In News, June 202120 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 1, 2021

As part of our 400-issue celebration, we touched base with the previous editors and Margaret Murphy, who spoke on behalf of our business partner and previous editor, the late John Murphy, and asked them to reflect on their time in the hot-seat.


March 1985 to May 2000

When you see the transport minister standing on the steps of Parliament waving your magazine in front of the assembled television cameras, you know you’ve done something right.

The minister was Labour’s Richard Prebble, who was such an enthusiastic railways supporter that truckers referred to rail as “Prebble’s Transport”. Oddly, Prebble went on to become an Act MP and long-serving board member of Mainfreight.

Of course, the magazine he was waving was the first issue of New Zealand Trucking, launched in March 1985.

Hamilton owner-drivers Trevor and Sue Woolston actually established the magazine six months earlier and approached me to find an editor. As chief reporter of the Auckland Star evening newspaper for four years, I’d managed a team of more than 100 journalists, including some 45 reporters. However, earlier that year I’d bought a little farm in South Auckland and was looking for a job that would enable me to spend more time on it.

This was bang in the middle of deregulation – the period between 1983 and 1986 when distance restrictions on road transport, designed to protect rail, were being junked. I sensed opportunity and joined the Woolstons as the magazine’s founding editor.

Their brief was essentially “copy Australian Truckin’ Life”, but I knew we could improve on that. Together, we established the heavy-truck road-test format that survives to this day as the heart of the magazine.

So where did Prebble come in? As a new title, we needed something that would get us noticed. I’d heard all about hubodometer rigging, so decided to run an expose on how the main brands of hubodometers were wound back to illegally dodge road-user charges, complete with photos of how it was being done.

The aim was obviously to blow the lid on an illegal activity rife within the industry at the time, but some people saw the article as an instruction manual. We were called a few names and subjected to more than a few threats. Prebble certainly wasn’t saying “buy this great magazine” on Parliament’s steps!

It didn’t matter to us – by the time the dust settled, everyone in the road transport industry knew we were there.

New Zealand Trucking magazine embarked on many campaigns over the years, including battling out-of- level weigh pits and mobile weighing systems, driving hours and road conditions, but how to rig your hubodometer remains my favourite.


April 2000 to January/February 2006

When I took over as editor of New Zealand Trucking in mid-2000, I was faced with a number of considerable challenges.

Not only was I trying to follow a direction that was already well-established by founding editor Jon Addison, but I was also trying to slip into the driver’s seat of a magazine that had established itself as a true industry leader and had a readership that was passionate, knowledgeable, and highly protective of the role they played in the way the country operated.

I knew publishing, I knew magazines, I knew how to string some words together and take a photo… But, I didn’t know much about heavy vehicles and road transport. In fact, before taking over, then-manager Richard Hook asked me what I knew about trucks.

“If you park one next to a car, I can just about tell the difference,” I told him. My reply may have been tongue- in-cheek, but it wasn’t far off the mark.

However, the response I got from those involved at the coalface of the road transport sector was refreshing. They understood I was new, they helped me when I needed it, and no one – not one – gave me a hard time about it. It showed me that the road- transport industry in New Zealand thrives on the back of good people, and isn’t solely about the heady smell of diesel, the cost of RUCs, tares and loading tolerances.

And there are some bloody good people I met along the way, including the current crop at the helm of this industry-leading publication – Dave McCoid and Matt Smith in particular – both of whom I met during my tenure as editor. Add to those former chief Addison, the late John Murphy and Guy Spurr, Wally Bowater … and others too numerous to mention.

Congratulation’s New Zealand Trucking on reaching 400 magnificent issues – what a trip! I wish the Long Haul Publications team all the best for the future and look forward to seeing what other developments you have on the horizon.

April 2006 to April 2008

It was a pleasure to be invited to contribute a few words to the 400th-anniversary edition of New Zealand Trucking.

It’s been 13 years since I sat behind the editor’s desk at the helm of a magazine representing an industry I knew little about initially. Then, New Zealand Trucking was a completely different beast compared with today. It sat within the stable of Fairfax specialty magazines, none of which related to the titles run by my editor brethren. In short, I was on my own trying to figure it all out as I went along.

I came to the magazine as a journalist with no transport industry credentials, knowing little about the people, the machinery and infrastructure vital to keep New Zealand running – and it showed. My response was to quickly absorb the advice and guidance of those around me – former editor Jon Addison and Christchurch-based contributor Bryce Baird, for example, along with the many drivers, owner/operators and industry players I met along the way. I will always be grateful for the education they provided.

Those two years in the hot seat sparked a lifelong interest in New Zealand’s transport industry. Even now, nearly a decade and a half later, I continue to check out every big rig I see on the road to work out what it is and ponder the configuration choices for the job it’s doing.

More importantly, I continue to monitor industry news with interest and sometimes despair because the same issues recur – time and leadership pressure leading to log-book falsification, regulatory problems, poor infrastructure across many regions, safety problems and underpaid contracts, which continues to be a race to the bottom for many.

However, what gives me hope is that the industry voice seems stronger as more New Zealanders realise that talk of more rail-fewer trucks is a pipe dream and that rapid catch-up to manage increasing levels of freight movement is required to keep this country moving.

The outro for a pretty awful show I briefly fronted on Prime TV when I was editor of New Zealand Trucking summed up the situation then as it continues to do now – ‘without trucks, New Zealand stops’. That line was the best part of the programme, although I can’t claim credit for writing it.

