Ken Beggs, who run Beggs Bulk out of Mildura, bought his first truck when he was eighteen and got an early start in trucking. He got involved with hauling hay and other rural contracting tasks. At the time, there was also a lot of work for a flat-top hauling fruit out of the Shepparton region.
By the the time he was 21 he had four employees and had bought a farm and things were going well. Unfortunately, he had a motor bike accident on the farm, breaking bones in his neck.
This put a stop to everything at that point and Ken was actually quadriplegic for a while, before coming good. By his mid-thirties he realised his injuries were not going to allow him to return to his previous lifestyle.
By the time he was in his forties, he had an agricultural science and an accounting degree and began working in the banking industry. His was dealing with the large corporate loan business in rural areas, for ANZ. He later moved on to Rabobank, working to develop its rural areas business in South Australia.
“I got to 55 and because I had been in some senior roles and had to, at times, get rid of some employees, I found it difficult as, to me, they were people,” says Ken. “I was supposed to put pressure on them to get them to go, some would leave, other would have a break down and others, you just had to put them off.
“When I got to 55, I began feeling the same pressure and decided I didn’t want to play their stupid game and thought, ‘I’m out of here’. I pulled the pin, retired for five minutes and then got back into trucks, which I really love.”
13 years later, he is still enjoying the trucking game. He had begun by working out of the Wangaratta area, initially working as a tow operator, easing back into the game, getting a handle on costs and the way the modern industry works.
Later hauling agricultural products, like grain and fertiliser, all over Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and South East Queensland, AB-triples came into the equation eight years ago, but only on limited routes in NSW, working with a plethora of different permits.
Ken was one of the first trucking operators in Victoria to get an AB-triple on the roads in that state. Getting though the bureaucracy took a long hard grind and then it took two years to get his subbie onto the system.
“I was forever butting heads with bureaucracy and opening up roads, arguing why they should open up more routes,” says Ken. “Then I began pushing the limits in Victoria. It took me about 18 months, after trying many ways to try and ‘skin the cat’ as they say.”
Eventually, he got to the point where the trucks could load in Victoria and get all of the way into Queensland. Late last year the point finally arrived when the Newell Highway was finally open to his trucks for the length of the Newell Highway from Victoria to Queensland. The changes meant the trucks no longer had to use the longer route up through Cobar and Bourke to get into Queensland.
Ken currently runs an A-double set himself and he has engaged a subbie who runs two AB-triple tipper combinations as part of the same operation.
The work seems to be consistent and relatively predictable, although hauling agricultural products will always throw you a curve ball every now and then. The demand from the feedlots tends to be relatively steady and they prefer to acquire most of their inputs via traders.
“I’ve teamed up with a couple of traders and they do the trading and I do the transport,” says Ken. “It’s turned out to be a really good symbiotic relationship, which works really well for both of us. We give and take a bit, sometimes they will be making a bit more profit and give me extra on the freight and others are a bit tight, so we come to an agreement on a lower price.”
Looking to the future, Ken has his youngest son joining him this year and there is a Volvo prime mover and another A-double Thin Wall trailer set with the Keith Walking Floor coming onto the road. The task is growing for the operation and there will plenty of work to keep all four trucks busy.