Young trucker Jared Richardson

Young trucker Jared Richardson Young trucker Jared Richardson
Young trucker Jared Richardson Young trucker Jared Richardson
Young trucker Jared Richardson Young trucker Jared Richardson
Young trucker Jared Richardson Young trucker Jared Richardson

The Ed heads out to see if truck driving and the open road still holds appeal for young people. He climbs aboard with Jared Richardson who is based out of Mount Maunganui.

With all the emphasis on recruiting female drivers into the trucking industry these days, one group that I see being overlooked are young males. Without a doubt, some serious money is being spent on making transport more female-orientated and I applaud the efforts to make this happen. I do have an inkling suspicion though that some eyes have been distracted from the 90 percent (or thereabouts) make-up of the driver demographic – which is the male component.

Situated some 50 kilometres south of Central Auckland, the hilltop Bombay BP Connect truck stop is part of a larger public service centre and is pretty much the point where the last sighting of Waikato can be had before descending north into Auckland. That is where I hitched a ride with Jared Richardson of Shandon Transport. In our few hours together I’m hoping to get some understanding of what makes truck driving appeal to young male drivers these days.

As I see it, Richardson, or Shrek as he is more widely known, is an ideal candidate for my somewhat unscientific study. He is 24 years old, has a chatty outgoing nature and loves what he does. His work week sees him piloting an eight-wheeler 2004 Freightliner Argosy, with a quad trailer close in behind. It is one of six trucks that form the Shandon fleet.

"It goes like a cut cat. It’s got a 620 Signature [Cummins]," he says.

As I climbed aboard, he was a few hours into a day that started in the early morning darkness at a kiwifruit orchard near Tauranga. There are still a few weeks to go in the latest season and the haul north to an Auckland packhouse has been a regular occurrence for the last while on Richardson’s job sheet.

Once unloaded, he was going to reload with an export crop of kiwifruit bound for some offshore dining tables; delivered later in the afternoon to the Port of Tauranga. He would then finish up his day reloading at another orchard in readiness for the next morning.

All going to plan this would be how things work out, but it only takes a queue at the packhouse or somewhere else along the route to put things behind schedule, as had happened the day before when our meeting had to be postponed.

Jared _Richardson3

As we got ready to head out onto the highway, Richardson made an apology for the state of his rig.

By mid-week, the ‘mud pit’ orchards he’s been working out of, combined with the Autumn-wet roads do not make for a show-ready truck. And while there may not be a lot of focus on his truck’s bling-factor, Richardson’s number one priority is making money for his boss by keeping his wheels rolling.

A lifestyle like this isn’t for the faint-hearted though and when kiwifruit isn’t in season, a typical work week will see Richardson all over the North Island carrying all types of general freight.

"I haven’t done any driving in the South Island yet. I don’t think the boss worries too much unless there is good coin."

So what is the appeal for the young male driver these days?

Being young and single certainly helps, especially when doing line haul work.

"I live at home, so it doesn’t matter being out on the road for me," says Richardson.

Spending a number of days each week away from home is certainly no issue at this point in his life and Richardson’s company has ensured that its drivers are as comfortable as possible with the installation of custom-made mattresses and fridges. A soon-to-be-fitted TV will also help pass away those quiet nights on the road as well.

While out on the road, Richardson says drivers are paid an allowance for sleeping in their trucks, so for someone who embraces this lifestyle, the extra dollars are a nice addition and, in turn, it saves the company money. The degree of comfort in a lot of trucks nowadays can sometimes be nicer than some accommodation and often preferred; becoming the driver’s home away from home.

Like many young people, Richardson still lives at home, but admits that being on the road all of the time means that he not at home all that often.

"I don’t need to pay for a flat and I’m not annoying my mum by being at home all the time," he says.

Being on the road often also means that socialising during the week is not very common; the silver lining being that money is not being spent on what, in hindsight, can be frivolous activities.

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Another benefit that gets pointed out is getting paid to see many parts of the country – all from a vantage point high above the traffic below. Richardson says that with Shandon Transport operating all over the North Island, the scope for paid travel comes as part of the job when doing line haul work.

There are of course many types of truck driving jobs. Richardson prefers what he is doing as it enables him to still engage in some physical work during a workday; the beads of sweat on his forehead evident as he climbed aboard his freshly-loaded truck.

"Some people just think there is line haul but if drivers don’t want to be away from home, there are all types of driving jobs.

"I like what I’m doing, but wouldn’t like to do tanker work as it is not physical enough for me. Later on though, it may be just what I’m looking for," he says.

Having a positive attitude is a definite necessity as rigs like the one we were riding in are extremely costly items and the responsibility of its upkeep lies directly on the driver’s shoulders. In the case of Richardson’s company, that level of ownership is all the more intense as any downtime with a small truck fleet can add significant pressure on the other drivers.

Essentially, Richardson is the master of his own domain and this begins when his boss sends the next day’s work through. Being single helps and Richardson knows that eventually circumstances may dictate a different driving career, but for now there is nowhere else he wants to be.

And what recommendations does this 24 year old give others wanting to get into the game?

"Put your head down, follow instructions from whoever is giving them and always look forward.

"Don’t look backwards because then you’ll end up going backwards and you won’t get to where you want to be."

I believe there is a real concrete case for young males to continue embracing the driving profession. In the most part, good long hours can be had and, even though truck drivers are paid way less than what I believe they deserve, the combined wages can still be considerably more than what a 40-hour week ‘normal’ job pays. Sure you have to work for it, but there is the ability to set yourself up while you are young.

If you’re not going to head off to university or become a tradie and join the rest of society then truck driving could be an option well worth considering.

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