Tuesday, April 20, 2021

It started with a friend reaching out to an industry she knew little about and ended with one happy birthday girl putting a big tick on her bucket list.

“Hey, can you guys help here?” said New Zealand Trucking Association’s Rebecca Dinmore. “I’ve been contacted by this lady in Auckland trying to put a birthday surprise together for her best friend who loves trucks. It would be so cool if you guys could do something.”

We delved into Rebecca’s email and discovered a little more going on than met the eye. Auckland-based Kim Lucas, Gillian Cowie and Diane Moffitt are ‘besties’. They’ve known each other forever, in the case of Gillian and Diane it’s almost true – we’re talking primary school.

McCoidFrom left: Departure time; The girls check in: “What’s it like?”; Captain Smooth, what an ambassador

Di recently had a 60th birthday, and Kim and Gill wanted to do something special for their friend.

“As long as I can remember, she’s loved trucks,” said Kim. “I can’t tell you how serious I am. Even when we were young, she was fascinated by them, and she’s always longed to go for a ride in one.”

“Had her life taken another path, she’d have driven one,” said Gill.

The problem was neither Di nor her girlfriends had a connection to the industry. Trucks were just big, beautiful machines they saw, and the silhouettes behind their tinted driver’s windows as mysterious as ghosts.

Taking onboard the adage, ‘if you don’t do anything, nothing will happen’, Kim decided to act and executed an internet search that led her to Rebecca, who pointed her at New Zealand Trucking. Connection made.

“Easy,” we said, but we wanted to do this right. It would have been so simple to grab a truck from someone, whip over to Di’s place in Remuera, chuck her in, blatt around the block a couple of times and up the motorway, toot the horn, drop her off...done!

Nope, that wasn’t the wish as we saw it. We wanted to put Di in a real truck with a real load, going to a real place, with a real driver; be part of actual ‘truckin’. What we needed was an industry ambassador who would make big trucks live up to Di’s dream. We needed a passion for trucks, energy, enthusiasm, and we needed spectacular.

“G’day. Is that you Leif?” Capt ‘K’ (Carl Kirkbeck) rang that stalwart of everything big-truck ‘positive’, Leif Blair. As you might have guessed Leif was in boots and all and assigned Earl Thompson and his baby, fleet No39, a Kenworth T909 Aero- Sleeper and 5-axle B-Train to the task. We have to say right now that you would never find a better ambassador for our industry in 10 lifetimes.

Yes, a good day in the life book for sure.

The three friends turned up at Leif Blair Transport’s Tacoma Street yard in Wiri late on a pristine early summer evening. Although Di’s slightly-belated birthday present was a surprise, she had convinced herself she was on her way to a pottery lesson through a process of deduction. Not exactly.

When Kim slowed, indicated, turned in, and parked her Suzuki Swift facing the waiting No39, she said, “You’re going for a ride in that.”

Di was dumbstruck and a lifetime’s ambition welled up.

“She’s overwhelmed, believe me,” said Kim. “I know her well – she’s just trying to take it all in.”

Following her introduction to the immaculately presented Mr Thompson, a tour of the truck commenced while we waited for trailers to arrive.Di was about to leap in a real truck with a real load going to a real place – Nelson.

“If you just keep sitting there, you’ll end up in Nelson,” laughed Capt K – and he wasn’t joking.

Earl’s trailers rolled in at that moment, and Di was able to witness the hook-up and text-book pre-check – this guy’s a pro through and through. And then it was up, up and away.

Earl rolled the K’dub through the streets and out onto the motorway southbound. The gear lever was a hot knife in margarine, and he put on an exemplary show from a cab that you could eat off the floor in.

They’re a lot to take in the first time up, the 909: the bonnet size and projection, the dash, gear lever, mirrors, expanse of machine, confinement of quarters, and general ambience.

As the ‘nine-O’ rolled down the motorway, Di had the cell phone out recording key moments, waving to her mates, taking it all in and just living her dream.

Earl stopped the glorious No39 on top of the Bombays, and a reluctant Di climbed out. The ride was everything she’d imagined, and she also had a new friend for life, a trucker mate.

“If you want another ride, just yell out,” said Earl. “All good.”

True mates are the ones who spend time trying to make your life better, and Kim and Gill were as excited about connecting the dots to make their friend’s dream come true as Di was to climb aboard a big rig.

From our perspective, you simply can’t put a value on what Leif, Earl, and the team at Leif Blair Transport did for the social licence of trucking that day. There’s no question that Di, Kim, and Gill are out there somewhere with an opinion of the trucking industry we’d love to see replicated five million times.

Earl Thompson. What an incredible job he did representing all of us. Give this lovely bloke a wave and a thanks when you pass him. Oh, and No39, you did great too!
Earl Thompson. What an incredible job he did representing all of us. Give this lovely bloke a wave and a thanks when you pass him. Oh, and No39, you did great too!


Thanks so much to Leif, Earl, and the team at Leif Blair Transport for taking the time to help us put this together. The warmth they showed a visitor to our world was fantastic and incredibly humbling. Thanks so much, everyone. Job done!