David Rogers – Fuelling the passion

18 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 22, 2018

Anyone watching last year‘s NZ Truck Driving Championship final couldn‘t help but be impressed by 24-year-old David Rogers, who collected the EROAD NZ Young Truck Driver of the Year title.

Born and bred in Taupiri in the Waikato, David says he has always been interested in operating machinery, not just trucks.

“That‘s how I started off, just an interest in machinery. I started getting my truck licences while I was still at school because I got my learners when the age was still 15. I had class 4 by the time I left school and I got my class 5 soon after, so by the time I was 19 I was out there able to drive truck and trailers.

“I started as a digger operator at Perry Aggregates. Then I drove a little diesel tanker at K & L Distributors. Then they grew and I started driving a bulk tanker, an ex-Waitomo V8 Mitsi.“I thought, ‘this isn‘t too bad actually, the old trucking game, I might go and do it full time!‘ I later moved to Tranzliquid, and I‘ve been with them three years now.”Based in Morrinsville, David covers the greater North Island.“Auckland is my main run, but I go all the way up to the Paihia, Kerikeri area, and all the way down to Taranaki, New Plymouth. I cover a pretty big area and work for all the oil companies. It‘s a pretty full-on job.”

Photo: David Rogers is a true believer in the industry he loves, saying it will deliver whatever it is you want if you‘re willing to put energy and enthusiasm into it.

David says he entered the NZ Truck Driving Championship for the first time in 2016 to test his knowledge and skills.“I suppose it‘s a case of experience. I had a couple of minor issues with a turntable – nothing we couldn‘t handle this year obviously. I found the driving competition really good, because you don‘t go out and revise the road code or your loading or everything every day, and being in the fuel industry, you sort of lose touch with the whole load restraint type of thing and all the rest of it. The competition keeps you aware of what‘s going on in the industry.”

Last year‘s overall winner, Simon Reid, now has David eyeing up his crown.

“I plan on entering again this year because I want to win the whole thing! The young fellas need to be stepping up. The old ones have to give it up at some stage. It‘s like anything, I‘ll have to give it up one day!”

David says his employers were thrilled at his win, which came on top of Tranzliquid‘s Jackie Carroll taking out the NZ Outstanding Contribution to Health & Safety Award the same night.“

They were absolutely rapt and they still talk about it. My family were as stoked as too. Mum and Dad attended the awards and they thought it was awesome. I suppose it is a pretty cool award to win.”

It soon becomes clear just how much effort David put into winning the championship.

“I WORKED PRETTY HARD at it, I spent hours and hours studying. If I had a spare hour of the day I‘d set up some cones and have a bit of a play around in the truck, just to tune myself up a bit. I definitely turned up wanting to have a good crack at it!

Photos: David starting out driving diggers at Perry Aggregates and moved on to trucking from there. His first ride was an Isuzu and then an ex-Waitomo Petroleum V8 Mitsubishi, both for K & L Distributors.

“I couldn‘t really believe it when they said I‘d won because there were a lot of good guys who turned up on the day. I know I struggled in some areas but obviously it was enough to get me through and I was blown away by it.”

With the average age of a truck driver in New Zealand well north of 50, David feels the Truck Driving Championship is a great initiative.“
I enjoyed seeing a lot more younger faces and some women turning up and having a go – that was absolutely fantastic and I think it‘s something that really needs to be encouraged. I enjoyed the way it was run last year, it was well organised and it was good fun, they kept it interesting for the drivers. It was a great time spent with other drivers and you meet some great people.”

David secured his own transport service licence last year, just before the VDAM rule changed, meaning he had to learn all the new requirements for the competition.

“Everything changes in the industry all the time, and it keeps you up to date and alert with what‘s going on. It‘s not just about the driving, it‘s about the industry as a whole, which I found quite interesting.
“I suppose that‘s what makes a transport operator at the end of the day, knowing what‘s going on in the industry in all aspects, not just driving. Anyone who‘s in the industry will know it‘s more than just driving a truck – every driver runs a small office out of their truck.”
David doesn‘t like the term ‘truck driver‘, preferring transport operator instead.

“That‘s what we are, we‘re transport operators, and I reckon that‘s a great term, it‘s one my bosses use because it keeps everyone feeling professional. You want to go out and be an operator – no one wants to be just a driver. It‘s just a change of attitude, isn‘t it?”
He says a good transport operator always wants to present a professional image on when on the road.

