With the first whisper of daylight, Dick Loveday is up and about, planning the hours ahead. He eases a quad-trailer roadtrain into his workshop for a couple of maintenance items before it departs for a cattle station on the edge of the Simpson Desert.
“Anyone would think you’re the boss,” quips daughter Skye, as Dick rattles off a couple of jobs for her to do.
Dick Loveday’s cattle carting business is based at Quilpie in far western Queensland, a business started 10 years ago and today has an equipment line-up of five Western Stars with Cummins Signature 600 power, and a trailer capacity of 33 decks.
“I may not be able to spell that good, and I may not be all that good with a computer, but I know exactly how much it costs to run a truck and I know cattle,” declares the man who does nothing to hide his earthy demeanour.
“We’re managing our business a lot better today in terms of the deck combinations we can put together for our customers… three, four, four and a half, five, six, six and a half decks. It’s like a jigsaw…our customers like it.”
Dick Loveday obviously prefers the simple, uncomplicated life, a life he embraced from an early age. He was raised in the northern NSW town of Inverell. “I was a bit of a problem child…too much energy I think,” he reminisces with a laugh.
He wanted to be a jackaroo, so moved to outback Queensland to indulge his passion for horses, cattle and the land.
His days as a stockman bring back images of remoteness, adversity, mateship. Where his mind was free to drift within the enormity of a vast land. Where horizons seemed to stretch on forever. Where survival was dependent on nothing less than a deep respect for the land.
“I’m just a ringer,” he remarks today, a comment that conceals an astute business brain.
Much of Loveday’s work is bringing cattle in from the Birdsville region, up to 800 km away on the fringes of the Simpson Desert, to Quilpie and then transporting them a further 800 km to Oakey on the Darling Downs for final transfer to the abattoirs at Grantham and Dinmore.
“It’s tough on man and machine out here,” he insists. “One of the keys to success is having the right people.” Two of his drivers don’t fit the ‘man’ category. Daughter Skye pilots the roadtrains when she isn’t working at her other job as a motorcycle mechanic, while Annie Rae has been driving for Loveday for eight years.
His five Western Stars – four 6900s and one 4900 – use Cummins Signature 600 muscle to pull roadtrain combinations up to four trailers. Four Signatures are Gen II EGR/DPF units, while the fifth is an earlier EGR engine in a 6900 Western Star. The latter will be replaced early in 2015 with a Signature EGR/DPF in a new 6900.
Dick Loveday sells his trucks after four years or 600,000 km. This keeps major maintenance costs to a minimum while resale value is also improved. All his current trucks are under four years old, and engine oil change intervals are at 200 hours – intervals he rigidly adheres to.
Loveday holds Cummins’ service support in high regard.
“The thing about Cummins is they look after you. The Roma fellas know their job. They get to a problem quickly,” he says.
The “Roma fellas” are Cummins’ two technicians based in the western Queensland town of Roma – Dylan Knight and Andrew Boiteau.
The level of technology in today’s trucks is something of a worry for Loveday, the reason he rates support from his suppliers as critical.
“We want product that gets us out to the desert and back without a problem, or if we do have a problem know that we will get someone out to help us.
“We don’t want a truck broken down in Birdsville country in 50 degrees of heat with cattle on board and no one prepared to come out and help us.”
Thoughtful for a moment, he adds: “To be honest, we have few problems with our trucks, and that includes our Signature engines. Once we get them settled down they’re fine.”
High engine load factors are the norm in the Loveday operation. “There’s no such thing as fuel economy out here,” he says. “We’re under maximum load most of the time. When we’re in sand and bulldust the best we’d be doing is 400 metres per litre.”
All but one of his Western Stars run on 4.56:1 rears which help achieve a good balance between performance and fuel ‘economy’. “In good going I like to have the trucks running at 1500 rpm which is just under 90 km/h,” he points out.
“We get a good run out of the Western Stars,” he adds, mentioning that support from the dealer, Brisbane Truck Centre, is another good aspect of using the brand.
His Western Stars are fitted with spacious 68-inch integrated sleepers and they’re furnished with all the creature comforts and conveniences including double bunk, Icepack air conditioning, TV and microwave oven. “I lived on a horse and in swag for nine years so I know what it’s like to be without creature comforts,” he quips.
Dick Loveday exudes genuine bush hospitality once the sun dips below the horizon and a few cool ales are consumed.
A genuine pride in what he has built up over the past 10 years is obvious. “Don’t ever lose sight of your customers,” he says, reflecting what he thinks makes a successful business.
Then, in a moment of calm sincerity, he offers just a few words: “I’m just a ringer.” A smile creases his face. His past is his present.
One of Loveday’s five Western Stars with Cummins Signature 600 power.
Roma-based Cummins technician Andrew Boiteau with Dick Loveday.