The most obvious difference between road travel in Canada and Australia, is those blokes down under insist on driving on the wrong side of the centre line. A feat that requires a little concentration the first time you try it — if you’re used to Canadian highways.
Australian farmers who’ve learned to adeptly shift gears with their left hand have the same basic needs as Canadian farmers when it comes to getting around. They need a pickup to use on the farm and to get them to town, and they need heavy trucks to haul livestock and grain. But from there, things start to look different.
First the farm pickup, which in Canada is likely to be an F-250 or a competitive brand’s equivalent. In Oz (the shortened name Australians use to refer to their country) the farm pickup is a “Ute.” That’s another shortened term meaning a Utility Vehicle. They’re all configured pretty much the same way.
There are several brands running around, but the vast majority of them are the classic Toyotas. Every one has a short aluminum deck, which is likely to be occupied by at least one stock dog.
Four-wheel drive, of course, is an absolute must. Then there is the “Bull bar,” which in many cases is part of a more extensive protective structure around the front of the truck. They’re there to protect vehicles from damage if they hit a kangaroo on the highway. Those animals are widely considered to be a pest by many who believe the national herd should be culled.
You’re likely to find a pair of antennae mounted to the Bull bar. One is to enhance cellular telephone reception in remote areas, the other is for a UHF radio. The radios are not only used for on-farm communication, but to talk to other farmers when necessary, such as when bush fires are threatening. That makes them the Australian version of the CB.
Utes are often fitted with snorkels, which raise the engine intake higher to keep water out when crossing streams.
When it comes to heavy trucks, double-trailer B trains are pretty common. Livestock trains look a lot different than a typical North American cattle liner. The double-deck configuration requires special loading and unloading chutes.
Grain trailers are more likely to be of the end-dump variety than the hopper bottoms common to Canadian farms. “That’s just because we’re set up for end dumps,” explained one trailer marketing rep manning a display at the Commonwealth Bank AgQuip machinery expo in Gunnedah, New South Wales in August. Although, he added, hopper-bottom models are being imported from North America and are gradually becoming more popular due to their lighter tare weight.
Heavy trucks and truck tractors are a real mix of North American and European brands, all converted to left-hand drive of course. Shorter, cab-over truck tractors are still popular here in order to comply with the maximum overall length regulations. Each state has its own separate laws regulating truck and farm machinery dimensions, which is an irritant to many truckers and farmers.