Having the drive

In Test May 2022, May 20227 MinutesBy Dave McCoidJune 27, 2022

As we all are, Josh Nicholson is writing his own story in the annals of New Zealand road transport history. An immaculately presented and personable young bloke, once again we’re buoyed, and our time spent with him leaves us believing trucking’s in good hands. His is a story of his era, a time when trucking jobs are not in short supply, yet it still has its roots in the age-old qualities of initiative and hard work, garnished with the experience issue that has plagued young drivers through the ages, even his boss at one time.

Josh’s dad Ian worked as in a foreman-type role for Styleline Homes [now known as Jennian Homes] in Masterton. The Mitsubishi L300 truck he would drive from site to site captivated young Josh, as did the diggers and other trucks at the various locations they would visit. On more than one occasion Josh threatened to hurl himself from the cab should Ian abandon him to the boredom of preschool.

Following a family move to a lifestyle block in the Marton area a few years further on, Ian sorted six-year-old Josh a wee mini car to drive around the paddocks in, and with cushions on the seat and blocks on the pedals, hours were spent practising skills among the four-legged pedestrians.

Josh was torn between trucks and trains because his grandfather was a surveyor on the railways and would regularly take him on steam train excursions. In an attempt to put the young fellow off a career behind the wheel, Ian jacked up a ride with truck driving friend Andrew Buchanan at McCarthy Transport. That proved an epic fail, exacerbated by the fact steam wasn’t about to make a comeback. Holidays and spare time were now spent in a log truck cab.

Neighbour Douglas Duncan ran a small livestock carrying business and offered Josh regular work washing stock trucks. This coincided with Andrew Buchanan’s wife buying a truck wash business, she too extending the same offer. In the best traditions of not keeping a good man down, Josh’s Friday nights and weekends were now… somewhat committed.

His first real driving job on a class 2 licence was a part- time gig delivering firewood in and around Bulls, where he met an array of satisfied as well as ‘unsatisfiable’ customers – PR and trucking are co-joined twins after all, and valuable skills were learned. From there, with a class 4 in hand, he moved on to Speirs Foods in Marton as a contractor, covering holidays and most Saturdays. The truck was an 8×4 700 series Hino chiller truck, delivering food orders to Wellington and its suburbs, with up to 28 drops per day.

Amassing some good experience, at 23 Josh had his class 5 ticket and wanted some trailer time. Unfortunately, as many of us know, without experience it’s hard to get experience. Being the enterprising kind however, he made 20 CVs, spruced himself up, and went door-knocking.

To his amazement, he got 10 interviews, choosing an offer from TIL Palmerston North branch manager Chris Buddle.

“It wasn’t the best money, but I liked his approach,” says Josh. “He said ‘I will teach you how to do things, and how to do them properly’. That meant a lot, and he lived up to that. The job was delivering bulk metro and regional freight, driving a Volvo FH12 460, and some days I’d hook-up and un-hook 13 different trailers, semis, and B-trains.”

With 12 months under his belt, work began to tail off, and Josh found himself on the puddle-jumper increasingly. Friend Chris Trembath was contract driving for Dynes Transport in Palmerston North and organised work for Josh on the 2014 and 15 milk seasons.

“We shuttled from the Wellington ferries to Longburn and back. I was driving subcontractor trucks, either a UD 460 or Fuso. The UD went really well for what it was. I remember at times there were 32 of us staying at the Capital Gateway motel in Wellington. Your shifts would move in synch with the ferry arrivals so you gradually moved around the clock over the 10-week season.”

After the first season Josh took up an offer of a role in the company’s DTL work driving a rental unit.

Following the Dynes work he spent three years driving for Tim Little at Halls Group on a DAF XF105 quad quad named ‘The Janitor’, running backward and forward to the ferry ex Palmerston North.

“I’d bring trailers up, have one or two drops en route, finish unloading, reload them, wash up, and then park up for the next guy. It was a great job that ended when the boss moved on.

“In the 2018 Christmas season I drove casually for Hall’s and also took a bit of time out. My first break in five years lasted three weeks: Matt contacted me. He’d had a driver due to start who had let him down and he wanted to know if I’d help him out running Palmerston North and Levin to Wellington. Obviously, it wasn’t a problem and before long he offered me a full-time position. And here we are four years later, still happily trucking along in a brand new Mack Trident.”

To his credit, the thing Josh is most proud of is his employment relationships to date. “I’ve got on with everyone I’ve worked for and always leave on a good note. I’ve met great people through the industry and made lifelong friends. If you’re reading this and know me, chances are you’ve helped me out in one way or another. I just want to thank you all.”