Selfless star gets a helping hand for Australia Day run
IT PUTS a smile on our face when we hear tireless truckie Brendan 'Bumpa' Farrell sounding happy behind the wheel.
He's early into a 1700km haul north from Echuca to Muttaburra when Big Rigs gets him on the mobile and Australia's most famous hay runner is still pinching himself in disbelief at his new-found comfort levels.
Thanks to a call made by Big Rigs to our friends at Freightliner, Brendan now has the summer use of a Freightliner Coronado 122 Road Train, courtesy of dealer SelecTrucks.
"Brendan has been helping Aussie farmers in a truly selfless manner for years,” Freightliner Australia director Steve Downes said.
"When Big Rigs told us that he was having truck trouble, it was a no-brainer to help him out with a Freightliner for a few months. We know the Coronado is tough enough to do this important work and are glad that Brendan loves it.”
When you have as many balls in the air as Brendan, a generous gesture like this can make a phenomenal difference on multiple levels.
Comfort, for one, has gotten an instant boost since he got the keys to the Coronado.
With the air-conditioning on the blink in his trusty old '95 T600 Kenworth and '94 International Transtar and funds too tight to fix them, "you freeze your arse off in the winter time and sweat your arse off in the summer”.
"It's bloody beautiful - it's a nice-looking truck, a lot more comfortable and a real pleasure to drive,” Mr Farrell said.
"I'm doing 6500-7000km a week in a good week and you've really got to have your rest breaks properly and these things are built for that.
"I love old trucks, don't get me wrong, but you fight 'em all day.
"I'll drive my old T600 for 10 hours straight and I'll know I've done my 10 hours, whereas I'll drive this one for 10 hours and I'll think I've done about six.”
The Coronado is allowing Brendan invaluable time to get his T600 and Transtar into the shop for some much-needed maintenance, ahead of the next Burrumbuttock Hay Run on Australia Day.
To the surprise of many, Brendan organises the massive January convoy around a full-time job hauling loads the length and breadth of the eastern states.
After Muttaburra, he's back down to Echuca to reload then off again to Enngonia, NSW, before carting another two paying loads of hay to Bourke, again out of Echuca.
"While Freightliner has given me this one I can get my red girl (the T600) back in the mechanics and tidy more things up on that and the blue Transtar,” he said.
"At the moment I'm that much under the pump that I don't have much time for maintenance because farmers need the hay. So I've got to go as hard as I can.”
Weather permitting, by the time you read this Brendan will also be knee-deep playing Santa in the Coronado on his first outback Christmas toy run.
"I'm just working out the last stages now of where to go in outback NSW and Queensland to make sure all the outback kids get that thrill of giving and a couple of toys from Santa,” he said.
Then it's on to the Big One, co-ordinating up to 300 truckies carrying up to 10,000 big bales into Quilpie, Queensland, and surrounds for the 15th Burrumbuttock run on January 26.
With the help of faithful PA Belinda Burley co-ordinating the massive convoy and logistics of it, Brendan and his army of devoted drivers are hoping to reach up to 700 farmers.
While thrilled with the uptake of truckies pitching in to help, he said he'd always welcome more.
"The more the merrier,” he said.
"Each truck driver gets $2000 in fuel and that's it. It's not a paying exercise, I call it the thrill of giving.”
Brendan says many factors go into how he chooses which area to target, including talking to cockies in different parts of NSW and Queensland.
"I usually go for a drive as well, take the dog in the ute and we'll go out for a couple of days,” he said.
"And I have known that Quilpie and Thargomindah have been dry for a while and they've also been forgotten about as well.
"Everyone thinks the drought went from Dubbo to Tamworth.”
Brendan says there's one farmer in the Quilpie region whose story typifies why he's so driven to help.
"He's been hand-feeding his cattle for six-and-a-half years, every day, and he's 68 years old,” he said.
"Once I've got the load of hay off to him, I usually spend two or three days with him as well and just talk to him about life. That's just how I work. There are a lot of farmers in a lot of trouble at the moment.
"Yes, there has been some rain around the area but I'll tell you what, the drought never went away. It's just intensifying and getting ready for this summer.”
Brendan admits it can take its toll on his own health at times, trying to keep the dream alive for our farmers with so little in the way of resources.
But he can feel the tide turning. Aside from Freightliner, heavy hitters like NTI, Polaris Australia (see sidebar) and Ritchies IGA Cobram are major sponsors in 2019 and a host of others assist in all manner of ways.
"There are days when you just don't want to answer the phone or do anything,” he said.
"Then there are days when you see something and think 'that shit's unreal, I've got to keep going, I've made that person's day'.”