Willem-Jan: ‘A long-distance lorry driver’s life is a strange one, but full of adventure!’
Every day, you meet different people. Every day, you eat in a different restaurant. Every day, you travel different roads. Every day, the weather is different. No two days are the same, and that, in short, is why Willem-Jan opted at the age of 21 for a career as a long-distance lorry driver. And to this day, he is grateful that he has been able to pursue this challenging job at Meeus Transport.
No shortage of adventures: Willem-Jan never runs out of stories about the great times he has had on the road. As we speak, he is in Nantes, France. Willem-Jan: ‘I am constantly amazed at how beautiful the French countryside is: the scenery, the mountains you pass on your way. Around Christmas time, there is a great atmosphere in the air, with cheerful little towns beautifully decorated – there are Christmas trees everywhere, full of lights and ornaments’.
Going on an adventure
Times change, even on the road to France. ‘Before, there was no such thing as a navigation system. You just had to mark out the route to Bordeaux on the map, and if you got stuck, ask the local baker. Or a passer-by, who would then lead you the rest of the way in his car. Then I would wave and toot my horn, and I’d pulled it off again! Those were the days…just taking the plunge and seeing what happened. Every new trip was exciting! Nowadays, things are much easier. You follow the navigation system, and download an app where you can see all the roadside restaurants in France. In the morning, I already know where I’ll be eating that evening. That’s how it goes!’
Whistle while you work
What does a Meeus driver’s working week look like? ‘About 95% of my trips are to France. I’m there four or five days a week. As a driver, you have a lot of freedom, but you have to be able to cope with the loneliness during the day. You are on your own in your cab. In principle, I can do what I want. Have a coffee break when I feel like it. Go for a walk. Pop out for some shopping – I have even sometimes gone to the barber. But you have to make it work for yourself. I have some colleagues who just spend days on end sitting in the cab, but that’s not my style. I like to get out and about: looking for an adventure, going on beautiful walks and taking photos to show the family back home. Reading the newspapers my mother saves up, and gives me to take with me every week’. And because it looks like Willem-Jan is going to arrive at his destination early today, he can have some fun. ‘We drive as efficiently as possible, and mostly on the motorways. We hardly see the old roads any more. But if, like now, there’s time to spare, I can take the low road. And whistle while I work!’
You choose this kind of job if you like to be on the road. But it is also the contact with other drivers, and the hospitality of the people of France that mean Willem-Jan still enjoys his work. ‘Hey, Willem, long time no see!’ is a shout he hears every now and then. ‘Because I’ve been doing this job such a long time, other drivers know me by sight or by repute. We sit together and exchange stories while enjoying a delicious salad buffet followed by a main course, cheeseboard and dessert. And, of course, with a good bottle of wine on the side. In the Netherlands, people sit at the dinner table with their phones in their hands, but here you can still feel the sense of togetherness.’
Well-groomed on the road
By this time, Willem-Jan has worked out how to have a good work-life balance. ‘A lot of people visualize a driver on the road as sloppy, dressed in jogging pants. Not this driver! I like to stick to my morning routine: taking a refreshing shower and cleaning my teeth. I know plenty of drivers who like to go to work in a tidy shirt and sweater. But, of course, I also see the other side of the coin: drivers who get out of their cab looking like they just got out of bed. That’s not for me, but each to his own!’ Although Willem-Jan is away from home a lot during the week, he still manages to find a good work-life balance with his family. ‘Nowadays you can contact your wife and children by phone, app, Facebook…it’s much easier now to keep in touch. To be able to let each other know how your day is going, I like that!’