After 39 years at the wheel, the time has finally come for Gary Johnson to hang up his hi-vis and the keys to his beloved truck.
Having driven a wide variety of vehicles over the course of his lengthy career, Gary is finally saying goodbye to an industry in which he has seen great evolution. He finishes his career with Bournemouth-based Pall-Ex member, Shears Brothers (Transport) Limited, after more than three years as one of their quality Class 1 drivers.
Now, as he reflects on a long and illustrious career, Gary has explained how it all began, what he has enjoyed most about his career in logistics and what he is looking forward to when he finally kicks off his steel toe-cap boots for the last time at the end of January.
How did you get into the logistics industry and did you think you would be working as a driver for so long?
“My first job in logistics was as holiday cover on a temporary contract, driving a van.
“The business was obviously happy with my work ethic because they offered me a full-time role when the temporary contract was up.
“Soon after that, I wanted to drive bigger vehicles, so I paid for myself to take a one week intensive course to gain my HGV licence. This meant I was then put to work driving larger vehicles.
“At the start, I couldn’t have imagined spending 39 years doing this, but I quickly realised I loved driving and now, looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
To do anything for this length of time must require a real passion. What is it you have enjoyed about driving so much that has made you do it for so long?
“When I first started driving, I loved the freedom it gave me. It was like being my own boss, with the ability to think for myself and make decisions based on what I saw in front of me.
“In my opinion, being out on the road was more relaxing than other jobs and it was a great opportunity to see parts of the country you may not otherwise get the chance to see.
“As the industry has modernised, it hasn’t changed my enjoyment of coming to work.
“When I started, we used log-books to record our hours, but now Tachographs do this automatically. There are more regulations now, but they are all in the interest of keeping everyone safe and that is a massive positive!”
What were the biggest challenges you have faced during your career in logistics?
“In addition to navigating the tight streets of London in a HGV, one of the biggest challenges was when a former employer ceased trading and made me redundant on Christmas Eve. That was really tough to take, and because of my age, I thought finding a new job may be hard.
“However, a previous employer heard about my situation and called me to offer me a job. I am especially proud of this as they must have been impressed with my work ethic and ability.
“During that time I was given the opportunity for further personal development, including First Aid training and ADR training, which I am really pleased I completed.”
What are you most looking forward to when you retire?
“When I retire, I am definitely looking forward to the alarm not going off at 5:00 AM every day!
“I really like going for walks and taking photographs. I have a photography business that I have alongside my full-time role driving so I am hoping to further that when I retire.
“I can’t wait to have a few months of relaxation and to see what I want to do next. I may come back and work part-time but I will have to wait and see!”
What will you miss most about the industry and the team at Shears?
“For sure, the thing I will miss most is the camaraderie between all the drivers, both at Shears and within the logistics industry as a whole.
“Everyone looks out for one another and we always have a good time together. I know when I retire, that will be the part of the job I miss most.
“But, as well as that, I will miss the freedom of getting out and about every day and seeing different parts of the country through the window of my truck. Like I say, I may come back part-time if I really do start to miss it too much!”
Finally, do you have any advice to people just starting their career in logistics?
“I’d say to anyone just starting out, whether they are a driver or office based, that there are so many opportunities and directions that this industry can provide.
“Starting as a temporary van driver, you can quickly work your way up to be driving the biggest vehicles on the road, and your skills are truly valuable.
“If there is a role you want in logistics, work hard and dedicate your time to getting there and the industry will reward you!”