“A good attitude that I picked up from a conference with Jeff Fleury was just because you‘re in the right – which a lot of drivers are – it doesn‘t necessarily make your next move right. If someone cuts you off or whatever, sometimes you‘ve just got to let these things go. Let it go and be done with it. It can‘t affect your whole day, otherwise you‘ll go about things in a non-professional manner.”
As expected, David has a passion for the industry and says you won‘t get far without it.

“You‘ve got to want to do it, and if you not interested in representing your industry well you‘ll never succeed at it. It‘s like anything in life, if you want to do a good job at something you will. If you‘re not interested, you won‘t.”

David says there has traditionally been a huge push to get school leavers into university rather than vocational training.

“I said, ‘stuff that, I‘m not going to uni, I‘m not interested‘. I didn‘t know what I wanted to do, all I knew was I wanted to operate machinery of some description. Schools really need to stop dumbing down these industries, that‘s half the problem I think. There are a lot of us out there who probably do a lot better in the transport industry than those at school who have gone to uni and got huge student loans.”

David says there should be an easier way to help potential drivers who find it hard to find the money to gain their truck licences.
“People say it‘s dear, but if you compare the cost it‘s actually not, and the return on it is far greater if you want it. To get a student loan is relatively easy, but finding $5000 to sit your licences isn‘t. And paying back $5000 is a lot easier than paying back $80,000-odd.”

Photos: Morrinsville-based David Rogers busy in the course of a normal day. He can be seen delivering fuel anywhere between the far north and Taranaki.

IN HIS SHORT TIME in the transport industry, David says he‘s seen the effect hard work and determination has had on his life and that of his partner, Greta Campbell.

“It‘s a good industry where you can do well. At 24 years old, being able to buy my first house, it‘s a pretty big bloody thing to do, but working hard in the transport industry has got me there. I don‘t know many people my age who have managed to achieve all of this, but the transport industry, its sheer number of opportunities, and wanting to do well in it, that‘s what‘s got me there.”
David says it‘s important to realise that every job has the potential to further your career.

“Just because one boss – and I‘m not talking about my own experience because I‘ve had some fantastic bosses, every company I‘ve worked for has been bloody fantastic – but just because one person might not be recognising you, it doesn‘t mean you shouldn‘t be working hard for them, because someone will recognise it along the way. They‘ll go, ‘well, that‘s a prick of a job they‘re doing well there, we should offer them a job‘. That‘s been part of my success, I think, I‘ve worked hard for all the companies I‘ve worked for and it‘s been recognised along the way by other operators.”

David says the transport industry is like a family and it has alot to be proud of.

Photo: David in ‘office‘ mode.

“Greta has turned up to these events and been made to feel welcome without people necessarily even knowing who she is, which is great. The reception from people in the transport industry, well, most people are just out to help you. So when you look at transport from that side, the people in it are bloody good people, and there are a lot of fantastic operators out there too.”
Experiencing this has inspired Greta to move into the industry too.

“She‘s recently started a job with Waikato Fuels, working in the office there, and she‘s going to be doing a bit of relief driving and get her class licences. She‘s seen other girls doing it and thought, ‘I‘ve always wanted to do something like this and if they can do it, I can too.‘”

David says having Greta‘s support is vital to his success.

“She makes sure I‘m always looked after and I‘ve got my lunch before I go. It‘s not so painful getting up at 2 o‘clock in the morning to go get in a truck. You‘ve got to have a bit of backing because it‘s not an easy game to be in, but a bit of backing keeps you enthusiastic, and keeps you enjoying it too.”

Realising the importance of a good work-life balance, David says he loves going water-skiing and fishing on the Waikato River whenever he has time – time that may not be so plentiful soon.

Photo: Like his employer Tranzliquid, David‘s not a fan of the label ‘truck driver‘, believing the phrase ‘transport operator‘ better reflects the complexities of the job and helps instil a greater sense of pride.

“I‘m getting into a bit of driver training this year, training new operators who come into the company, so that will be a pretty exciting and challenging thing to get into.”

David says he will continue to enjoy the transport industry, taking advantage of opportunities as they come along.

“One day I wouldn‘t mind getting into doing something for myself, it could be quite a few years away, but we‘ll work towards it. I wouldn‘t mind maybe one day getting a digger and a truck of my own and working around the Waikato area. You‘ve always got to want to better yourself, so if the opportunity turns up to do something for myself, I would do it. You have to look at things as they come, I guess, and keep your mind open. Don‘t necessarily jump at an opportunity just because it sounds all right, take the right opportunities. That‘s one thing about the transport industry, it‘s not short of opportunities.”