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BUSINESS PROFILE

Nelson Forests’ logging drivers

look back with pleasure BY JOHN COHEN-DU FOUR

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his year (2017) saw the retirement of two of Nelson Forests’ longestserving drivers – Gary Gardiner of Waimea Contract Carriers and Pete Friend from Stuart Drummond Transport. With a combined total of 94 years on the road, there’s not a lot these two haven’t seen. And while many changes have come and gone, one thing has never wavered: their infectious love for a life behind the wheel. Gary first hit the road as a 20-yearold in the mid-1960s. “I cut my teeth with Sollys in Collingwood. They had a fleet of Bedfords and I drove every one of them.” In the 1970s Gary began driving for Irvines. “They were different times back then,” he laughs. “Like when the rail was out – we’d put in 18 to 20-hour days! I once did a run from Nelson to Christchurch, to Blenheim, to Christchurch, to Invercargill and back again to Christchurch.” In 1981 Gary switched to timber. “I love the outdoors – carting logs seemed a pretty good idea.” He drove with Radiata Transport for the NZ Forest Service, mainly carrying native beech. “I worked for TNL, then Peter Gibbons. In 1998 I went to Waimea Contract Carriers and never looked back,” Gary says. With an impressive 50 years of experience, Gary has a unique perspective on how the industry has developed. “The biggest changes have been with the quality of the trucks 86

themselves. Innovations such as higher stanchions, with no extension or pop-up pins. It kept drivers off the back of trucks.” Gary recalls an industry-wide consultation process that brought further health and safety improvements, like the shift to lighter chains that were easier to throw over. Another change was the move from twitches to winches. “Winches gave us tighter, safer loads with less risk of losing logs.” From a pure driving perspective, the greatest changes Gary recalls were in horsepower and suspension. “Horsepower effectively doubled. We needed that grunt – it allowed bigger payloads, and made it

easier for us to get out of the forest tracks.” Meanwhile, improved truck and cab suspension was a welcome development. “In those early Kenworths and Mercedes, with their rigid seats and cabs,” Gary chuckles, “you used to put your jersey underneath you.” Gary retired in April: “But I’m still doing the odd stint for Waimea, like taking empty trucks for their CoFs.” What does he miss most about a working life spent on the road and in the bush? “I just love driving. Looking at the countryside, the scenery. My favourite stretch was the ‘peeler run’ to the Coast. I’d take peeler logs to Greymouth and

The fleet of Bedfords at Sollys in the 1960s

Wild Tomato November2017  

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