from being a company driver to an owner-driver.
Having made such a move in October 2019, Dale and Melany Grealy are steadily building their family livestock transport business up, working through the rich agricultural valleys of North-East Victoria.
The couple took the plunge into running their own truck after Dale had worked for Shanahan’s Livestock for 12 years, with Dominic Shanahan giving Dale a leg-up into the business of carting sheep and cattle all around Australia.
“Dom turned up at the old Wodonga saleyards there one day with a new 2×1 crate and I asked him what his plans were for it – he told me he didn’t have one but if I wanted a driving job he would help set me up and organised me to get my heavy combo licence and later my B-double licence,” recalled Dale.
With his licence sorted Dale took to the road in a Kenworth T601 towing the 2 x 1 crate (2 decks sheep/1 deck cattle) before moving into some 2-deck cattle work before gaining his B-Double accreditation.
Shortly after, Dale was thrown in at the deep end making his way across the country on sheep-carting job.
“I reckon I had my double licence for about a fortnight when Dom rang and said, ‘I have a bit of a project for you’.
“I loaded cattle out of Yea across to Balranald and he said, ‘The next part of the little project is for you to wash out at Jamestown [SA] because you’re going west’.
“He sent me over to Western Australia to bring a load of sheep back – that was my learning curve of driving a B-double, a fortnight of having a HC licence and I was into it!”
In the years following, Dale saw quite a bit of Australia through the windscreen of a Kenworth as the work sent him off the beaten track to all points of the compass from the Shanahan depot on the outskirts of Wodonga at Barnawartha North.
“When it was going flat out, I think I did around 18 or 19 trips west across to southern WA – Esperance, Katanning, Bunbury, it’s definitely a way to get the kilometres up.
“I also made it to Alice Springs, Muttaburra and a lot of Queensland and all across New South Wales….wherever you had to go you went.”
In 2019, the unfortunate sudden death of another north-east livestock carrier was the catalyst for Dale and Melany with their young daughter Annabelle to establish what today operates as Grealy Family Transport.
Robert and Rhonda Barton had operated an Isuzu truck-and dog unit based at Kergunyah in the Kiewa Valley for a number of years before Robert passed away suddenly in April, with the Grealy family purchasing the truck and striking out on their own.
“Rhonda is the pay-lady at Shanahan’s and I had spoken to her a couple of times after Rob had passed away, and she wanted to know if I would like to buy the truck – I told her I had never had a truck of my own,” said Dale.
“She said she needed to sell it and I needed to buy it as it would get me home more and I would watch my kids grow up and so forth. She wasn’t pushing me away from Shanahan’s but probably pushing me the way I needed to go. It’s definitely been a blessing.”
The Grealy Isuzu is a 2002 CXY with a 385 horsepower SiTec mother coupled to a Roadranger driveline, and despite having done 1.3 million kilometres still holds her own out on the road.
“Rob kept her moving pretty well but it has been well looked after, the crates are only three years old, they are 2 x 1’s so they are handy to have when a sheep job pops up,” Dale said.
The Isuzu has a 29 -foot long tray with the dog trailer coming in at 21 feet which is a handy size to have in the livestock haulage game, coming in with greater capacity than a regular single trailer.
“I have fifty feet of deck space which is just a little bit longer than some other outfits, it works well around here as you can split it if need be and run a few head back out to the dog if you’re in a tight spot, hook up again and away you go, it’s definitely a handy outfit with that bit of extra length on the truck,” he explained.
A number of Barton Transport’s customers are on board with Dale continuing their association with the truck with the Isuzu a regular sight up and down the Kiewa Valley with Dale hauling livestock to the weekly market at the NVLX facility at Barnawartha along with abattoir and farm-to-farm work.
Along with the local work Dale been as far afield as Queensland, which saw one of his earliest trips pointing the Isuzu north to the Sunshine State.
“I went up to Roma for a load of bulls, a bloke at Young was a bit stuck and needed them back home so sent me up – it worked out quite well as I hadn’t yet built up my clientele in the Valley.”
The Grealy family name is well known around Wodonga, with Dale’s father Lionel running the long-established Grealy Motors and Towing operation, and as such Dale has some other equipment at close range to shift machinery or hay if needed.
“We have the option of using Dads Kenworth K104 and 48-foot tilt slide if we need to shift a bit of machinery or something, I would love to look at having a drop-deck to do a bit of hay to save whipping the crates off the Isuzu, we could just jump in the Kenworth and go and do that,” he said.
Dale and Melany certainly lead a busy life with Melany having operated the general store at Baranduda near Wodonga for a number of years, and along with Annabelle, Dale and Melany have two young foster girls in their care.
“It keeps everyone busy but it is enjoyable,” he reckoned.
As for the future, Dale reckons that Annabelle will no doubt be involved with keeping the wheels rolling at some point.
“I don’t think there’s much choice, Annabelle will be following in my footsteps somewhere along the line, she always wants to be in the truck with me, even if the Isuzu doesn’t have a TV like my Kenworth used to!” he said with a grin.
Despite all the goings-on around the place with the coronavirus, the cattle industry in 2020 has been strong and a good regular season in south eastern Australia has Dale optimistic of better times ahead.
“The saleyards prices have gone a bit silly, it’s been a good year with plenty of grass and people are looking for cattle so that’s keeping the prices high and keeping us moving, coming into spring now that should kick us along nicely.”
At the end of September, the Grealy Family Transport operation also celebrated the 12-month anniversary and Dale reckons that with his family and business the future is looking bright.
“I will have to upgrade the truck at some stage but I am very happy with how it going, we will see how we go, we will build it up and see how it plays out. I grew up with livestock, it’s always been my thing and stock was the way I wanted to go so I stuck with it and enjoy it.”