In a short space of time, Bullarook transport operator Ben Prendergast has built an impressive resume in the livestock haulage industry.
It's that resume plus his passion for the industry and level headed approach to his business and the day-to-day operation of it that was rewarded when he was named the 2019 Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Victoria Young Driver.
The ceremony was held during the LRTAV's annual conference in Bendigo and prizes were presented by deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.
Member of the selection panel, Graham Howell, said it had been an extremely difficult job to make the final selection because of the caliber of the finalists.
At age 32 Mr Prendergast, along with his wife Melinda, has found a place for their one-truck business in the industry.
Even as the young driver award winner, Mr Prendergast maintains stockmanship comes before the driver/operator side of the business.
He started driving at aged 20 for his cousin, Mark Prendergast, after getting a call asking if he was interested in doing some driving.
"I was working on a farm in the Mallee at the time, but it was during a drought and I was always interested in trucks so I took up the offer," he said.
"I was fortunate that Mark gave me a go and gave me an opportunity to buy my own truck. He's been very good to me.
"I learned the business and stock handling side of it from my father who I traveled with when he was doing part time work in the industry.
"Dad was a farmer and did part-time driving. It's a good way of learning."
Mr Prendergast said he drove his cousin's truck for about two years before buying a truck and subcontracting back to him.
After 18 months he started his own business buying a Western Star pulling a B-double stock crate in 2010.
"The truck was brand new and cost $300,000," he said.
Mr Prendergast said he carted all categories of stock but had a preference for sheep.
"I love carting sheep. I've got dogs that are fairly good and it's an enjoyable job when your dogs are working well," he said.
He covers all of Victoria, NSW and South Australia and into Queensland and Western Australia "when required".
He said the most stressful trip came last year when carting drought affected ewes out of western NSW.
"It was trying conditions at the time," he said.
The most stressful part of the job was traveling through Melbourne and the congestion.
"The congestion is really bad and getting worse and there are a lot of people who don't know how to share the road with trucks," he said.
"The next worst thing is the terrible condition of some of the roads.
"There's a lot of sub-standard roads out there now. Even new sections of some major highway duplications have reduced speed limits because they are breaking up already."
He said any of the secondary roads in western Victoria were "fairly ordinary".
The poor standard had a definite effect on the trucks and on fatigue, he said.
He said the price of equipment and cost fuel were challenges.
"You need to make sure you factor in the costs when you're pricing jobs," he said.
Mr Prendergast said 20 per cent of his work was his own and the balance as a subcontractor for other companies and most of that was carting from farms to saleyards and abattoirs.
He said the standard of yards had improved.
"The new yards in Ballarat are very good and there has been a lot of improvement in facilities on farms - particularly ramps - which makes our job a lot easier," he said.
"Farmers are fixing up their facilities, which is good."