'Little Trucker's Club' - A day in the life of a TRUCKER!

Friday, February 8, 2019

How does driving a bulk tipping combination sound? Let’s see what a day in the life of J Swap Ltd driver Mike Verran looks like.


Photo: One for the truck, two for the trailer. That’s a big loader!

It’s 4.20am and we meet Mike at J Swap’s Mount Maunganui yard. We travel by car with two other drivers to the company’s Matamata yard where the Kenworth Mike drives was parked. Mike had pre-loaded the afternoon before at one of J Swap’s Waikato quarries, and left the truck at Matamata. Because the load was going to Hamilton, it didn’t make sense to take the truck home to Mount Maunganui. Leaving it in Matamata saves money, and keeping costs low is an important part of running trucks. Mike has been driving trucks for 34 years and has a lot of experience in many different types of trucks. The truck he drives for Swaps is fleet number 1082, a 2007 Kenworth T404 with a Caterpillar C15 engine.

Mike does his vehicle inspection – things like checking oil, water, and tyres – then starts the truck, allowing the engine time to warm up. While this happens Mike starts his logbook for the day ahead. The Kenworth and trailer combination has seven axles – three on the truck and four on the trailer – with a large aluminium bin on each that carries anything able to be put in with a loader or hopper, and then tipped out at the customer’s site.


Photo: Delivering to farms means Mike sees a lot of the country and meets lots of people.

Mike’s truck has an 18-speed Eaton automated manual transmission, meaning the truck can change gear by itself, or Mike can do it if he’s in tricky places. Out on the road, the truck makes easy work of the load. The trailer has more axles than the truck, but no engine, cab, or driver. This means it weighs less than the truck when it’s empty, and so can carry more load. The truck carries 10 tonne and the trailer 19 tonne. At 6am the sun is just rising and Mike is tipping off the gravel. Today he tips the trailer, then unhooks it and tips the truck. Often he jackknifes the unit, meaning he tips the truck and trailer without needing to unhook.
“There are power lines here and jackknifing could be dangerous,” says Mike.

Even though everyone else is just starting to wake up, Mike is now on his way back to Matamata for his second load. Back at the depot Mike washes out his bins ready for a load of stock feed heading for Te Kuiti in the King Country. It’s important for tip truck drivers to keep their bins clean. Imagine carting coal and leaving the coal dust in the bins and then loading something like stock feed? The cows wouldn’t be happy would they? They’d have black teeth!
The stock feed is loaded in the clean and shiny bins and the truck and trailer weighed on a weighbridge to make sure the farmer is getting the right amount, and that Mike’s truck is not too heavy for the roads. The most his truck and trailer can weigh when fully loaded is 45 tonne.


Photo: Jackknifing is when the driver tips the truck and trailer off without unhooking. Like this. Clever!

The load on this trip is what truck drivers call a ‘split load’, meaning half will go to one property and half to another. Before getting too far down the road Mike stops at a roadside café to grab some lunch and have his break.
The first farm we arrive at is muddy and gumboots are needed. Mike takes great care of his Kenworth and making sure no mud comes back into the cab is important. He treats the inside as if it were his own house.

Mike tips the trailer into a shed, being careful that the trailer bin doesn’t clunk on the roof as it goes up! He stops the hydraulics that lift the bin (‘the hoist’ in truckies’ language) just under the roof of the shed, and then slowly moves forward. As he does the feed slips out of the bin. At the next farm he tips the truck’s load onto an outside pad so he can put the hoist right up. ‘Wooosh!’ Out it all goes.
By now its 12.30pm and we leave Te Kuiti to head for Taotaoroa in the Waikato. This is where J Swap Ltd has its biggest gravel quarry. What happens next? Yep, you guessed it, Mike washes the bins again, ready to load. He then drives to the designated gravel pile and waits for the loader. The huge loader loads the truck with just one bucket full, and the trailer with two. Wow!


Photo: Mike Verran

Now what does Mike do next? That’s right, he weighs the truck and trailer to make sure everything is right. This load is heading for Rotorua along State Highway 5 over the Mamaku Ranges. That’s a great piece of road on which to see lots of big trucks. Mike and his Kenworth have no trouble getting over the hills and the big Caterpillar engine rumbles away happily. We arrive in Rotorua at 3.30pm. Mike gets to show off his jackknifing skills, tipping off the truck and trailer without needing to unhook. Mike’s day is now done, and it’s just as well because the rain started to fall. All that is left to do is drive home to Mount Maunganui. As we drive along Mike tells us why he likes truck driving so much.
“I enjoy meeting lots of people, and seeing so much of the countryside. There’s just about no other job where you can do both these things every day,” he says. By the time the Kenworth’s engine shuts down it’s 5pm. We’ve been all over the Waikato, down to the King Country, and also to the Bay of Plenty. You can sure pack a lot into a day driving a bulk tip truck at J Swap Ltd. We say goodbye to Mike as he heads home to have a nice meal and rest up, ready to do it all again tomorrow. Thanks so much Mike and J Swap Ltd – you guys ‘rock’… get it?

Tell us what you’ve learned
Now you know all about a bulk tip truck, answer these questions. Send your answers along with your address to rochelle@nztrucking.co.nz. We’ll draw out a couple of lucky names and see what’s in the prize bin.

1: How many axles does Mike’s truck and trailer have?
2: Where is J Swap Ltd’s biggest quarry located?
3: What kind of truck does Mike drive?
4: What does Mike do every time he goes back to the yard after delivering a load?
5: How many tonnes can the truck and trailer carry?

Competition closes 1 March 2019.