Comment: Leading by example

By: David Boyce, NZTA chief executive

By being courteous drivers, NZ's trucking industry can be part of the solution and not the problem, says New Zealand Trucking Association

In 2019, 352 people died on New Zealand roads. Of this total, 67 died in crashes involving a truck; that is nearly 20% of the total road deaths. Ten deaths were truck drivers, 57 deaths involving a truck were other road users.

That’s not to say that truck drivers were at fault in all these road deaths; they were not. But as professional truck drivers, how we behave on the road greatly influences the behaviour of other road users around us. We’re the ambassadors for our industry; how we behave on the road is how the public sees us. Our behaviour reflects on the whole trucking industry.

The first rule on the road is safety, closely followed by the second rule of courtesy. Showing other road users courtesy makes driving not only more enjoyable for everyone but also makes the roads a safer place. How you drive on the road affects all the other road users around you. A bit of consideration for others goes a long way towards reducing stress for everyone.

There are many types of drivers; what type are you?

The Tailgater type: those who follow too close to the vehicle in front.

These people think that by following so close they can intimidate the other motorist to let them past but at the same time have no chance of stopping quickly in an emergency.
The I don’t need to indicate type: those who think that indicators are for other people. These people think that they are too special to use the extra energy to flick the indicator on.

The I like to drive fast type: those who believe that they are ‘King of the Road’, and everyone else should just get out of the way. These people have annoying habits, such as passing a whole row of traffic in one go rather than waiting for a passing lane, or they like to speed up when you’re trying to pass them.

The poor planner type: these drivers leave everything to the last minute and are always running late. These people will leave five minutes before an appointment, when they know it takes 15 minutes to get there, or worse still they set off on a journey to catch a ferry allowing only four hours, when they know that the trip takes five hours.

The multitasker type: those people who believe that they can do everything: drive safely, talk on the mobile, and drink a cup of coffee or eat a pie all at the same time.

The moron type: those who should not be allowed on the road under any circumstances.

The courteous type: these are the best type of drivers. They drive patiently and sympathetically. This makes other people around them drive better as well. These are the people who drive defensively and are considerate of other road users. It may be as little as backing off a bit to let a merging vehicle into the flow of traffic or pulling over when you get a chance to let the traffic behind you past.


Any professional driver will tell you that driving in New Zealand requires skill and patience. Life is getting busier all the time, with extra stresses and more vehicles on the road. Everyone seems to be in a hurry, and some days, it can seem like a real mission to get anywhere.

As a professional truck driver, do you wish to improve your public image and contribute to safer roads for everyone? If the answer is yes, then you need to implement the Driving Courtesy Code:

Relax. If you’re stressed, angry, or have something else on your mind, take a deep breath, go for a walk around the truck so that you can concentrate on the driving.

Back off: It’s not a race, slow down. If it takes you 10 minutes longer on a trip, it’s not the end of the world. But it may well be if you don’t make it at all. If you can see that someone needs to get into the traffic, then let them in. One day they may return the favour. If someone lets you in, acknowledge them with a wave of thanks.

Be professional and lead by example. You’re driving a mobile billboard for your business - how do you want your business to be remembered? Be the better driver.

You’re driving a large truck, don’t tailgate, give other vehicles some room. It takes you a lot longer to stop. If you’re holding up a line of vehicles, pull over when it’s safe and let them past.

Watch out for cyclists and pedestrians. These are the most vulnerable road user group. Put yourself in their position: would you like to be passed with only inches to spare? Give them plenty of space, pass only when it’s safe, and at a sensible speed.

Learner drivers. Everyone needs to learn sometime. Give them a break with a bit of space and patience. Then they can learn by your example to be a good driver.

Other road users are not mind readers. If you need to change lanes or turn a corner, use your indicators. How else are other road users supposed to know your intentions? The same when visibility is low, turn on your lights, so people can see you before it is too late.

Remember: forgive and forget. Other people do not set out to annoy you. If they make a mistake, let it go; it’s not the end of the world. If they are a habitual idiot, it will catch up with them eventually. Acknowledge a good turn with a polite wave.

By being courteous drivers, the trucking industry in New Zealand can be part of the solution, not part of the problem. New Zealand Trucking Association supports road safety through several initiatives, including the Safety MAN Road Safety Truck. From this, we run several awareness programmes, including ‘Share the Road with Big Trucks’ and ‘Healthy Truck Driver’. More info on

If you would like some help with your driving skills or would like your drivers to have an assessment of their driving skills and ability by a trained professional, then give New Zealand Trucking Association a call on 0800 338 338 or send an e-mail to us on We will put you in contact with the right people.

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