400 with no rest time

Welcome to a special celebratory issue of New Zealand Trucking magazine. There was a bit of toing and froing with the math, but in the end, June 2021 was unanimously agreed as the 400th issue, specials not included.


When Trev, Sue, and Jon kicked off all those years ago, I wonder if they thought she’d make it to June 2021 and the 400th issue. As a real treat, we have Jon Addison, Scott Wilson, Liam Baldwin, Margaret Murphy – speaking for the late John Murphy – and Peter Lynch to all contribute a little something about their tenures in the editor’s hot seat … along with yours-truly.

Our lead story features an OEM milestone truck and its owner’s incredible tale of personal growth that can’t help but inspire, in keeping with the theme of celebration and tenacity.

Four hundred issues through the most turbulent years in the history of information, yet here the magazine is in 120- plus pages. Print and digital are not antagonists, they’re symbiotic, especially where a vocational read is involved. Without digital, timeliness suffers; without print, history suffers. Simply put, if you want your story known far and wide, use digital; if you want it remembered, use print.

Speaking personally now, being the caretaker of the editor’s role and part-owner of the masthead is a complete and utter privilege. I was of the ilk who held March 1985 in awe when it arrived. Coming from within the industry, I often feel the weight of responsibility to do every other driver proud every time an issue is produced. In the course of attempting that, I’m thankful every day for the people who work for Margaret, Matt, and myself. They all ‘get it’. We have an amazing crew.

Obviously, a huge thanks to our commercial customers for their support, but, as I say later in the magazine, the reason this issue is here on this day is because of you, the readers. You are the people who make the choice to part with hard-earned coin and use New Zealand Trucking magazine as a means to pursue a love and interest in the greatest industry ever. Thank you all.

But, work goes on, there’s much to do. This last week, Stuff broke a story about driver work hours, with testimonials from drivers who had been pressured to work beyond the legal maximums. That, in turn, sparked a flurry of discussion in the media and on the front lines of trucking regarding the arrival of compulsory electronic logbooks. I’ve fielded several calls recently from drivers and industry people on the subject of the transition away from mindless paper logbooks to mindless electronic ones. As always happens whenever this subject rears its head, the ‘for’ and ‘against’ appear split down the middle. Often, the ‘for’ vote resides in the older heads and the ‘against’ in those pushing through mid-life with mortgages and kids to feed and educate. That alone says so much about us.

Firstly, however, clarification. The reason I regard both paper and electronic systems as mindless is that New Zealand’s driving-hours law has about as much to do with fatigue as Judith does in the organising of Jacinda’s wedding.

Am I in favour of electronic logbooks or not? In principle, and notwithstanding the above clarification, absolutely. When they do become compulsory, electronic logs should be a landmark moment in restructuring cartage rates within the industry. With electronic logs, the ability of companies to intentionally price and execute work outside the compliance framework will be severely hampered. What needs to chase along right behind them though is roadside testing for emissions system abuse, drug abuse, and licence fraud. What really irritates me is that it takes big brother to sort out our shit for us once again. As long as I’ve known it, trucking’s been its own worst enemy in terms of rates and compliance, and all it achieves at the end of the day is a race to the bottom and a crappier lot for the poor buggers on the tiller.

What makes it worse is we have more supposed representation than you can shake a stick at, with an overall cost to the industry of heaven-knows what in terms of fees, yet the roads are poked, road pricing is broken, emissions is a shamble, fatigue management absurd – the list goes on.

When electronic logbooks do arrive as a requirement to operate, will their final incarnation be structured in such a way that suits both regulator and user? No, probably not. Currently, the cellular network isn’t up to supporting them, and there’s no provision for getting drivers who are less than 10km from either home or their rest destination to where they want to be without incurring a violation.

Sadly, until the regulator has more respect for us, and we have more respect for ourselves, history will continue to repeat.