For the love

In Gavin Myers, Magazine Editorial, February 20224 MinutesBy Gavin MyersFebruary 18, 2022

At the beginning of the year, Dave and I met a truck driver with one of the most storied pasts we’ve encountered. He’s driven in interesting places and has had countless adventures and misadventures. He’s one of those drivers who couldn’t walk you through all the ins and outs of a truck, doesn’t care too much for the specs or the flash, doesn’t mind very much what badge is on the front. But he can tell you about how much he just really enjoys a drive, how much he loves the job all the same.

There definitely are two distinct emotive sides to trucking. There’s that bond between man and machine that comes from countless kilometres conducting the rumble of the engine, the whistle of the turbos and the sweet reverberation from the twin stacks as each gear is ticked off up to cruising speed; from following the bonnet’s leading edge chasing down the horizon; and bringing proceedings to a more sedate pace with the Jake thundering away. Or spec’ing it up, making it your own, giving it that personal touch, polishing the stainless at the weekend.

On perhaps at a deeper level, there’s the freedom, adventure, solace and catharsis that comes with the cab being one’s office and the open road one’s workplace.

Sometimes these two sides converge, sometimes they don’t. For most who elect a career behind the wheel – those who grew up in and around the industry especially – they probably go together like a pie and Coke. Either way, they still result in a love and passion for the job.

All of which has to beg the question, what happens when one of those elements is changed or removed? When old-school become new? When man is supplanted by machine?

Well, let’s not get too carried away. I do think global trucking is a way off from man and machine coming to blows over superiority. But there can be no doubt that in the lead up to that, should it come to pass, there has to be change.

Driven by factors such as global legislation and OEM competitiveness (and collaboration), the amounts of official news, media comment and industry chatter concerning next-generation, alternative-fuelled, leaner and greener (a debate for another day) machines have increased dramatically over the past three or four years. The OEMs are advancing at an exponential rate and are rightly proud of their achievements. But from what we’ve seen and heard, there’s little enthusiasm for it among those whose emotive connection to the job is directly influenced by their love for the machines.

The truth is there’s always been change. Look back three, two, even one decade and it’s easy to see. Realistically, how many would step back into a full-time seat in something generations old – and stay there? And so it’ll be in the future. The biggest difference now is we’re all a lot more sceptical of the change coming because it is so dramatically different.

It’ll be a while off yet; diesel won’t disappear entirely. But, in time, I’d wager that same exercise of looking back will yield similar results. I’d also wager that that love for the job will be similar, especially in a country such as New Zealand where it’s palpable, enviable even. The symphony may be more electronica, but man will still command machine, still chase the horizon, still give it that personal touch, still live for the open road.

Because, in the end, it’s the passion that really drives us – from wherever it stems.