Right at home

In Short Story October 2022, October 20226 MinutesBy Dave McCoidNovember 26, 2022

He keeps his truck in great condition. He’s quiet yet friendly, accommodating and engaging. Southern to the core, you might say. But no, although he’s been in these parts for 22 years, calls the deep south home, and will shudder at the mention of Auckland, 40-year-old Nick Young is a Kapiti Coast lad by birth. So how did it all end up here? The answer in the first instance… education.

Nick spent his early years growing up in Levin with his two sisters. His dad worked as a mechanic at the Levin Council. “Mum said I was the easy-going one. My two sisters were higher maintenance,” he laughs. By the end of day two, we could do nothing but support that statement based on what we’d experienced.

At 13, he moved up to Katikati in the Bay of Plenty and, developing a keen interest in hospitality, signed on at the Bay of Plenty polytech once the government’s pre-tertiary educational requirement was done. After a two-year course, at 18, he headed south… way south, to the Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill, where he spread the last year over two and supplemented education with industry experience in the sector.

Nick honed his hospitality craft in bars, restaurants and bottle stores, and although offered waiting gigs in a high-end Christchurch restaurant, he chose to stay put.

Trucking’s not always considered accommodating when hours of work come up, but hospitality can be a whole new ball game on the unsociable front.

“With a wife and new family on the scene, I got a little burned out, I guess you’d say, so I applied for a job as the commercial laundry van driver at the Valet dry cleaning company.”

Laundry’s a big thing in Invercargill. It’s where laundering requirements for the bulk of Central Otago’s tourism scene are tended to. That was where Nick Young first met Lionel Wood, who happened to be the commercial service department supervisor at the time. Go figure!

Nick got his class-2 licence and found driving to be not bad at all.

“From there, I moved on to Summerland Freight, working my way up to class 4, delivering mainly metro freight on weekdays with regular Saturday trips up to Dunedin. I was there about five and a half years before the move to Southern. I had some mates at Southern who said it was a good place to work and I should apply.”

That all happened about eight and half years ago, and the rest, as they say…

Initially, on a ‘flea’ [small] truck, Nick soon gained his class 5, and within six months he was on a Hino swap body truck and trailer unit, amassing experience in tipping and asphalt work. Another Hino was next and the work profile for this truck included carting concrete panels and sometimes bridge beams, a line of work he enjoyed.

“That second Hino coincided with the building of a big Five-Mile retail and supermarket complex in Queenstown, so we were trucking all the panels up from Stresscrete here in Invercargill. There were lots of weird and interesting shapes and I got a fair bit of experience in that line of work. At times, I’ve ducked back to help out if something odd has come up.”

His time in the Hinos led to the first Mack, which was also his first bulky. A CH handed down through the fleet, the truck set Nick up for his first-brand new Bulldog, a 500hp Granite bulk unit that he put 380,000km on before being handed the keys to the Anthem.

“I enjoy driving, being out and about, seeing things and meeting new people. I enjoy the catchups with regular customers and meeting new ones, or other drivers. At places like the fertiliser works, you could be there for 15 minutes or three hours. So, at times, there’s plenty of opportunity for cleaning and yarning.

“You can’t really fault working at Southern either. It’s well established, with solid, reliable work. If you want to do the work, it’s a place where there’s a job for life if you want it. Of course, being part of the group, there’s the opportunity to try different things too. If I wanted to do a spell on machinery or some other part of the business, there’s really no end to the avenues.

“I can’t complain in any way about how I’ve been treated. I get trucks like this to drive, and it’s simply a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, I guess. I’m certainly not giving up anytime soon.”