To question Aine O’Brien’s dedication to the haulage industry would be calamitous, considering her family’s influence in the sector spans back over four decades, if not more! For the O'Briens hauling cattle is not only a profession but a major family tradition.
Hailing out of New Ross Co. Wexford, Aine and her father Thomas, or 'Tommy', run Thomas O’Brien Haulage Ltd. Together the father and daughter team transport cattle and sheep throughout Ireland, though mainly dealing in cattle.
The family’s dealings with livestock began with Aine’s grandfather, who with his brother worked as a cattle dealer. This is where Aine’s father, Tommy, was first bitten by the haulage bug and in fact, this is what pushed him to begin his adventure and set up Thomas O’Brien Haulage Ltd over 40 years ago in 1978.
“It was first made a limited company in 1984, but really the company was started 40 years ago this year,”, Aine explained.
“My grandfather and granduncle were cattle dealers years ago...They would have done a lot of buying and that’s how my father would have got into it, he was driving the lorries”, she added.
Tommy’s first experience with haulage began with the transportation of livestock to and from Purcells, while he also carried out some work for the department before the retirement of Aine’s grandfather and granduncle pushed Tommy to the fore of things.
The family used to keep cattle at one stage when Aine’s grandfather and granduncle were in action. They even showed them as well at one stage, though got out of them and now keep horses instead, showing them also.
“Dad had two lorries on the road at the time...There was nobody to look after the cattle at home at the time, so he went into the haulage,”, she said.
“He didn’t have enough time for the two of them and we were young at the time as well,”, Aine continued.
Aine still retains her love for animals and horses in particular, with the family currently keeping ten Hunter horses on the farm, showed during summer months.
“We still have all the land and I still have a good few horses...It seems to work well for us as I can work with the horses in the morning and my father can do the runs then when I head off in the lorry”, Aine said.
“We have about ten horses at the moment. They are all primarily hunters. We do a bit of showing with them in the summer and we have a few youngsters coming along too,”, Aine added.
How it began for Aine -
Aine’s first dabble into haulage came at a very young age. In fact, Aine reminisces of times when she would have kicked up a fuss, had she not been allowed to partake in some of the long journeys with her father.
“When I was small I would have been wicked upset if I wasn’t brought (in the lorry).”, Aine laughed.
With Aine’s brother not harbouring any interest a career behind the wheel, it was always an inevitability that Aine would follow the path set by her father Tommy, though it was never really her intention. Instead, Aine had hoped to follow a career which involved horses and studied equine science in Limerick in an attempt to pursue her dream, though things didn’t go strictly to plan.
“My brother never really had much of an interest in it (haulage), whereas I always had an interest in it and cattle. Years ago we used to show them and I had an awful fascination with them (cattle). I was always going in the lorry,”, she said.
Upon realization that equine science was not for her, Aine then sought to pursue her backup option, a career hauling livestock.
“I went to college and studied equine science in Limerick and when I came back (home) I wasn’t too fond of it (equine science) anymore. I hadn’t a clue really what line I wanted to go down...I always had the intention of getting the lorry licensee...I went and got the lorry license through the company...After that, that was it,”, Aine said.
This was truly the beginning of the adventure for Aine, who now has her licenses, both rigid and artic, for just over six years. Now Aine and her father, Thomas, split driving duties down the middle, operating the truck on opposite shifts. This enables them to keep the truck moving as much as possible, ensuring they are working as efficiently as possible.
“There are some days the truck wouldn’t be turned off at all”, Aine noted.
This makes up the entirety of the team, with Bernadette, Aine’s mother taking command of all the books, paperwork and office duties. Aines boyfriend also has an influence as well, getting called in to help with the mechanical side of things.
“It’s mostly hauling cattle we do. Occasionally we have to draw sheep for the department, but it is mostly cattle,” Aine said.
“My mother is the bookkeeper...My boyfriend is an HGV mechanic, so that suits my father well”, Aine laughed.
The father and daughter haul cattle from farm to factory, marts to farms or anywhere so long as it involves livestock. They primarily work with an agent who buys a lot of cattle in Cork and the West of Ireland, meaning they are always on the go.
“We go to Cork usually Monday or Tuesday and then Wednesday and Thursday we are in the west of Ireland,”, she said.
They O’Briens are currently operating with one lorry on the road, a Scania R450. As mentioned the father and daughter team work opposing shifts, to ensure the lorry is working to its maximum efficiency.
Truck - Scania R450
Year - 2016 (162)
Drawing Capacity - Capacity to carry 30 beef cattle with ease.
“She has two Larry Byrne engineering 8-meter bodies on her...We got the trailer off Larry Byrne’s about two years ago...She’s a tidy job”, Aine said.
Plans for the future -
Content with things are going at the moment, the O’Briens hope things continue progressing as they have been over the past four decades.
Aine admits that with the nature of the haulage industry, one can never plan too far into the future.
“In haulage, you don’t know what you are doing in the next hour, so planning the year ahead is difficult”, Aine said.
That being said, Aine notes that they may consider upgrading the trailer currently in use, though this has yet to be finalized/confirmed. With regards adding another truck to the ranks, Aine admits that although this is a dream, it may not become reality in the near future anyway.
“We have a neighbour beside us and my father seems to borrow his truck everytime we are busy...So I don’t know if a second truck is needed or an idea or what,”, she said.
Although 65 this year, Aine’s father has no imminent plans to step out from behind the wheel and pass on the responsibility to Aine, though it is realistically an eventuality.
Why she loves what she does -
An addiction gained from an early age, Aine’s love for trucks is not the sole reason behind her love for her profession.
Also an avid animal lover, Aine thoroughly enjoys the majority of her work and the camaraderie experienced. Although she admits it can be a tough industry at times, the good outweighs the bad with some craic had along the way.
“It’s everything. I love the thrill of driving...I love that power underneath me.”, she said.
“To be honest I would have no interest in driving an artic fridge...I have no interest in that, it would have to be livestock...I don’t know what it is, it just seems like a real ‘cowboy’ sort of job”, she laughed.
Even in times of desperate exhaustion, Aine struggles to turn down work in her chosen field, such is her ‘grá’ for what she does. It may not have been her intention to fulfill a career in haulage or to get behind the wheel of a truck, but one thing is certain, there is no going back now.
A dedicated haulier, doing what she does with a sense of family pride and smile on her face. Aine O’Brien is an animal-mad, livestock hauler, making a name for herself in the heart of Co. Wexford.