Lessons in loyalty

In Short Story November 20235 MinutesBy Gavin Myers and Dave McCoidDecember 6, 2023

” I was talking to a young fella the other day – he’s just got out of a Scania and gone building to have a trade behind him – and he asked how Carey can get people to drive for him when he’s running Isuzus,” Colin says as we’re discussing the feeling among OTL’s drivers towards their Japanese chariots. “I said to him, there’s a bit more to it than that, than just what you’re driving, it’s about how you get on with the boss, the other drivers and everything else,” he adds, giving us a glimpse into the camaraderie among the OTL team.

Both his and Peter’s careers with OTL span two decades (though Colin had a four-year stint elsewhere in the 2000s). Each day Colin makes the 45 to 50-minute journey from his home in Ranfurly to work, while Peter travels 45 minutes from Oamaru. A three-quarter-of-an-hour journey is usually like a trip around the block for the average truck driver, but doing it daily to and from work for 20 years or more surely says something about the men and the company.

“I was born in South Canterbury and was four years old when the old man bought a butcher shop in Ranfurly. So, apart from four years overseas, I’ve been there 54 years. It’s a good place to live,” Colin says.

Truck driving wasn’t always on Colin’s radar. As a young man he did his apprenticeship as a bricklayer, which he stuck with for eight years. “Then I made the mistake of spending my holiday money on the piss over Christmas, as you do when you’re young. So I started working for a shearing contractor at the weekends,” he says. Returning from a trip north after a few months, Colin bought a shearing run, which he also did for around eight years.

“Now, when I was doing my apprenticeship, I was in the fire brigade, so I only got my HT so I could drive the fire engine. I failed my driving test poorly. In fact, he was going to cancel me and said I’d probably never be a truck driver. When I said, ‘I only want to get my licence for the fire brigade’, he said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that in the beginning?’ and gave me the stamp!”

Selling the shearing run, Colin found work driving the silage truck at McLeod’s Transport, sometimes stacking hay or picking up some wool if the silage work was quiet. “So I started there, and this is what I’ve done for almost the last 30 years,” he says.

Pete’s also a South Canterbury boy, born and raised in Waimate, though he went to boarding school in Dunedin. His working life began on local farms, and he originally had the intention of buying a farm. However, life’s meandering led him to Australia in the late 1980s. “I worked on farms, then I took to bulldozing for a few years, slowly getting into trucks.”

When a tragedy took his cousin’s life, his uncle Lin Stevenson (Lin Stevenson Ltd), rang and asked Pete to come home to drive one of his trucks while he looked for another driver. “However, after seven years he got bought out and retired, so I had to go with the job. I remained for three or four years and then, in August 1998, Michael Williams from Clutha Valley rung me to work for them. That’s when my journey with OTL started.

“I’ve been on this job – on bins – for 25 years. I’ve previously done some stock and swap body work, but I enjoy bulk work. With this job, I’m home every night, and if I can’t get home but want to, Carey will send a ute to pick me up. I’ve got a small 50-acre farm just outside Oamaru – a few sheep and cattle. With the kids having left home, it fills in my weekends,” he says.