Trucks are the red blood cells running through New Zealand’s veins, conveying the oxygen and nutrients we all need to keep running at every level. And, with the impact of Covid-19, the industry has become even more important. It needed to react and adapt to a changing landscape which, in many cases, led to increased transport traffic. As an example, a close contact of mine is involved in the international courier business. During and since the beginning of the pandemic, her business increased four-fold as international travel shut down. People were forced to maintain connections with family and friends in different ways. People learned to do things differently, and those changes will have an enduring legacy. Transport has been key during these times, and trucks are at the heart of it.

Congratulations are due to Dave McCoid and his team of supporters for picking up New Zealand Trucking when Fairfax chose to dump its specialist publications and no longer be part of what is our most important service industry. Picking up the magazine’s mantle and ensuring it reached its 400th edition is a remarkable milestone in print publishing and can only happen with hard work, dedication, passion and unwavering optimism.

May 2008 to April 2014

John Murphy died on 6 October 2017. The following was written by his wife Margaret.

John wrote his first editorial in the May 2008 issue. There was always a vehicle of some sort in John’s life. He trained as a mechanic, owned a garage in Orewa, worked for VTNZ on more than one occasion, including in a training role, and Waka Kotahi NZTA as an auditor.

Trucks, in particular, were John’s passion, and he enjoyed getting out on the road whenever possible.

As editor of New Zealand Trucking magazine, John was fortunate to have a supportive team around him, contributing content, working in sales, design, production, and administration.

John was naturally inquisitive, and he enjoyed engaging in conversation with industry-related people to expand his knowledge. This also meant that the business’ travelling side suited him down to the ground, whether in New Zealand for road tests, truck shows, conferences and the like, or overseas.

In his tenure as editor, he visited Australia multiple times (with trips from Adelaide to Alice Springs and Melbourne to Darwin all-time favourites), as well as Japan and Denmark. Later, as part- owner, he visited Sweden, and he had a trip to India in his sights but, unfortunately, he became ill and passed away before the trip was scheduled to take place.

The editor’s role in the corporate environment is not always easy, John revelled in the autonomy gained by his eventual part-ownership of the New Zealand Trucking masthead.

The combination of working in an industry he loved, under a masthead in which he was a shareholder, was undoubtedly a highlight in his life.

May 2014 to May 2015

Stepping up to the role of New Zealand Trucking editor was a challenging but highly rewarding time for me.

I had worked as a truck driver in Australia for many years and done some writing, but this was a different ball game. Getting a high-quality colour magazine out to a well-informed industry every month without glaring errors and typos is not easy.

Then editor John Murphy, in his laid back manner, convinced me that I was up to the job and that he would be there to lend a hand whenever needed (quite frequently). Sadly, John is no longer with us, but his enthusiasm for the industry and passion for getting that perfect cover photo is part of a legacy that continues today at New Zealand Trucking.

It was a time of major changes in road transport and the publishing industry. The internet had arrived, and the dominant position of big print-based publishers, such as then-owner Fairfax, was under threat.

Early starts and very long days were part of the job while our skilled and dedicated production people brought it all together. John Berkley and Paul Scott turned my ramblings and photos into good-looking articles, veteran journo Bob Howitt could spot a misplaced comma at 20 metres, while tech experts Oliver Li and Louise Appapa (now Stowell) got the digital edition up and running.

Auckland was a nice place to live, but the best part of the job was getting out on the road and meeting professional transport operators around the country.

Congratulations to Dave and all at New Zealand Trucking on your 400th issue.

June 2015 – current

It’s funny – the last guy on the list pretty much owes his place in it to the first. The magazine’s arrival was hugely anticipated by the industry back in late 1984/early 1985, and one of the things Jon Addison did as founding editor was open the door to truck-crazed individuals from within the trucking fold, and let them be part of it. People like Guy Spurr, Craig McCauley and myself took up the opportunity. Sadly, Guy is no longer with us, but Craig and I are still regular contributors, and I’m sure he agrees that the thrill of seeing your name as a by-line never grows old. New Zealand Trucking magazine still holds to that original model, allowing up-and-comers the same opportunity. Believe me, you can end up in the editor’s chair.

In his piece above, Pete talked about the transition to digital media. Today, the magazine is part of a suite of media platforms, all complementary. Print is as important as ever because it’s the only medium able to convey history to the eye without intermediary technology. As a civilisation, we must preserve print for this reason alone. As ironic as it may seem, I believe the legacy of the millennial generations will be those who lost the most information, purely as a consequence of the digital world’s speed, rapid evolution, and fragility.

Liam talked about the recidivist issues that plague road transport and discussed the proposition that the industry is, at times, its own worst enemy. He was on the nail with both and as such there’s no shortage of work to be done improving the lot of both the industry and those who deliver our nation’s wellbeing.

Both Scott and Liam praised the people from within the industry for their support. I know John Murphy would have done the same. In fact, our lead story this month was in part chosen for the regard John had for its protagonist. Speaking for myself – and as I have said many times – with few exceptions, every life hero I’ve ever had and have to this day came from within trucking’s ranks.

Like Scott, Liam, Margaret on behalf of John, and Peter, I also need to thank so many for the help I’ve received making it this far. For me, it wasn’t trucking knowledge that was the issue, but publishing. To the original crew, almost all of whom are still with us, thank you so much for your patience and knowledge – you are all phenomenal people, and it’s an honour to work with you.

To Kate Coughlan, thank you for taking a punt on a humble trucker.

But, on behalf of all six editors, the greatest thanks must go to you – those who read and support the masthead. It is you who have got it this far.