‘ROADIE’ FOR LIFE

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bruce ‘Roadie’ Clotworthy turned 60 not long ago. If ultimate success in life is best measured by pursuing and earning a living from that which you love doing most, then Bruce must surely be a mentor to all.

A top bloke, and a genuine guy, a trucker through and through’. An accurate portrayal of Bruce ‘Roadie’ Clotworthy, from those gathered to celebrate his 60th birthday recently in Tauranga. Bruce was also celebrating 40 years of trucking and a lifetime of being around trucks. Bruce started his trucking life in Tokoroa in 1960, the son of Isabel and Roger – a truckie, driving for T. Doidge Ltd, Tokoroa. As young as three years old, Bruce would ride in the truck with his Dad, and learned to do what truckies do. In time he was allowed to get out and help chain up and hook up trailers, loving every single minute. Once he could reach the pedals, 10-year-old Bruce was driving the trucks around the Doidge yard and backing them into the workshop. “God help you if you got it wrong,” Bruce says. His father taught him from a young age ‘if you’re gonna’ do a job, do it properly first time’. When other blokes would ask Roger ‘What’s Bruce up to?’ the response would be ‘just learning’. To this day, Bruce believes a young fella has to hang around and ride with an old fella, to learn the correct way. Bruce was raised old school, quoting his Dad with gems like: ‘Unless you’re dead boy, you show up for work’, and ‘If you’re going to sulk, go and sulk with your mother’.


Photo: The Marsh Kenworth K200 that Bruce drives today.

The trucking life is definitely in Bruce’s blood. Two of his four siblings followed in their father’s footsteps. Bruce says growing up he knew nothing else in life. At school, he was told off for not paying attention, more so in Room 1 at Tokoroa Intermediate, where Bruce had the best view of the Mangakino highway! School holidays were spent working at the Doidge yard, often painting wheels and trailers. At the end of each day, Bruce would jump into a truck loaded with export logs and catch a ride to Mount Maunganui. On the return trip, the driver would ‘give the young fella a drive home’. In return, Bruce would have the job of truck washer. When the days of attending school were over, Bruce served his time as a mechanic at TRT in Te Rapa, Hamilton, where his years spent in and around trucks were put to good use. When gear needed to be backed into the workshop, Bruce was the one called on to oblige. Bruce gravitated around the blokes with a good work ethic and made sure he knew who was who, so he could catch rides around the countryside and learn. Much of his experience was gained from Bryan McRae, in his early days at Total Transport. After a day at TRT, Bruce would jump into Bryan’s truck and drive it to Auckland while Bryan slept. On their return to Horotiu, Bruce would wash out the stock crates in the middle of the night, then Bryan would drop Bruce off in Hamilton on his way through, ready for Bruce to start his day job. Similarly, during his holidays or on weekends, Bruce could be seen at General Foods’ yard in Hamilton, waiting for an opportunity to catch a ride on an RFL linehaul truck, to see the country and learn even more. Those days riding with RFL gave Bruce the passion to pursue a linehaul career.


Photo: Bruce’s early ‘schooling’ at T Doidge Ltd included classrooms like the legendary Brutus International logger that his father Roger drove for the company.


Photo: Bruce and sister Kathryn in front of the original T Doidge ‘Brutus’ International. Photo Credit: Clotworthy collection.

RFL driver at the time Robbie Shaw sums it up best when he says “Bruce was undoubtedly keen to learn”. Bruce claims during these rides, one driver taught him how to drive quick and smooth, while another taught him how to drive ‘25’ hours a day but still be an hour early for his next pick-up! As soon as Bruce turned 18, he was off to sit his HT licence. He worked part-time driving on weekends, while finishing at TRT. In 1980 he started at Alexander Grain, driving all over the North Island. These were pre-logbook days – logbooks came in 1987 – driving 80 to 100 hours per week, when trucks were competing with rail and there were ‘amended’ waybills. Having only a 150km limit to your destination, drivers would pretend to unload and reload, write out a new waybill and carry on for the next 150km. These were also the days of driving 200,000km per year on low horsepower. Bruce moved to RMD, driving a single drive Kenworth with a Cummins NTC350, followed by a truck and trailer unit with a KT450, unquestionably big horsepower back in the day. These cab and chassis were Canadian imports, a preferred choice by many companies at the time.


Photo: The molasses years started with Brett Marsh and moved to BR & SL Porter when they bought the tanker business. This bK108 came after the black K104.

