Never a Drama

James Papworth is the LBRCA Young Driver of the Year and might be the epitome of the saying that good stockmen are born, not taught.

They used to be called drovers – the people who guided large and small groups of cattle or sheep often across vast distances between farm and saleyard and meat plant.

Now, instead spending weeks on horseback, the drovers of today pilot modern trucks towing multiple trailers and deal with some similar, and as well as some very different, challenges as their forebears.

The basic fact that the loads comprise of individual and living animals which are not always co-operative means that a special type of truck driver is required.

For the past eight years the Livestock and Bulk Rural Carriers Association (LBRCA) has conducted the Young Driver of the Year (YDY) award to recognise the young drivers working in the industry and encourage others to consider a career transporting livestock or bulk rural commodities such as grain and fertiliser.

The award recognises outstanding young drivers who demonstrate the best practice approaches to driving and safety. It includes a study tour to the USA or New Zealand to the value of $5,000.

The recipient of the 2022 award is James Papworth, a 26-year-old who has already packed a lot of experience into his life so far.

James’s family are on the land near Holbrook in southern NSW and after completing his apprenticeship as a diesel mechanic James spent two years in the Northern Territory building cattle yards.

It was in the NT that he started driving trucks and moving machinery, materials and even the construction team’s camp —often through rough country.

“I’ve always been around livestock,” says James. “Since I was a kid on the farm.”

It was only natural, as a matter of course, for him to gravitate towards the livestock transport industry.

Returning from the NT, James commenced driving for Martin’s Stock Haulage located in Scone in the Upper Hunter Valley.

Now he is based in Wagga Wagga, and until recently James mostly transported cattle to and from properties, sale yards, feed lots and meat processing plants located in New South Wales, southeast Queensland, Victoria and South Australia at the wheel of a Kenworth T909.

It may be a company truck, but James treats it as if it is his own and strives to always have it well presented despite frequently travelling on unsealed country roads.

More recently, he transitioned from carrying mainly cattle to focusing on the transportation of sheep.

“It can be a challenging job carting sheep,” he says. “They can be character building.”

Handling somewhere around 600 sheep is just the beginning of the challenges associated with it according to James.

“With cattle, on a B-double you’d have 60 or 70 and you put them on ten at a time. Whereas with sheep, you’re putting 25 into a pen and you’ve got 24 pens, and you’ve got to flip all the decks with sheep,” he explains.

“Don’t get me wrong. You can get bad loads with cattle too, but with sheep it can be a lot more frequent.”

In his own humble way, James is thrilled to win the YTD award. He also shares a similarity with previous winners such as Reggie Sutton, by looking to give back to the industry which has recognised him.

“It’s pretty cool and it might get me involved with the industry a bit more,” James says. “There might even be another career path somewhere along in the future. The best part of my job is the people I work with who are pretty cool and there are plenty of genuine people in the industry.”

Working for an industry leader like Martin’s Stock Haulage has given James plenty of reason to commit to the company.

James Papworth.

“Martin’s have been pretty good to me and I’ve got no intentions of going anywhere else,” James says. “Maybe in the future I’ll look at buying my own prime mover and there’s definitely an incentive there, but it’s a whole other job looking after a truck with the maintenance and all the paperwork. Whereas being an employee all you have to worry about is just doing your timesheets at the end of the week.”

James acknowledges the support of the allocators at Martin’s, recognising Rod Currell and Kathy Dorries, who help make his work straightforward.

“They tell us what to do and where to go. They are easy to deal with and nothing is ever a drama,” he says. “They sort things out pretty quickly.”

As with many in the specialised livestock industry James is occasionally disappointed by some of the inadequate facilities he has to work with, particularly when washing the effluent out of his trailers.

Many of the wash out places are “pretty ordinary” where water pressure is substandard.

“That can be hard when the pressure of water is not there to do the job properly,” he says. Michael Southwell is the Operations Leader of the Transport Sector Plan (TSP) for SafeWork NSW which is the sponsor of the Young Driver Awards. “The TSP is a plan we put together to target some of the key issues,” said Michael when presenting the award at the LBRCA conference in Wagga Wagga.

“The reason we are involved with the LBRCA and especially the Young Driver award is the transport industry is one of the three top industries for fatalities and serious injury incidents in NSW. These are the guys coming through and they are going to be the future of the industry.”

Working with a company with a strong reputation for compliance and safety such as Martin’s is important to James.

“Factors like rego and insurance, tyres, and maintenance – none of that is cheap and Martin’s are really good at maintaining their gear,” he says. “Fixing things is never a drama.”

According to the company’s website, company founder Gordon Martin has a simple philosophy.

It may be his name on the door but the success of the business relies on the input of the team that is Martins Stock Haulage and even at his relatively young age, James personifies a high level of dedication to clients, safety and to the welfare of the animals in his charge.

James is often away from home for a fortnight at a time and acknowledges the lifestyle may be hard on families and appreciates his girlfriend Laura’s understanding.

“The long hours and hard work turns a lot of people off but overall it’s a pretty good industry to be in,” he says.

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