Lyndsay’s road trip to Taupo

By: Lyndsay Whittle

One of the things I like about living in New Zealand is the fact there is always something happening, always an opportunity lurking around the corner.

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A typical example of that statement occurred a few weeks ago when my phone rang and it was my old mate Gareth on the other end of the line.

To be perfectly truthful about the situation, my ‘old’ mate Gareth is actually half my age and he was really phoning me through the ether via a cellphone rather than the old-fashioned way, but anyway on with the story…

The purpose of my friend’s call was to see if I’d be able to stand in for him, driving a rental truck to Taupo to collect a 4.5-metre-long printer that needed to be repaired in Auckland.

Gareth and I have a mutual friend, Jason Mann, who owns a company called Regenisys which operates from premises in Olive Road, Penrose.

Regenisys repairs flood- and fire-damaged appliances and machinery and often calls on Gareth to do the driving when a truck requiring a class 2 licence is needed for the job.

On this particular occasion he was unable to carry out the driving, so that’s where I came in.
Being the idle character I am, of course I was available on the day, so I set a time with Mann to meet him at the rental truck company’s yard for 7.30 the following morning.

After an obligatory coffee at a nearby coffee shop in Dominion Road, Mann and I carried out the necessary paperwork and pretty soon I was driving off down the road in a 2009 500 Series curtainside FD Hino.

Initially I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t been given a newer truck for the 700-odd kilometre drive there and back, but I was quickly brought back down to earth when I realised that my own personal trucks are a 1953 Bedford and a 1991 Mitsubishi FH140.

Heading away from the city streets and off down the southern motorway, travelling right-smack on the legal speed limit, with the air conditioning unit keeping the in-cab temperature at a comfortable level and being easily able to hear the radio, I started thinking that this was a far cry from the comfort level I experienced in my old TK Bedford some 38 years earlier when I used to travel the same road on a daily basis.

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You see, back in 1978 I embarked on a venture (more of an adventure when I look back on it) to do a daily run from Auckland to Hamilton and the only truck I could afford at the time was a 10-year-old 330 diesel TK Bedford.

Thinking back, I must have had rocks in my head, buying a 1968 model truck that was really quite clapped out, to do a daily run of between three and four hundred clicks, especially as I needed to put in 12-13 hours, five days of every week.

But still, I was only 28 at the time and the money proved to be really good – so good that I was able to buy a brand-new RG11 Dodge two years later in 1980.

As I headed through Mercer, I had nestled into the way the Hino handled and pretty soon I started reminiscing about those early days and my daily trip to Hamilton and how I used to while away the hours thinking of ways to improve my business.

Let me tell you there was plenty of time for navel gazing, as the old TK – whether it was fully loaded or not – had a top speed of about 75km/h and that was with a tailwind.

On this occasion though, my contemplations were centred around how the truck I was driving was almost as old as my TK was when I started out in business, the only difference being that this particular truck drove like a new one even though it was seven years old.

Despite feeling a little off-colour on the day of the trip, it seemed like no time at all before I was pulling up at my destination in Taupo.

I guess it’s fair to say that an empty truck should have travelled the distance with comparative ease but I must say that in my old trucking days I would’ve been mortified if I had have had to drive my truck without a paying load for 350 kilometres – unthinkable at the time!

However on this job, the machine I’d come to collect was sitting on the forklift ready to be loaded and all I had to do was secure it to the truck before driving a short way down the road to a lunch bar for my mandatory break from being behind the wheel.

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The return trip back to Auckland with the printer and its ancillary equipment in the back went every bit as quickly as the empty trip down, which I guess isn’t surprising, as the load couldn’t have weighed more than 1200kgs.

I guess you wouldn’t expect the truck to notice the added 20 percent or so of weight on its back, given its smooth six-speed manual gearbox attached to the 240-horsepower turbocharged power-plant sitting between the chassis rails.

Back in Penrose, having unloaded the printer at the Regenisys workshop, I was informed by Mann that it looked like I’d be having the pleasure of returning the machine to its owners in Taupo in three to four weeks when it was repaired.

True to his word, about three-and-a-half weeks later I got the call from Mann telling me that my services would once again be required and asking if I would like to have the same truck to do the return job or if I’d prefer a different one.

Normally I’d have jumped at the chance of driving something different the second time round, but on this occasion I opted to use the same truck again, simply because I thought this particular truck was a good fit for me.

Luckily the same Hino was available on the day we required it, I say "luckily" because the weather was absolutely diabolical on the day, with it peeing down and blowing a gale for most of the journey, making me really appreciative of having a truck I felt at one with.

As can be gathered from the foregoing comments, I really liked the way this truck felt on the road and was greatly impressed with the get up and go that it had.

There was only one tiny thing that took me a while to get my head around and that was the park brake, which had the appearance of, and operated in very much the same way as, a car’s handbrake.

At first I thought it was a manual cardan-shaft mechanism, but strangely, when you pulled it on, you could hear that it was actually connected to an airbrake system.

That’s not meant to sound like a negative, as the mode of securing the park brake works perfectly – it’s just that it feels a little strange on the first few operations but you quickly get used to it.

I must say that I enjoyed my two most recent trips to Taupo, and the next time I’m in need of a five-tonne capacity curtainsider truck, I know which rental company I’ll be calling on and indeed, which truck I’ll be asking for.

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