If you’re a fan of the popular TV series Outback Truckers, then the name Danyelle Haigh and Murranji Water Drilling might ring a bell. It is the fifth season she’ll be appearing in after all.
The nurse-turned-truckie and her husband Anthony Haigh took over Murranji Water Drilling in 2014 – and what an adventurous six years it’s been. With their two sons in tow, six-year-old Heath and one-year-old Theo, the couple travel to some of the most remote locations, navigating the toughest terrain. But as Danyelle revealed, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Every day is an adventure, you never know where you’re going from day to day. We can be at one station one day, then at another the next. We never know the roads we’ll travel or the people we’ll meet, and that’s why I love what I do,” said Danyelle.
Anthony has been in trucking since he was in his teens, following his father who was also a truck driver. In their first year as owners of Murranji Water Drilling, Danyelle and Anthony did around 30 to 40 bores. Now that number is closer to 100.
“We hit water the majority of the time, about 85% of the time. We don’t pick the areas we want to drill in, we drill where we’re told to drill. There isn’t water everywhere though so there are odd days that we don’t hit water which is a sad day for everyone unfortunately. When we do hit water, it’s the best reaction from the kids,” said Danyelle.
“The kids absolutely love what we do. I think they were born to be travellers. Heath was about 18 months old when we bought the business. He loves it. He also does school through Alice Springs School Of the Air. It’s taken a while for Theo to adjust because he was almost born up here. We were back into it when he was three weeks old, so he had to adjust straight away. Now he loves travelling and getting dirty too. They love being outside and working with dad.”
Perhaps one day her boys will follow in the footsteps of her and Anthony. “Heath always says he’s going to be a driller and a truck driver like his mum and dad. We’re hopeful but open to them doing what they want to do.”
Though the plan was to cut back a little instead of working so hard all year, that hasn’t quite been the case. When Big Rigs spoke to Danyelle in October, they were already past 80 bores and counting – likely hitting 100 yet again.
“We drill for remote cattle stations and drought stricken farmers, as well as big companies. We pretty much travel all around Northern Territory, Queensland and WA to some of the most remote places in Australia. 90% of the time we are on dirt roads and don’t really hit the bitumen very much. We’ve encountered some tough terrain over the years but manage to conquer everything we get thrown at us,” added Danyelle.
Though they’re just as busy as ever, the ever-changing COVID situation has challenged the Haighs in other ways. The family is based in Allora, Queensland, around two hours west of the Gold Coast, but they’ve only been able to go home once this year, to celebrate Theo’s first birthday. “It’s mainly due to COVID restrictions. We had exemptions but because Brisbane turned into a hotspot multiple times, we couldn’t risk going back home and then having to quarantine, so it wasn’t possible to go back home,” explained Danyelle, who can often be found behind the wheel of one of the couple’s Western Star 4964 prime movers, while Anthony steers the other.
“We’re a two man team with our trucks and the kids. It’s a lot more laid back than the work I used to do, but we’re outside in the heat. It’s extremely dangerous at times.”
Behind the trucks there is some serious equipment, including seven trailers – four behind one truck and three behind the other. Two of the trailers have the family’s living quarters, governess’ room, worker’s room and store room. There are two tool sheds and steel casing for the bores. One of the trailers is the drill rig, another carries the drill rods. Add to that a massive compressor and a cage full of tyres, and they’re good to go.
So what’s it like transporting that amount of equipment over rough dirt roads in the middle of nowhere? “Stressful is an understatement,” said Danyelle. “It can get quite scary. I’m not as experienced as my husband or a lot of other drivers. I’ve only been driving a road train for three years. Recently I had to drive up Redbank Hill. You can only go up in creeper gear and I’ve got a hundred tonne towing behind me. I was almost at the top and all of a sudden lost all power. I think it was just too much pressure. I was so stressed out, but all of a sudden the truck started going again and eventually I got to the top. That’s just one scenario, these sorts of things happen all the time. We’re trying not to damage the equipment, but a lot of these roads weren’t built for road trains so we have to just make do. That’s why we carry so much equipment and spare tyres. You never know what’s going to happen or what’s going to break down, so have to be prepared.”
Recently, the family wrapped up the first lot of filming for Season 9 of Outback Truckers, which is due to air in mid-late 2021. And by the sounds of it, Heath and Theo may just steal the show.
“They’re naturals. Heath has been doing it since before he could talk and loves it now. He also loves watching himself on TV. They ask him questions and he knows what happens and asks them to film him doing this and that. Theo also loves the director and was hanging all over him because he had the big camera,” laughed Danyelle.
Along with her regular appearance on Outback Truckers, Danyelle will also be appearing on another television show next year called Adventure All Stars, which combines travel with philanthropy. “I can’t disclose too much yet but I’ll be setting off for six days, I don’t know where yet and will have to complete different challenges. In the meantime I’m aiming to raise money for Diabetes Australia and am hoping to hit my goal before we start filming next year,” she said.
“Diabetes is pretty close to me. I’m quite passionate about it because my dad’s mum died of diabetes, my dad has diabetes and so does my nephew and my uncles. I had gestational diabetes and it’s likely I may develop it too. The quicker they find a cure and can do more research into it, the better.”
For information on Danyelle’s fundraising efforts and to donate, please click here.