TOP TRUCK - Great mates a friendship 19 years in the making

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Friendships are akin to the seasons that come and go on an annual basis, however every now and again you stumble across one that sticks like calf goo to the floor of a stock crate.

Longstanding company Stephenson Transport of Waipawa hold family values close to the core of their business. Alongside this, friendship is respected and valued as well, so it’s no surprise when two drivers on twin Freightliner Argosys within the fleet are good mates from way back. Chris Herries driving number 47 in the fleet and Luke Sorensen on number 43 are both career truck drivers with many miles under the belt. Talking to them both, Luke laughingly tells us that they have been friends for the best part of 19 years. Chris then pipes up and says, “nah mate, it’s only 12 years but it feels more like 19!” Laughter erupts, a clear indication of the level of banter that exists between the two. Chris’s start in the transport industry goes back to being influenced by family, with his father, a cousin, and grandfather all being truck drivers. Chris grabbed the opportunity to ride along with them any chance he got, all the while looking over their shoulders.

Chris started washing out stock crates for McDonald Transport of Taradale when he was just 10 years old, eventually doing the same for Stephenson Transport at their Hastings depot. It was at this time Chris’s older cousin, Steve Herries, was driving with Stephenson. Chris spent many hours as a passenger learning the ropes from Steve. Frequently he would have to pedal his pushbike out to meet up with Steve to catch a ride – with the pushbike strapped to the front of the trailer and a hiss of the brakes it was here where Chris experienced life behind the wheel. The move to Stephenson enabled opportunities to learn to drive and sit his licences. Eventually itchy feet for Chris brought about a jump across the Tasman to experience trucking on the West Island.

Chris Herries, driver of fleet number 47. Luke Sorensen, driver of fleet number 43.

A lot of fond memories for sure, but having a young family instigated the shift back home around a year ago. A phone call to Stephenson upon Chris’s return to the Hawke’s Bay put him straight back in the driver’s seat. Chris tells us how the family atmosphere within the company is very much based on an oldschool set of values that are very hard to find these days. “No matter what you need to talk about, the boss’s door is always open and they all know you by name around here,” said Chris.

Luke’s start in the transport industry is very similar. Time spent with his older stepbrothers, both drivers, helped to pass on the passion for shiny rigs and changing gears. Washing out stock crates in his spare time for Bushetts Transport was Luke’s springboard into the industry as well. Gaining his licences with Emmerson Transport he has done his time on general freight as well as logs. Those early days working in and around stock trucks has brought about a return to this sector of the industry and an opportunity with Stephenson to join the team. Talking with Luke he is also quick to praise the family culture at Stephenson Transport and how he feels privileged to be there, doing the work he does. “They sure are a great bunch to work with,” said Luke.

Within the Stephenson Transport fleet there is a total of 11 Freightliner Argosys, fleet numbers 39 through to 49. It is while chatting to Todd Stephenson, operations director for Stephenson Transport, that you hear first-hand how well suited to the task the Argosys are, as well as how well they are performing. All are running DD15 power plants at (560hp) with Roadranger RTLO20918B transmissions, and Meritor RT46-160 diffs on AirLiner suspension; a reasonably common specification, however the way in which it is packaged within chassis rails by Freightliner in the Argosy it just cannot be beaten admits Todd.

Photo: Chrome and more chrome… not an ounce of gold in sight, phew!

“It is by far the most stable and well balanced combination I have ever driven for our application; the handling and traction is second to none,” he said. These feelings are shared by both Chris and Luke, with the two of them saying they enjoy operating the combinations and the level of ride and handling that they offer. The poster we have here is the result of two shiny rigs in front of a picturesque backdrop on a golden Hawke’s Bay Saturday afternoon. There could only be one rig in the forefront of the photo with the other unfortunately having to play second fiddle and be placed in behind the first. With this in mind Chris wanted to apologise to Luke, and also to remind Luke that there can only be one number one cream carter in the fleet and that it was not him. More laughter erupted.