In 1986 Bruce began a memorable 14 years at TD Haulage. He began driving a Kenworth W924, and ended with a new cabover Kenworth K100E, transporting wood chip and fertiliser. With a couple of short stints in Australia under his belt, an opportunity came up to drive for Brett Marsh, carting molasses. To this day, Bruce says this was the best job ever. BR & SL Porter purchased the molasses tankers and Bruce continued to drive the same unit, a black Kenworth K104, powered by a C-15 CAT. This black beast could be seen anywhere from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Currently Bruce is back with Brett Marsh, driving his much-loved, well-presented, 8-wheeler, K200 Kenworth, towing a 6-axle, 40/20 B-train skelly, a 60 tonne high productivity plated unit. He carts mainly out of Manaia (around the coast from Hawera) to either Auckland or Tauranga, with the odd trip to the South Island. Bruce loves the high spec trucks that Brett provides, catering for every need and making life comfortable for the many nights spent in his home away from home. He can’t speak highly enough of his boss, stating, “He’s a great guy to work for”. Bruce has had an extremely good run over the past 40 years, with just one rollover in his TD days when he swerved to dodge a piece of steel on the road. “It knocks your pride back and you realise you’re not perfect.” Bruce has no intention of giving up driving. “It’s in my blood, what else would I do?” He says the fun of the old days has gone, but he still enjoys it. He’s disappointed that so many young ones don’t have the opportunity to learn from the ‘old fellas’.


Photo: This Total Transport Ltd Mack FR Stock liner driven by Bryan McRae was a regular after-work destination for young Bruce. While Bryan caught up on some sleep, Bruce took the helm.


Photo: The black Kenworth K104 saw Bruce anywhere from Cape Reinga to Bluff.


Photo: The Kenworth K104 and new B-train ‘Roadie’ drove when he went back to Brett Marsh. (Right) A rare spot of downtime.

Bruce truly believes the only way to learn to be a good truckie is to ride with the experienced guys and learn the practical way, not from a book. One gripe he has is the condition of the roads these days. The lack of maintenance with a “Band-Aid over Band-Aid mentality is not good. Back in the Ministry of Works days, jobs got done, roads were fixed, trees were trimmed, drains were unblocked. These days they just put road cones around it.” When asked how he finds the traffic these days, Bruce described it as “Hideous, but you can’t stress about it, it’s life on the road”. There were a couple of notable memories from Bruce’s 60th celebration. Bruce’s daughter, Ashleigh, remembers waking at three or four in the morning when she was only seven years old, to enjoy a bowl of Weetbix and have some special time with her Dad. Special memories from the child of a linehaul driver. A motel owner from Wanganui recalls ‘Roadie’ let her kids have a look in his truck. Over 10 years later, those kids recalled this special moment. “We remember that guy, we found his special magazines under the pillow in his truck!” ‘Roadie’, a trucking legend who was taught the old way. To this day he still cleans his cab out every night with compressed air and replaces the newspaper in the footwell of the passenger’s side if anyone has had the privilege of joining him to travel the country.


Photo: Bruce did a 14-year stint at TD Haulage that included driving a Kenworth W model A-train and the K100E below (wouldn’t it be handy if we could actually hook-up the lower combination?). Interestingly, the W model was renamed Brutus by a later owner … a quirky irony.


Photo: Bruce has an impressive ‘trophy room’ of drives that even includes a short stint on a Western Star 6900 series for Bulk Haul in the Tanami. Photo Credit: Clotworthy collection.


TOYS FROM THE HEART


Photo: The fleet line-up.

Bruce Clotworthy’s early years were heavily influenced by his Dad, Roger, a trucking industry legend. Trucking has certainly been a huge part of the Clotworthy family. Roger spent 60 years in the industry and two of his three sons have followed in his footsteps. Roger was a talented man. When his boys were young, he handmade each of them their own toy truck. Built to scale (1ft to 1in) and replicas of trucks of the time, these sturdy steel toys gave hours of pleasure to three young boys. In the mid-60s in Tokoroa, Bruce and his younger brothers, Kevin and Stuart, could be heard in their backyard, towing their treasured trucks around. Pulling them with a piece of string, they would make the sounds of gear changes and engine braking. Roger made the boys a selection of trailers. Their International trucks could cart small logs or timber. However, the most fun the boys had was when they themselves were the load. Each trailer would be hooked together to create a road train. The boys, along with the neighbouring kids, would sit on a trailer each. Riding down the hill outside their house, their trust was put solely on the kid at the front with the cab, to steer their road train around the corner at the bottom. It’s not surprising to know, more than 50 years later, that Bruce and Kevin are still behind the wheel of a truck. Both men are driving Kenworths, however they still have a soft spot for their trusty Internationals.


Photo: Taken around 1963, big time truckers, Stuart, Kathryn, Bruce, and Kevin.


Photo: The road train generation two. This time Bruce’s two children Simon and Ashleigh up front, Roger, Bruce’s brother-in-law, and Roadie last man on. Suffice to say they made it around the corner at the bottom of the hill.