Fuelling opportunity

In Driven to Succeed, Isuzu14 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 22, 2019

It‘s inspiring to see young drivers coming through who put in the effort to hone their craft, achieving results to be proud of within a short time frame.

Andrew Crandon is one of those young drivers. Born in England, the 23-yearold started his career in the industry with Fluidex at the end of 2013. “Dad had been driving trucks since long before I was born and he asked a guy he knew if there were any jobs I could apply for and they took me on as a driving apprentice. The original job opening was for just a truck wash person, but they thought I‘d be better off learning how to drive and operate the trucks.” Andrew says he spent most of his time at Fluidex learning to reverse everything from tractor semis to truck and trailers while moving them around the yard as a transport apprentice. After a couple of years he decided to give university a go, and began studying to be a chiropractor. It didn‘t take him long to realise that being stuck inside all day wasn‘t what he wanted out of life, and he chose to return to driving. “That was just something I gravitated back towards. I just did a course to get my class 2 and started off at Linfox on the little curtainsider, and I‘ve just been upgrading ever since I guess.” Andrew has been with his current employer, McFall Fuel, for about 18 months, and drives a class 4 3-axle Isuzu tanker truck.

“A typical day can take me all over Auckland. Quite a lot of time I‘m out West Auckland but sometimes I can go down to do the forestry, anywhere through the northern Waikato. I suppose I like how it takes a lot of concentration; you‘re not just sitting there idly, and you‘re also seeing a lot of different things and meeting new people all the time. You never really switch off. I think that‘s what drew me towards it in the first place, because I would never have been any good at a job where I just sat behind a desk and couldn‘t have the freedom to go and see new places and things.” Driving in Auckland is always a challenge and Andrew says trying to anticipate what other drivers are going to do is an ongoing battle. “You‘ve got to pretty much assume that no one else on the road can drive and you‘ve got to account for that before it happens, and that does get quite challenging at times. The second you think you know what they are going to do, they‘re going to do the opposite.” Andrew‘s father, Mike, had driven trucks in England as well as New Zealand, and had also worked as a trainer. While he no doubt sparked his son‘s interest in the industry, Andrew says the person who most inspired him was his manager at Fluidex.

“I saw Dad doing it over the years and it was pretty cool, but when I got offered the job at Fluidex, it was actually Mark Carson who showed me how to do the job properly.” Andrew says he has found the majority of people in the transport industry have been helpful and encouraging of young drivers. “Chris Hall was the driver coach at Linfox, and he was the same as both Mark and Mike. He‘s always there if you need anything. They‘re all quite approachable – once they start talking they‘re quite hard to stop actually! I think that‘s good, because there is so much knowledge there. You‘ve just got to know the right people to get it from, and they‘re normally quite happy to share it.” Andrew says he found he picked up the training easily and learnt as he went along, and that held his interest. “To be honest, I gave it a go and found I wasn‘t too bad at it, so I started enjoying it because I could do it without too much struggle. And that‘s where my enjoyment came from, the fact I could do it.”

While he was working at Linfox, Chris Hall put Andrew‘s name forward for the 2017 NZ Truck Driver Championship. “I didn‘t think anything of it at first, but I went along with it anyway and tried to use it as a base to see where I was at and what I needed to learn and improve on. And that‘s where it started for me; the competition was just to see how I was doing at the moment.” Andrew may have only been in his first year of driving class 4 trucks, but he won the class 4 title in the championship. He says his time at Fluidex helped him, because it meant he was familiar with manoeuvring the trucks around the yard. In 2018 Andrew entered the championship for the second time, and once again walked away with the class 4 title. “To be honest, I didn‘t expect to win either year. A lot of the same faces were there from the previous year and we were all a bit more prepared for it so it was actually quite a tight competition, especially with the extra activities to do as well.”

In addition to the course laid out in the yard, in 2018 entrants also had an observed drive on the road and a staged emergency. “That made it a whole lot harder, but I think it was quite important because it showed who was better all round and who could keep a cool head. Especially with the drive on the road – anyone can drive in an area where they‘ve got to concentrate, but it takes a lot to drive under pressure on the road when you‘re being watched. I suppose it‘s almost like sitting your licence again.” Andrew says he enjoyed the work he had to do in preparation for the championship.

“I liked what you had to learn and how you had to prepare for it because you do learn a lot more than you expect to. When you‘re trying to prepare yourself for it you‘re concentrating more on what you‘re doing rather than just doing it naturally. For the safety drive, you pick up on any bad habits you‘ve got leading up to it, if you have any, and you try to eliminate those beforehand, which improves your driving all round.” Along with the knowledge and skills he gained preparing for the competition, Andrew says the most important part for him is always the atmosphere. “Everyone‘s there with hopes of winning, but everyone is more supportive than you‘d think. They‘re all cheering each other on even though they‘re competing against you. It‘s brilliant. I think the atmosphere is what made it, and I suppose it‘s what makes the industry what it is. It comes back to everyone being able to talk and share what they know.”
Andrew says his parents were proud of his success in the championship. “I think Dad was proud just because I was doing quite well in the industry he‘s in as well. My great-grandfather and grandfather have driven trucks as well. I think he‘s pretty excited with that and because he‘s with the same company I‘m with, he gets to see my progress. McFall Fuel were absolutely delighted and extremely proud of me, they have been quite supportive as well.” As he watched his father do, Andrew would like to eventually move into training.

“I‘ve wanted that for a while now. At the moment I‘m going to keep doing what I‘m doing, and hopefully I‘ll get into training at some point. That‘s the goal anyway, to get into training young drivers.” Andrew says it‘s more important than ever to have first class trainers because there is so much to learn if someone wishes to become a professional driver. The new technology in the trucks and the advanced equipment drivers are dealing with today need specialist training. “I learnt from watching about 20 different drivers over my time as a driver, and often the work ethic and approach is slightly different. The safest way of doing things is extremely important in the fuel industry, which is the current industry I am in. I suppose that‘s why I would like to be a trainer because I would like to be able to teach what I know and have been trained is the right way to do it.” Along with many others in the industry, Andrew prefers to be called a transport operator rather than a truck driver.

“It‘s not just getting behind a wheel and driving. Even without the driving part of it, there‘s still all the maths you have to do and all the concentration and the spatial awareness you need to have. With my job now, if I wasn‘t any good at maths I wouldn‘t be able to see how much product was needed and there would be the risk of me having an overflow.” When asked if there is any advice he can give to other young people wanting to get into the industry, Andrew says the main thing is to have a lot of patience. “There‘s always going to be someone who annoys you or cuts you off, or does something that‘s not quite right, but whether you have the right of way or not, that‘s not going to help you get home if it goes bad. You‘ve just got to keep a cool head and have patience, because if something can go wrong, it will, and you‘ve got to be prepared for that and react to it without losing your head.” He would also encourage young drivers to look for a company like McFall Fuel, where he says the Driver Training Programme is an extremely comprehensive one.