Kiwi truckies tell tales in new book 'Life on the Road'

From Nine To Noon, 11:24 am on 31 July 2018

You haven't earned your truckie stripes until you've watched a big vehicle run away from you, says former truck driver Randolph Covich.

Randolph Covich

Randolph Covich Photo:

He uncovers the secret lives of truckies – including skirmishes with the law, mechanical mishaps and that time his own vehicle made its way into the side of a Remuera residence – in the new book Life on the Road: Kiwi Trucking Stories.

Many drivers told him the experience of watching a truck run away from you is a rite of passage in their industry.

Randolph earned his own stripes in the Auckland suburb of Remuera at 7am one morning.

"It was sheer panic … [The truck] got away from me, went down a drive and hit a concrete wall of a house … I leapt out of the truck 'cause I'd just managed to jump in to pull the brake on.

"As I looked out, the house owner - he'd whipped open the drapes and he's standing there fully naked with his wife in bed behind him with the covers up around her neck, wondering what had hit their house.

"That was quite a funny, surreal moment."

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Randolph started going along in his dad's truck at the age of five.

One driver told Randolph his own kids had done 1.5 million kilometres in his truck with him by the time they were that age.

"His wife had left the family. He had two toddlers under two at that time and he used to take them to work and they'd line-haul up and down the country. When they got to school age he had a nanny come in at night and went to work."

These days, drivers don't often get to take their kids on the road because of perceived health and safety risks, Randolph says.

"Which is quite sad, really, because they don't get the feel for it or the love of it."

Randolph did get the feel of it, and became a third-generation truck driver at 20. He now works in an office for Bauer Media and as a volunteer firefighter, but still has a passion for the road.

"Once it gets into your system it's pretty hard to get it out," he says.

Truck drivers do big hours – driving as well as keeping their vehicles clean and maintaining them – and it can be a very lonely life, Randolph says.

He suspects cell phones actually make people more lonely when they're away from their families for days at a time.

"Because they can see what's happening at home with their loved ones but they can't actually be there."

What truck drivers do get is a lot of time to follow the news and to think, he says.

"Truckies will have opinions about anything and everything. Despite what some people think of them they're quite well informed about what's happening in the world."

empty country road at sunset

Photo: ozbandit/123RF

Although self-driving vehicles are on their way, Randolph believes truck drivers will still be around for a long time, especially in New Zealand.

"If you started today you could probably still have a good lengthy career at it."