Top Truck December 2016 – No plans to retire

7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 19, 2016

Photo above: The Gwillim line up circa 1968. The three-year-old Mercedes and the new RL. 

When a truck driver has been in the transport industry for 51 years and is still not planning on retiring, he deserves to sit in luxury while he is working.

Maurice Gwillim started operating trucks in 1965 when he purchased a brand new 1113 Mercedes 4×4 and contracted to Thurston Transport in Ruawai, spreading agricultural fertiliser. Three years on and the lifestyle was working so he purchased a new Bedford RL 4×4 and continued his contract with Thurstons.

In 1971 Maurice married Maureen Morfett, a Northland girl herself from Kaihu north of Dargaville. Maurice‘s best mate Les Comer drove the wedding car.

Maurice sold the spreading business in 1972 to his brother Trevor and the late Pat Horan and purchased a Bedford SB3 bus from ‘Pud‘ Meale who ran a daily passenger and freight service between Ruawai and Whangarei. The run included the RD 8 rural post delivery contract out of Whangarei.

In 1989 Maurice and Maureen sold the passenger business but retained the freight, operating various trucks increasing in size as freight volumes grew. Although the rural delivery run had also doubled in size, it was sold off to two employees.

The late nineties signalled change for Maurice, Maureen and their three daughters when the decision was made to move from Ruawai to Whangarei. At the time Maurice received aletter from Grenfell Thurston commending Maurice for his service to Ruawai over 30 years, starting as a youngster. The township presented the Gwillim family with a large engraved mirror as an appreciation for their services.

Maurice joined United Carriers as a driver in 2001, and shortly after purchased a Mitsubishi GM70, contracting to the company as an owner-driver. He remained with the company until shortly after the Toll takeover in 2009.

In late 2009 Maurice took his six-month-old 700 series Hino and joined NZL Group, painting the truck in the well-known green and white livery and continuing to operate out ofWhangarei.

Late in 2015 Maurice reached a crossroads in his career with some decisions to make.

Maurice and Maureen Gwillim. Behind every great man is a greater woman!

With 700,000km on the clock, replacing the Hino needed consideration. At 70 years of age, should he sell his truck and trailer and retire, or should he continue contracting to NZL Group with a new truck. “I was enjoying the driving,” he said, “and if I decided to retire and sit on my backside I would simply go to rot.

“It was not all that hard to make the decision in conjunction with my wife, Maureen, and also after some discussion with the management of the NZL Group,” Maurice said, “so I went to Auckland and spoke to Ron Price at Trucks & Trailers about purchasing a new Mercedes.”

Maurice readily admits that if he had not had the support of his wife Maureen over the years, he would not have been in a position to make a decision at all. 

He was also influenced by his old mate Les Comer, who owns a Mercedes 3260 hauling logs, mainly in the lower north.

As such the decision went the way of a Mercedes-Benz 3260, different from Les‘s machine only in the configuration of the cab. Les‘s truck has a flat-roof sleeper and Maurice‘s the standard sleeper cab. The new unit was configured as 5875mm wheelbase rigid, fitted with a deck made by local Whangarei firm Ten4 Engineering, and tows a 4-axle MTE flat deck trailer.

Powered by the OM 502 LA 16-litre V8 engine the unit is rated at 448kW (600hp) and 2800Nm (2065lb/ft) at 1080rpm.

The transmission is the company‘s own PowerShift G330-12 AMT, and the truck has planetary rear axles, giving an overall GVM of 32 tonne. Front suspension is leaf with air suspension in the rear. Maurice‘s truck is also equipped with a five-stage Voith retarder to enhance retardation on the tough Northland roads.

Maurice carts it all: timber, concrete pipes and freight – whatever needs moving.

The Gwillim unit is one of five similar models in the NZL Group fleet, but the only one running a 600hp engine, hence the unique identification badge (see sidebar).

Maurice covers the upper North Island mainly hauling timber products produced by mills in the North, as well as concrete products ex-Auckland, Hamilton and Hawke‘s Bay and general freight when required.

Maurice is very happy sitting in his Mercedes Actros 3260 (‘32600‘) and has no immediate plans to retire.

Above: The deck going on the new truck at Ten4 engineering.

If you‘re not going to retire then work on in comfort! It doesn‘t get any better than the Actros cab with all its comforts.

Giving the model a ‘mod‘

If anyone happens to see either the Gwillim or the Comer Mercedes, don‘t be fooled by the model number on the side of the cab. In both cases it reads 32600. These two guys, lovingly described as ‘Geriatric old farts‘, decided to tell the public that both trucks are powered by 600 horsepower engines so they each added a nought to the model number on the cabs.  

Just letting ya‘ll know … okay?