Cover Story: Cam Maxwell the long-haul Gisborne driver

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane

DOW spoke to owner-driver Cam Maxwell about his work as a long-haul driver

At just 24 years of age, Gisborne- based owner-driver Cam Maxwell is off to a good start. With six years driving experience under his belt, he’s now the proud owner of a 2018 Volvo FH540. He’s contracted to Dannevirke trucking company, AWE McNicol, doing long-haul runs of wool, timber, and general freight.


Travelling the length and breadth of the North and South Islands is what Cam likes and with a rig that’s got all the bells and whistles built into it, it’s his home on the road and that suits him just fine.

Besides this, the affable driver likes everything that goes with trucking life: the distances, meeting new people, and getting out and seeing different scenery every day. "The longer the distance, the better," he says.

The Volvo Globetrotter

The truck body and trailer were built at Roadmaster Ltd in Rotorua

The Volvo FH540 truck and five-axle trailer is a smooth-looking rig and is often known as the ultimate long-haul truck, which perfectly fits Cam’s work needs.

"When I went shopping for a truck, I wanted something brand-new, with all the warranties attached, and because I am on the road so much, it had to be comfortable and spacious. I consider it my home," Cam says.

The fridge freezer, hidden from view but with easy access

Inside, it’s incredibly roomy: at 220cm high, there’s plenty of headroom, it has masses of storage space. There are lockers for his gear, a microwave oven, compact fridge freezer, and television.

Room for everything, including the microwave

The front passenger seat ("it’s like a La-Z-Boy") swivels to face the back of the cab and the electronically controlled bunk expands to a width of 90mm; it can also be inclined to 55 degrees, making it perfect for watching TV or reading.

Imported as a cab and chassis from Australia, the truck body and trailer were built at Roadmaster in Rotorua. The only addition Cam wanted were lights, "for an extra good light show on the road."

Cam’s home away from home all in one cab

When he went to pick it up, he was blown away by how it looked. Going from being a company driver to owning a brand-new unit was an awesome moment, he says.

"I picked it up in Tauranga, got a load of wool out of Cambridge to Napier; that was the first run and the thrill of it still hasn’t worn off," Cam says, admitting that he likes to give it a thorough polish every week on his one day off.

Trucking over farming

Cam describes himself as a farm boy from Wairoa. But farming was never going to be his choice of profession. Growing up, he had plenty of chances to drive farm machinery but he was always into trucks, he says.

So after leaving college, he went to work for a Gisborne-based chilled and frozen transport company, Weatherell Transport, as a metro driver before changing to a full-time role as a line-haul dispatcher. The role gave him a better idea of how things worked out on the road he says.

"I was there for a year before I went back to Wairoa, driving a stock truck for Kiwi Transport. Working with stock was a good experience. I was there for a couple of years and drove an Isuzu truck and trailer," Cam says.

It was back to Weatherells for a couple of years doing line-haul before getting a job with AWE McNicol, first on their trucks before buying the Volvo eight months ago. "It’s going really well. I couldn’t be happier and I’m looked after really well by my boss," he says.

When asked what the biggest challenge of the job is Cam says, "It’s mainly other road users, especially cars. Some drivers just don’t care. From where we sit, we see so many near misses and accidents."

Getting started as a young driver

The superb comfort and drive options in Volvo’s cab make Cam Maxwell one happy long-haul driver

Starting off as a young driver, Cam says he’s found the trucking industry to be supportive. "Once people get to know you, I think they are. Some old school drivers look at the young ones in a challenging way, but perhaps that’s only natural. We’ve still got lots to learn. Overall, I’ve found other drivers to be supportive."

Is it possible to earn a good living as an owner-driver? "If you do it right and keep your eye on costs, for example, the I-Shift gearbox is very efficient when it comes to fuel economy.

"When I was offered an owner-driver position, I thought I’ll try it; you can only succeed or fail and so far, I am succeeding. People have said, ‘oh you’re mad, why don’t you stay on wages?’ But it’s a challenge and I like that about it. It’s interesting working out how to run your own business but that is all part of it."

In future, he’d like to own a small fleet of trucks but for now, he’s enjoying heading out on the open road with the Volvo fully loaded and the music cranking.

Volvo FH540 features

The Volvo FH540 – a truck the owner is proud to have his name on

Cam’s Volvo comes with a 12-speed splitter and range gearbox, with automated gear changing system. I-Shift can be fitted with a compact retarder, power takeoff, emergency power steering pump, and oil cooler. I-Shift is based on a classic unsynchronised manual gearbox; hence its compact design and low internal losses.

The magic happens in the electronic control unit that manages the clutch and shifts. By evaluating information about speed, weight, road grade, and torque demand, it applies extreme precision to every shift. The system also communicates with the engine, allowing it to adjust the revs and brakes for best performance.

Every gear change is timed precisely. This ensures that the engine works at its most efficient rpm, whether in economy or performance mode. Additionally, when you’re travelling downhill, I-Roll disengages the engine, maximising the truck’s momentum and saving up to an additional two percent of fuel.

Integrated parking cooler controls the temperature at night and saves fuel during the day. The driver’s seat comes in standard, comfort or deluxe with plenty of adjustment, and has adjustable lumbar support and angle adjustable seat.

Beds are 74-20mm with 81.5cm wide middle section or 74.200cm, extractable to 88x200cm with 95.5cm wide middle section. The steering wheel comes in two sizes: 450mm or 50mm in diameter. The wheel’s height can be adjusted up to 90mm and angle by 28 degrees. The sky/window roof hatch serves as an emergency exit.


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