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40 years as a tramper

Dave Compton

From a 4-wheel Dodge to a 650 Scania – Dave Compton has seen our fleet change significantly in his 40 year career with us. We asked him to share some of his experiences.

Dave has been a “tramper” for 40 years. A tramper typically drives long distances and rather than returning to base to rest, they sleep in their cab. At Gregory Group, trampers typically work four days and then have four days off.

Why is this job for you?

I love driving – the longer the distance the better! I get a real sense of accomplishment when I reach my destination without any issues. Having started my career without satnavs I know the UK roads inside out.

I am also Gregory through and through. I live a stones throw away from the yard and have always felt part of the family. I always knew, if I had an idea, or even wanted some advice about something outside of work, I could go to Mr Jack Gregory. I am immensely proud of the company I work for, where we have come from, and the reputation we have built.

Tell us about your early days

I knew Gregory Group as a kid. My father already drove for Gregory so I’d often join him on his routes.  Mr Gregory always told me that he’d guarantee me a driving job once I passed my test. So that’s what I did and he stuck to his word. I started my career transporting agricultural feed on a 4-wheel Dodge in the 80s.

Back then, I didn’t have a bed to sleep in. I have vivid memories of sleeping across the seats and using the bags of dog food I was delivering to stop me rolling off!

In 1985 I got a proper bed! Though the cab still didn’t have heaters and given a lot of our work was transporting goods to Scotland, it could get pretty cold in the Winter! So much so that there would be times when we’d have to run the engine just to stay warm.

The way to learn back then was to watch and ask questions. We had some very experienced drivers and I’d siphon off their knowledge whenever I saw them. They taught me a huge amount.

Of course there were no phones then, but we still needed to communicate. I had a little book which I recorded the location of all the phone boxes I came across whilst travelling. And the other drivers would do the same and we’d swap notes. If I wanted to communicate with another driver who I knew was heading in the same direction as me, with the same stops, I’d ask the forklift driver to pass on a message for me. And they did. We were a real community.

What are some of your fondest memories?

My first real long distance driving. I remember being given instructions on a corner of an envelope and then heading from Cornwall to Aberdeen with Ambrosia products. Then I had to collect potatoes from farms across Scotland and return them to Cornwall. Those long-haul drives where you are just left to work it out for yourself gave me a huge sense of achievement.

Dave Compton - heritage vehicle

For a 5  year period I also transported muscles from the Brixham fish markets to Holland. Travelling to Europe was a whole new experience and one that I really enjoyed. I’d often drive overnight – leaving Holland at midnight and arriving at my destination in the UK the next afternoon. I also had to learn the laws and processes for driving in Europe. For example, you have to buy your own road tax for each day that you’re there. These extra elements made it a really interesting job.

I also have fond memories of the early days when we’d return to base. Without phones or technology, word of mouth was the way Mr Gregory did business. He’d come and sit in our cabs and quiz us on everything we’d seen whilst on shift. He’d then piece together all the information and know exactly what our customers and competitors were doing and where the opportunities might be!

I’m also very proud to drive the centenary 650 Scania truck. I’ve always taken great pride over my vehicles – given I live so locally, it’s not unheard of for me to pop in on my day off and give my truck a polish! It is a great honour to drive the truck that celebrates our heritage.

What are the key skills you need to be a tramper?

Firstly, you have to really enjoy your own company… and driving of course! But whilst you need to cope on your own, you also have to be a real people person, ensuring the customer always receives a good service. The relationships you build up are often what makes that customer loyal. You, and your truck, are the face of your company – taking pride in how you present to a customer is really important.

Thank you

Thank you to Dave for sharing his story and congratulations on reaching your 40-year milestone.

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