DRIVEN TO SUCCEED - Living the dream

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Liam Sullivan may only be 22 years old, but, with an insatiable appetite for driving trucks, he’s just purchased his first as a contractor to Auckland’s Green Gorilla and is on the road to a bright future.

It’s not uncommon for youngsters to get into trucking by following in the footsteps of their elders, and Liam’s no exception. As a youngster, he’d ride with dad Kevin (who currently pedals a Scania for Foodstuffs), while other members of the family are also active in the local trucking scene. Although Liam’s just getting started, there’s no doubt trucking is in the blood of this young professional. “It’s not a profession many younger guys are into,” Liam says. Straight out of school, Liam decided to become a diesel mechanic. He worked for Howick and Eastern Buses until 2018, and then moved up to Gulf Harbour where he worked for Gideon Contractors Ltd in Silverdale. While Liam’s happy he was able to get some spannering experience, the driving bug was biting hard so, class 4 licence in hand, he found himself a job tipping and delivering water in a UD Quon for Hibiscus Water Supply. “I wanted to become a diesel mechanic so I could fix my own trucks – I always wanted to own my own trucks,” says the young Aucklander. So how did he get the opportunity at such a young age? Liam explains: “I heard that dad’s boss bought a truck off Green Gorilla. I went on their website and saw they had owner-driver opportunities, so I sent operations manager William McLaren an email and he replied. We met up and they gave me the opportunity.”


Photo: Liam Sullivan hopes to inspire younger kids to get behind the wheel.


Photo: The FK1425 has been derated to 12 tonne for the purposes of the job.

It wasn’t a quick and easy process, though. Liam had to open a business (LBS Trucking), get his transport services licence, put down all his savings as a deposit on the vehicle, and get finance for the balance. It took a few months, but by the middle of January Liam was standing in the Onehunga yard of Green Gorilla waiting to get to work behind the wheel of his new Fuso Fighter FK1425. “Green Gorilla buys the chassis new from Keith Andrews Trucks and preps it for sale to the contractors. The body is a refurbished unit with new paint, bed seals and electrics. The truck is actually derated to 12 tonnes and known as the FK1225. They’re very manoeuvrable, the turning circle is very good,” Liam says. Part of the prepping Green Gorilla does is to fit the truck with its radio comms, a rear-facing camera, and the in-cab iPad that allows Liam to manage his jobs for the day. The only thing he’s done to it was to put on a set of polished rims. He clearly takes pride in it and says the Fuso gets a wash at the end of every day. “It’s a positive image thing. At so many of the building sites I turn up to they say, ‘wow, your truck’s so clean’, ‘it looks mint’.

Photo: Green Gorilla Fusos are equipped with an auto gearbox and a bunch of electronic gadgets to make the job easier.

I hope that in five years’ time it still looks just as good. That makes a big difference. I’m not just running under Green Gorilla, it’s my name.” As to be expected, Liam’s loving his new job. “It’s good so far, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, I always wanted to buy a truck. It’s not a big truck, but still. I feel I’ve adapted quite quickly; I did 15 jobs yesterday. I’m used to deadlines and high volume, so for me this is good.” Liam covers 300 to 350km on an average day, the Fuso’s clock ticking up nicely and is now well past the 4000km mark. While we’re driving, Liam explains that having experience as a diesel mechanic has come in useful already. “This morning a hydraulic line under the body had a drip so I tightened it up temporarily. I always carry a few tools and I know if something happens I can check it before I have to take the truck to someone.”

Photo: Liam positions his pride and joy.

The business side of things, however, has been “quite daunting”, says Liam. “It’s pretty tight the first couple of months.” Liam’s grateful, though, to have had the guidance and support of people around him who have business and industry knowledge, as well as encouragement from his new colleagues. “There are no other younger guys, that I know of, doing this job in our company. It’s mostly more experienced guys and they’ve been pretty good to me. They’ve been helpful; if I’ve needed to know something I just call them up and someone will help me out. I was riding along with some of the guys over a couple of weekends, just to see what it was like, and so I got to know some of them before I started.” Navigating through Auckland having just swapped out a skip, Liam notices that the netting covering his load has pulled loose on one corner and promptly pauses our conversation to pull over and rectify the problem. Later on, he’s reversing the Fuso down a particularly steep, narrow and tree-lined driveway to make a drop. Earlier in the day, though, he had a little trouble… “The worst obstacle for this job is power lines; this morning I couldn’t deliver a bin because the power lines were too low and I couldn’t get the gantry past without hooking them.”

Photo: More than enough to keep a young truckie busy.

He’s conscientious behind the wheel and credits his experience of having to drive the bigger water tanker “into places trucks shouldn’t go”. Liam hopes to get into bigger gear one day, maybe doing heavy haulage in the comfort of his own Scania. (It would be a European truck over American, “any day!”) But that’s in the future; right now Liam’s thankful for the path he’s on and for all the support he’s received so far. “I didn’t think owning a truck would happen so soon for me – definitely not. I’m not usually a big risk taker and this was a big risk to take, but it was my fiancé Lucy and our parents who pushed me to do it. They really helped me along the way and encouraged me to make the move.” Liam knows first-hand that fewer youngsters are getting the opportunity to be exposed to trucks the way he was, and that maybe because of that, they’re not captivated by the industry. He knows too, that for those who do aspire, buying a truck at a young age isn’t easy – let alone finding a job with minimal experience to one’s name. He hopes though, that his journey can be some form of inspiration. “If anyone young reads this they may think, ‘shit, this guy’s young and he’s doing it, maybe it’s a possibility’. I hope it helps from that perspective.”