Lewis Clotworthy has been in the heavy haulage industry for most of his career. And for much of this time he has worked as a steady and loyal servant for the industry. While others around him shouted and blustered, Lewis quietly and steadily got things done. BY MARY SEARLE BELL.
Everyone I spoke to about Lewis said the same thing – Lewis was always there. Always reliable. He was at all the association meetings, board meetings, the committee meetings, and conferences. He was always focused on the issues at hand, always doing what was necessary to advance the position of the industry.
The antithesis of your stereotypical heavy haulier, Lewis is not loud or flamboyant. He’s not one to tell tall stories or crack dubious jokes. His nature is more reserved. Yet, he is always friendly, and was well liked as a president of the Heavy Haulage Association.
His easy-going personality belies his focus and dedication to the task at hand. For that is where he excels. Association chief executive Jonathan Bhana-Thompson says Lewis could always be relied on to get things done how they should be.
“He has an eye for detail. He made sure the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed. And in everything he did, he put the industry first. He always had the interests of the association at heart.”
Gavin Riley, past editor of this magazine, describes Lewis as “a very important figure in heavy haulage history”, having served the industry association as its president twice.
“He was a very popular president, very laid back,” says Gavin, who regularly attended association meetings throughout the ’80s and ’90s. “He was always enthusiastic about heavy haulage matters.”
Lewis’ career in the industry began in 1968 when he was employed by Stevensons as a truck driver. Prior to this he had trained as a panel beater.
“Back in those days your parents made you do a trade, so I did a panel beating apprenticeship,” Lewis told Contractor. But a neighbour who drove for Stevensons took Lewis out in his truck and he was hooked.
“I liked trucks,” he says simply. “So I started with Stevies at age 21 and stayed with them for nearly 50 years.”
After a few years of driving, Jack Stevenson asked Lewis to move into the transport office as transport supervisor to look after the trucks. Four years later Bill Stevenson made him transport manager.
That was 1979, and the first year he went to a Heavy Haulage Association meeting.
“I got on to the committee that year – it must have been easy in those days,” he jokes.
He served on the executive for 20 years. He was vice president in 1984-85, and held the office of president in 1986-90 and again in 1993-94. In addition, he was on the Axle Weights and Loading Advisory Committee for 25 years, from 1982 to 2007.
At the same time, he also served on the Road Transport Association and the Road Transport Forum, and was with the Franklin Road Transport Association (which later merged with the Auckland/Northland regional RTA) for 25 years. He received life memberships of all three organisations.
And there’s more: He was on the board of Contrafed Publishing (which produces this magazine) for over 10 years. He was also with the now defunct Commercial Road Users Association for a number of years, serving them as president for three, and also served the Ready Mixed Concrete Association.
“Stevensons encouraged its staff to be involved with associations,” Lewis explains. “We were a small player in the industry, really. Our fleet was for our own equipment mostly – carrying gear between our quarries, mines and workshops.”
Notably, Crelin Keig says Lewis “didn’t work for his own company’s interests but for the association’s”.
Crelin says this is what qualified Lewis for life membership of the Heavy Haulage Association (given in 1996 at age 49, the youngest ever to receive this honour) and why in 2002 he was awarded the Gus Breen Memorial Award for outstanding achievement in the industry.
“He gave an enormous amount of time to the association,” says Crelin. “He was always very well informed because of his position on the Axle Weights and Loading committee – he knew what was going to happen and how it would affect the industry.
“He was a good chairman. Impartial. And there was no wasted time in meetings. We always finished on time and there was no waiting around for idle chatter. But this didn’t mean he wasn’t friendly,” says Crelin.
“As chairman, he led by example. Everything was done by the book – there were no shortcuts. If that was the law, then that was the way you did it.
“I liked him,” says Crelin. “I liked the way he operated. I liked the way he ran meetings. He was open to motions from the floor and would let people speak as long as they stuck to business.”
Crelin says this focus on doing things properly was key to Lewis’ success as president.
“Lewis’ philosophy was, ‘if you wanted something changed, you impressed the authorities with the weight of your argument.’ He wasn’t one for rallies and loud protests and shouting, he would always go through the proper channels.”
For Lewis, the highlights of his presidencies with the Heavy Haulage Association include taking over the pilot process. “We worked to get what they have today, which is a great thing,” he says.
“Getting the housemovers to join the association was a big achievement personally,” he says. “We had a meeting in Wairakei in 1979 to discuss them joining, and they did within four years.
“And Winston Martyn and I set up the original Permit paper, and that was quite worthwhile too,” he adds.
However, Lewis is reticent about his achievements, blaming a poor memory, and downplaying his years of dedication and service.
“You have to make sure you do the job properly for the members who’ve elected you and make their jobs as easy as possible.”
But now, after 48 years in the industry Lewis has retired. Well, almost. Officially, he retired from Stevensons in June but is still working seven or eight hours a week “tidying up bits and pieces”.
He now has more time to spend with his wife Lynette in their new house in Tuakau, South Auckland (“it’s actually in Waikato”), and with his two young grandsons in Auckland and two teenaged granddaughters in Brisbane.
The endless meetings are being replaced with indoor bowls, walking, cooking and baking, and watching rugby. However, the friends he made throughout his time with the association haven’t been forgotten.
“I intend to stay in touch,” he says. “And attend the heavy haulage conference when it’s in the North Island.”
And if Lewis says so, you can be sure he will.