Ode to a truck and its driver

In Top Truck, Volvo8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineApril 22, 2020

Getting the mix of lights and stainless just right on a Euro truck is not easy. However, in creating a special truck for a loyal driver, Toxic Transport Limited sure got the mix spot on with its latest Volvo FH 540 – landing it straight into Top Truck territory.

Photo: Genesis Gas LPG rides on a twin-axle tanker trailer by Lowes Industries.

This is a little bit of a different Top Truck story. It‘s one about the truck, sure, but also the driver for whom it was bought. Doug Te Waaka had been driving for LPG transporter TTL for about 10 years when his trusty FH12 Globetrotter was retired to reserve duty with about 1.5 million kilometres under its belt. The FH12‘s replacement was to be a new FH 540 6×4 – the one you see here – but owner of TTL, North Island trucking stalwart Stu Lennan, wanted it to be something a bit special to honour Doug‘s contribution to the company. The FH 540 was ordered in the company‘s signature red and had a liberal application of black, orange and white pinstriping applied to add some flair, before the 540 was christened with its unique Wile E. Coyote graphic by Cliff Mannington from Tauranga Truck Signs.

On that, Stu says he‘s not sure exactly how it came about. “It was just a cartoon that came to mind that we could make a joke out of,” he says. There‘s been Wile E. flying along on a gas bottle with flames “shooting out its arse” to catch the Road Runner, the Mack bulldog holding Wile E. by the throat to Road Runner‘s joy, and Wile E. pushing a gas bottle off a cliff to a pretty garden below (which is its own little TTL double entendre). The 540‘s depiction of Sonic the Hedgehog being paid off by Wile E. to catch the Road Runner has the slogan ‘Money … gets shit done!!‘ which Stu says has “gotten some comments”. Then there‘s the 540‘s unique and liberal application of custom-made stainless accents. Stu‘s partner Heather Irvine manages admin at TTL and her son, Terry, is an engineer based in Australia. He came over and, working with Shane McDonald from the Mount, in two weeks had all the pieces ready. “Shit yeah, he‘s a good engineer, he‘s bloody good at what he does.

Photo: Smooth stainless work rounds off the big Swede‘s smart appearance.

He‘s done five of the trucks so far,” says Stu. What‘s really nice about the stainless work on the 540 is the flat design – no grooves here, like Stu‘s other trucks – really works with the Volvo‘s smart, modern Scandinavian lines. Rounding it off, Gene Peterson from Ptek in Kerepehi was called on to add the lighting strips around and under the cab (and, since our photo shoot, some new light aerials). “Doug‘s eyes nearly shot out of his head when he saw it. He‘s a typical magpie, loves shiny things,” says Stu. That was around mid-2019. Four months later, though, Doug decided it was time to park himself up and retire from driving. Doug, who‘s carted everything from LPG to milk and bulk, is humble about his time as a driver and instead prefers to pass some kind words on TTL. “They‘ve been a pleasure to work for,” he says fondly.

Photo: Drivers new and old: Toddy and Doug.

Stu‘s a little less modest about their relationship. “Doug‘s the type who‘s hard to replace. He started off part-time and when one of the drivers left he said ‘does that mean I‘m full time?‘ He‘s a ratbag but a genuine, bloody nice guy. If you could have four or five of him, you‘d be made. You‘d only hear from him if something was wrong or if he‘d ring up to give you shit,” laughs Stu, recounting a particular prank where Doug randomly called to say he‘d been offered another job, with immediate effect, as the new Pope! With Doug‘s departure driving duties went to Stu‘s son Brent, but an unfortunate seizure during September meant he wouldn‘t be allowed to drive again for a year. Doug promptly stepped up and jumped back in the cab – but a new, permanent driver needed to be found. That‘s when Brent, now helping out with operations, approached long-time friend Paul ‘Toddy‘ Hayden. It didn‘t take much to convince Toddy to join the team, and he took the wheel of the Volvo at the beginning of January. “Toddy‘s a pretty top man. And he loves the Volvo,” Stu says. All four of the men are real Volvo fans (Stu‘s first truck as an owner-driver for Provincial Transport Ltd back in the early 80s was a N12 Volvo) and all agree the FH 540 6×4 is ideal for the task at hand.

Photo: Distinctive TTL livery, individual Wile E. Coyote graphic.

This particular unit runs out of Hamilton passing through New Plymouth, Whangarei, Gisborne, Whitianga and various other sites. “It takes me to all the tropical beaches,” says Toddy. Coupled to the back is a 25,500-litre tanker on a 2-axle trailer by Lowes Industries. The trailer has recently had new air-sprung axles fitted to it, which are more durable than the previous spring units and match the Volvo‘s air setup to enhance that refined ride typical of the current FH. “It‘s not a heavy unit with that trailer, around 33 tonnes loaded. It‘s not up on maximum weight and with the 540 motor it gets along good. It‘s the perfect rig combination,” Toddy adds. Stu adds that a 600 really wasn‘t needed for this job, and that the 540 has been faultless over the past few months. As such, and given the FH12 is still as “good as gold” after all those kilometres, he expects good things from this unit, which is now up in the vicinity of 85,000km. With drivers the calibre of Doug and Toddy minding it, that shouldn‘t be a problem.