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The CM journalists’ 2012 highlights

  • 19 December 2012
  • By Laura Hailstone

Every week the editorial team behind Commercial Motor is out and about speaking to people at the coalface of the road haulage industry, catching up with the truck manufacturers, meeting commercial vehicle dealers, and most importantly talking to our readers to find out what’s keeping them awake at night.

The news reporters, technical team, legal specialist and editor have shared their own highlights of the past 12 months – fascinating reading I’m sure you’ll agree:

Will Shiers, editor: “Highlight of my year, in fact probably the third-greatest experience of my life after the birth of my daughter and my wedding day (on the off-chance that she’s reading this!), was driving a 550hp Cat-powered Kenworth W900 on Alaska’s legendary Dalton Highway.

“I had just spent two days in the passenger seat, hitching a lift from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay, when Carlile Transportation driver Jon Norton pulled over and told me to get into the driver’s seat. It was minus 30 degrees, visibility through the frosted windscreen was atrocious, my road positioning was embarrassing and my attempt at mastering the 18-speed Eaton crash ’box sounded like a Stomp gig. It was a real sphincter-clenching 20 miles for both of us. But it was fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to drive a variety of vehicles in some far-flung places, but this was without a doubt the one I’ll always remember.”

Colin Barnett, editor of Truck Driver: “The undoubted highlight of my year was achieving the lifetime ambition of visiting India, with a trip to Chennai for the opening of Daimler’s new truck factory. Although brief, my visit was long enough to confirm that nothing I had previously seen or read of the Indian experience was exaggerated.

“The fact that any nation can prosper in the midst of such contrasts is amazing. How a country can develop leading edge science and technology but still cannot grasp concepts such as everyone driving in the same direction defies logic. The single high point was a dawn visit to a huge food market and getting to meet a selection of real working truck drivers, freely discussing their lives at the wheel. The curries weren’t bad either.”

Chris Druce, deputy group news editor: “A highlight of the year for me was a trip to Ledbury to see Andy Boyle OBE, ex-Road Haulage Association national chairman, avid FairFuelUK supporter and raconteur extraordinaire.

A fascinating interview saw us cover everything from Boyle’s love of tractors (the farming kind), to the precarious nature of working hire and reward through the years, to the countryside, how to buy a used truck, and even the value of a private education. I remember us emerging from Boyle’s office and being amazed to find more than three and half hours had elapsed, and that flash flooding had transformed his Herefordshire operating centre into an island. The classic example of having far too much resulting material to do justice to in a standard feature.”

Kevin Swallow, deputy technical editor: “Roadtesting the first, and to date only, Euro-6 truck in the UK (the Scania G440 Highline cab); a proper exclusive for Commercial Motor.

And the Scania G-Series delivered encouraging fuel results. Signs of optimism?”


Justin Stanton, editorial director: “2012 was a challenging year with a number of major events to deliver – all of which were delivered successfully. The Summer Freight Planning Conference, held at Wembley Stadium in March, was crucial for the industry: our task was to put on an event for Transport for London in order to communicate to operators the challenges the transport industry would face from the Olympics.
“We had less than 12 weeks from concept to delivery. The result? More than 190 paying delegates; job done!

“Putting on the two days of Commercial Motor Live at Millbrook in October was a hell of a challenge: an event of its nature had never been run and we’d never run any event at Millbrook (at least not in living memory). There was a lot of sweat and tears, and even a little blood, but the combination of conference, exhibition and ride and drive went off with only the hitches you would expect from an inaugural event. I nearly cried when it was all over!
“And it was a year of filming: I presented the MT Awards movie, the Commercial Motor Live teaser, the Commercial Motor Live safety video, and the Commercial Motor Live movie. Trying to remember everything you need to say while executing a complex walk towards the camera ain’t easy, so I’ll not be graduating to BBC News team just yet!”

Roger Brown, deputy legal editor: “An interview on a cold, bleak, February day in Sweden might not sound like the most likely candidate for highlight of the year. However, that was when I was lucky enough to travel to Volvo’s HQ in Gothenburg and meet the man tasked with making sure that the hottest new designs in the industry come from the manufacturer: design director Rikard Orell.

“First, Orell and his team of designers, studio engineers, computer experts and project managers translate their ideas for a potential new truck into sketches. The next stage sees computer-aided design (CAD) operators create interior and exterior representations.
“Full-size clay models of interior features such as the dashboard, steering wheel, gear stick, seats and bedding, as well as exterior bodywork are later created. Orell says the design process is now a lot more sophisticated than it was when the company worked on the likes of the F86 and F88.”

Ashleigh Wight, trainee reporter: “I joined the team in August so starting my journalistic career is a major highlight of the year, along with getting my first features and news stories in Commercial Motor and Motor Transport. My first feature to appear in print was a drinks sector report looking at how deliveries had been diversified when operators had switched to night-time deliveries. Over the past few months I have learned a great deal about the industry and have enjoyed engaging with our readers.”



Christopher Walton, group news editor: “In February I went to visit EM Rogers in Northampton. They are the true family haulier, John being the second generation and his daughter Sarah being the third. He invited me to his home – his family farmhouse and made me a cup of tea on the Aga in the kitchen. On the kitchen wall was a mural of the first ever vehicle the Roger’s family ever ran: a 1936 Albion. Then John went into the garage and fired the old girl up with a full-on roar and enough smoke to attract onlookers from the neighbouring county.
“He is the epitome of the UK haulier, a true family man and a proper gent. Writing the profile after that interview was a pleasure, not a chore.”


David Wilcox, group technical editor: “If the year has an even number it can mean only one thing – there will be an IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Hannover. 2012 proved yet again that European truck shows don’t come any bigger or better than Hannover, making those few days in September my personal highlight.
The sheer size of the event is always awe-inspiring, never more so than in 2012, when visitor numbers were up 9% on the 2010 total, reaching over 260,000. The number of exhibitors was also up by 9% to over 1,900, leaving us in no doubt that the powerful German commercial vehicle industry is firing on all cylinders once again.
But Hannover’s reach goes well beyond Germany. Over half the exhibitors were foreign companies; there were 152 from China alone. One could spend a solid week at Hannover and still come away having missed entire halls. But size is not everything. The more telling statistic for a journalist is 354 world premieres. It doesn’t get better than that. Roll on 2014.”

George Barrow, technical writer: “Unusually for a Commercial Motor road tester a good deal of my 2012 has been taken up with pick-up trucks, not least because there have been plenty of new models launched throughout the year. The International Pick-Up Award, held in the days leading up to Commercial Motor Live, was a professional highlight as it meant bringing together some of Europe’s best commercial vehicle journalists to a soggy Millbrook Proving Ground to test six excellent off-roaders.
Similarly my personal highlight of 2012 also involved pick-up trucks, but in an altogether different setting – Africa. March saw me pack my bags and join the Trans Africa Challenge to deliver eight 4×4 pick-up trucks to villages in Malawi and Botswana. Spending time in the local communities was a wonderful and humbling experience, and knowing that the hard work and fundraising of the organisers, Commercial Vehicle Solutions, helped raise over £100,000 for two worthy causes, made the experience all the more fulfilling.


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