SHARE THE ROAD – What‘s that cyclist doing in a stock truck?

In Kenworth, November 20197 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 5, 2019

My transport modes to Graeme Wright Transport in Puriri, Waikato, began with the letter ‘e‘. The first leg was on an e-bicycle to get to Thrifty Car Rental at Auckland Airport where I picked up an e-car. There is a slightly disconcerting feeling when getting an e-car in motion; it‘s a bit like the handbrake letting go when parked on a hill. Once under way the only real difference seems to be what is on the dash: conspicuous is the indication of the number of kilometres you can drive before a recharge is needed. I noticed 3km were added to the total while coasting down the Waikato side of the Bombay Hills as the regenerative charging was taking place. The reason for the journey was to spend time as a passenger What‘s that cyclist doing in a stock truck? Story by Richard Barter Driver Bryan Lang, stock truck driver extraordinaire. in one of Graeme ‘Gunner‘ Wright‘s stock trucks. The clean Kenworth K108 powered by a 620hp Cummins ISX motor was very impressive in its trademark green livery. Driver for the day was Bryan Lang, who readily agreed to ‘the cyclist‘ being his passenger; always a good sign for someone who has been driving trucks for 27 years.

The first thing I noticed was the passenger seat was hard up against the door, positioning you over the left-hand steer wheel. This meant that once under way on the very narrow roads, you feel like you are hanging outside the white line. Fine when there is a shoulder, interesting when on the coast road north of Thames where there is nothing outside the white line but fresh air dropping down to the sea. The left front tyre kept to within an inch of that fog line with unswerving accuracy as we wound our way up the ‘easy side‘ of the road. The return journey of course was on the ‘hard side‘ with the bank so close it could graze an unsuspecting elbow resting on the window ledge. Precision driving was the order of the day on roads Bryan has been traversing since he was a boy growing up in Coromandel, in his dad‘s FR700 Mack. Taking over the family trucking business was inevitable, involving him in everything from changing tyres to developing lasting relationships with the farmers whose stock he carries today.

While keeping in his lane, Bryan was always mindful of the townies coming the other way, ‘forgetting‘ that the boat they were towing was well over the centre line on the tight turns. Making the right decisions to manage poor driving behaviour of others is a daily occurrence on this road. We did see one cyclist looking more like a snail with a large pack and assorted belongings on his back. More problematic are the riders using the coast road training for the K2 Race [which happened on 2 November]. Even those who are considerate struggle to find any room to let him pass. Bryan knew all the spots at the foot and brows of hills where he could pull aside and enable following traffic to get safely past his 21m rig before climbing or descending smoothly using the 18-speed Roadranger gearbox to restrain or propel us at exactly the right revs. Not keen on autos, he doesn‘t like a truck telling him how to drive. In places mirrors warning of oncoming cars provided the only way to know if he can pull out to get around the tight left-handers. The truck drivers on the road stayed in regular CB contact so they passed us where there was room.

Photo: Driver Bryan Lang, stock truck driver extraordinaire.

Relationships with the CVST are good. The local officer, who knows Graeme Wright Transport does the right thing by the rules, is a regular visitor to the office. Bryan gets a headsup when the out-of-towners are around looking for trouble, as he can see their cars parked up at the roadside hotels. Rules around carrying animals can be a challenge at times. The small NAIT tags are hard to see buried in a large hairy bull‘s ear as it is charging up the ramp with his buddies. Years of practice allows Bryan to see any issues the animals might present before they become his problem when they are spotted by the inspector at the other end. I am sure he will support the appeal by the Road Transport Forum to the regulators, challenging the rules that place the onus on the drivers instead of the farmers for ensuring only healthy, tagged animals are allowed on the truck.

Having not seen stock being loaded before, I was impressed at Bryan‘s agility, leaping around the inside of the crate while encouraging his passengers to move into their pen, then slamming the gates closed and ramps back in place. While he has been injury-free, there seemed to be plenty of opportunity to slip up – or down as is most likely to happen. Intriguing was how he could remember where the successive loads of animals were. Relocation was needed at times to aid traction on steep hills. The tight farm roads with insufficient turning space required the trailer to be parked up occasionally. All too quickly the journey was over. The e-car being charged over dinner in Thames was ready for the trip back to Auckland. Thanks to Eddie the dispatcher for organising the ride and to Graeme for enabling it to happen, and for providing trucks for Share the Road cyclists‘ Blindzone Workshops.