Transport owner-operator Allan Anderson said the worker shortage is “the biggest problem” facing the rural industry.

“If it wasn’t for backpackers, Australia would be at a standstill,” said Mr Anderson.

“You go out west and they’re all backpackers.

“Our biggest problem in the rural sector and with trucks is we can’t get the people: we can’t get truck drivers, farmers have trouble getting people,” he said. Mr Anderson is busy carting grain to receival sites from the 2022 winter crop harvest as well as grain stored in bunkers and silos on-farm from 2021.

“Some of it’s wheat from the harvest before, most of it is new crop.”

Harvest activity is wrapping up in the North West, delayed due to floods at the end of last year which hindered farmers’ ability to use machinery in paddocks, wiped out some winter crops and significantly impacted the quality of others.

“It was drawn out, a lot of people got a lot of downgraded wheat but there were a few happier people who got a bit more than they thought,” said Mr Anderson.

“One farmer who we cart for, he was happy with what we got, he lost a percentage, but he was surprised with what he got considering.

“The quality is down but they’re still getting pretty good money for feed wheat, downgraded wheat.

“All the wheat we cart is all food quality wheat.”

During last year’s floods, Mr Anderson said trucks “never stopped” and were diverted to whatever receival sites were accessible at the time.

He praised Narrabri Shire Council mayor Ron Campbell for being approachable and doing the best he could in a bad situation but said federal and state government funding was welcomed and needed to fix the potholes and road “disaster”.

“You look at the roads out here – disaster,” said Mr Anderson.

“But go to Moree and look at the Newell Highway – it’s a total mess, 3000 vehicles a day use it.

“It’s a total disaster.

“I know they’re building a new road but that’s three years away.

“You don’t want someone to get hurt.

“We have got to have funding otherwise we won’t get anything done.

“And our mayor Ron Campbell he was really good to work with – getting roads open and on the phone 24/7 he’d listen to you.

“He’d always pick the phone up – he probably shouldn’t have – but he got things going as much as he could.”

The well-respected industry veteran has been driving trucks for more than half-a-century and Mr Anderson never hesitates to lend a helping hand when he can, working with the State Emergency Services and helping deliver essential items such as groceries and newspapers, including The Courier, to Wee Waa while the town was cut-off by floodwaters.

“Wee Waa copped it, the poor buggers.”

“There are a lot of good people out here, I’ve been in Narrabri 52 years – I’ve made some really good friends and customers that’s why I want to help.”

Mr Anderson has a generous and positive attitude, and despite working seven days a week he can often be heard exclaiming “I’m living the dream”.

Owning his own truck is a dream Mr Anderson had as a child and he wishes more young people had the same aspiration.

“I reckon every kid should have an ambition and when I was a kid at school, I said I was going to be a mechanic and own my own truck, and here we are 71 years later,” said Mr Anderson.

“You don’t get many young drivers in trucks now.

“Workers is a problem.

“We’ve sold a couple of trucks, you can’t get workers.

“And the people you’ve got are working three times as hard because there’s too much money for people who don’t want to work.”

Mr Anderson also expressed concerns about one of his colleagues who recently had his vehicle stolen.

“He got his ute pinched out of the yard the other day and the excavator.

“We had no leads, the moment I put on Facebook ‘large reward offered’ it was picked up in a matter of hours.”

Mr Anderson said it was also heart-warming to be contacted by good people offering assistance.

“I would have got 40 phone calls from people who said, “I don’t want your money, I’m here to help you find it”.

“There are good people too.

“And we got it back.”

 

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