Talking with truckers in the Middle Kingdom

By: Greg Bush, Photography by: Greg Bush


Chinese truck drivers have much in common with their Australian counterparts.

Talking with truckers in the Middle Kingdom
Owner-driver Jhaou, right, with fellow trucker Xi.

 

As in Australia, trucking is big business in China.

Its intercity express highways have a regular parade of long-distance trucks hauling goods to all corners of the nation.

Around an hour out of Shanghai is situated one of the country’s many logistics parks, or truck parks, which are dotted around China.

This one in particular, just off the G15 Expressway, has room enough for up to 350 trucks. It appeared spacious enough, with the hundreds of trucks neatly parked while the truckers (as they’re referred to in China) either took a break, or spent time scouting for work.

Surprisingly, when Owner//Driver visited, it was explained that this truck park was around 20 times smaller than most other similar facilities around China. In fact, a typical logistics park in China has room for up to 12,000 trucks.

The big attraction at the ‘junior’ logistics park on this particular day was the arrival of the Shell Rimula Trucker Roadshow. The event offers entertainment and advice to truck drivers through a  number of interactive displays.

Around 60 per cent of truckers in China are owner-drivers, and there was an array of Chinese-built trucks parked up at this Shanghai logistics park: Fotons, JACs, and FAWs being the prominent brands around.

With the help of an interpreter, Owner//Driver caught up with owner-driver Jhaou, who drives a 210hp (154.5kW) Chinese-built FAW truck, with his regular run from Shanghai south to Guangzhou and back again.

It’s a 1,700km trip one-way for Jhaou, and although his family lives between the two cities, he says he catches up with them once a week at the most, sometimes only once a month, depending on business demands.

Jhaou has been driving trucks for eight years and, as he says, "so far, so good".

Like most of his long-haul Australian counterparts, he sleeps in the truck’s cab. If there’s a two-up driver, the truck will keep moving; if not, he kips in the back while parked at a roadhouse. To save money, Jhaou brings his own food.

It’s not uncommon for Chinese truckers to drive a minimum of 16 hours, or 2,000km on each run.

The salary they earn is based on the loads they carry. Owner-drivers are considered well-paid in China, bringing in an average of US$50,000 (A$46,800) a year.

It’s a much more attractive deal than being an employee driver for a large fleet, and there’s the flexibility that comes with it.

Owner-drivers in China are often particular on when, where and what they haul. If they’re not happy with the loads offered, they’ll bide their time until a more acceptable load becomes available.

The authorities pose little concern to the truckers; unlike Australia, regulations covering the transportation of goods are minimal.

On the other hand, long distance buses are not permitted to travel on intercity highways between midnight and dawn.

See the August edition of Owner//Driver for the full story on the trucking scene in China.

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