SOME of the happiest days of my life have been spent driving a truck driving through Europe.
Every week I stocked up on brake parts for my father’s haulage business and hit the road.
If I left South Wales at nine in the evening, I could get off the totally empty M4, then continue to the M25 and take a ferry back to the Channel for 2 a.m.
With endless amounts of coffee and music, I would drive hundreds of miles to automakers in Italy, Germany, Belgium or Spain, where I would drop the cargo before heading back to Blighty and starting all over again.
For someone in their early twenties from a sleepy town outside of Newport, it was an epic sense of adventure and the chance to see the world.
The pay was not bad either. Not quite the salary of an MP, but I earned a lot more than my comrades who worked in Newport.
And sleeping four nights a week in the truck meant I wasn’t spending a lot of money.
It wasn’t always easy trying to doze off in a cramped cab on a cold night, but the camaraderie with the other truckers helped us along the way.
Life on the road meant there were definitely a few scuffs nearby.
Before the advent of the single market, I once had to cross the Belgian border into France after a confusion with the papers.
It still makes me laugh when I look back.
Another time, I had a weird night out on the grounds of a WWI battlefield after skimping in a parking lot.
But the brutal nature of the job taught me all kinds of skills, and I quickly learned the ropes.
While the Fiat forklift drivers in Turin were incredibly helpful, the ones in Milan would only help you unload if you put a five in their back pocket.
And for someone so young, I was given a huge responsibility, being given hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment that had to be delivered on time.
The only real downside was the snobbery. People looked down on truckers and treated too many of us like talentless oiks.
For many on both sides of the Channel, we were poorly qualified, lacked ambition and probably a bit grubby.
The only real downside was the snobbery. People looked down on truckers and treated too many of us like talentless oiks
Some snoots were so horrified when we got to their warehouses that they didn’t even let us use the restroom.
The time that I was given a cup of tea with a saucer was so royally rare that it will stay with me forever. (Thanks Bewley’s Tea Dublin) Britain faces a shortage of delivery drivers – and if we are to recruit more, that attitude MUST change.
Solving the problem in the long term will start by making the work proud again.
The next generation of truckers who step up in our hour of need will be like NHS heroes during the pandemic.
Delivery drivers are the backbone of our country. Without them, you can say goodbye to the era of 24-hour deliveries, be it gasoline or Nando’s chicken.
It also means telling our children that for some it is worth and okay not to go to college.
When I left school at 18, the last thing I wanted was more textbooks – and getting my truck license1 was a much better path.
Nowadays there is too much pressure on teens to go to college – we have to banish the mindset that you have to have a degree to get in life.
Now more than ever, they should be thinking about practical options – and in trucking you get good skills, good responsibilities, and a lot of money.
Haven’t received my letter from Boris yet and love being an MP – but I would never rule it out
Companies must finally pay the decent wages that delivery drivers deserve, after having used cheap foreign labor for too long.
It would be a Brexit betrayal if we tried to solve the current crisis by hiring foreign workers at minimum wage without tapping our local potential.
That is why I am proud to support Boris and the government in building the highly skilled, high wage economy demanded by the 2016 referendum vote.
So let’s go to trucking.
I now look back on my time behind the wheel with nothing but great memories and would definitely recommend it.
So will I be back on the road someday?
I have yet to receive my letter from Boris and I love being an MP, but I would never rule it out.