Wiesław Starostka – a truck driver with a lot of experience
Wiesław "Wodzu" Starostka has been behind the wheel for 35 years. He is an experienced driver, but he is still open to new things, and he likes to use any opportunity available to him to try out other vehicles.
If you were to imagine truckers as modern cowboys, you wouldn't be disappointed to see Wiesław in an oilskin jacket with a cowboy hat and cowboy boots riding his old motorbike with sidecar. This historic vehicle normally stands in the garage of his employer, the Duhabex company from Trzebin. But today he has brought the vintage vehicle out into the daylight and started the engine. "I love motorbikes," says Wiesław. "That's the last driving test I took. I've had a Chopper for the last few years – I'll tell you more about that later."
Experience and keen instincts.
"Wodzu" ("chief") through and through. He got his nickname when he was working for his first boss in a fat-processing company in Trzebin. At Duhabex itself he works as head of the service department. The company used to provide 80 % of the public transport in Trzebin.
He often used to drive buses. He now has 35 years of work experience behind him. In that time, he's driven a number of different trucks.
"Young drivers have never driven equipment like that, so they don't appreciate just how much modern technology makes life easier for them and improves their driving comfort," says Wodzu with a wink.
"Wodzu" normally drives an Actros with a tanker semitrailer. Only occasionally does he drive with a soft-sided trailer. The first of these two types of vehicle is not one of the easiest. "This job requires experience and feeling," says Wiesław. "Particularly in bends and at roundabouts, you have to be really careful, whilst also always bearing in mind that your delivery deadline is binding," says the driver. "Fortunately, FleetBoard helps me to keep an eye on the most important statistics. In this system, each element of an assignment is monitored. It supplies me with lots of important information to do with the vehicle, upcoming maintenance checks or any worn part that needs replacing. That means I can concentrate on my work, and it also gives the boss peace of mind."
"Wodzu" is a master of the art of driving. He proves that with each manoeuvre he carries out. Although he is an old hand, he is still open to the new technologies that are available to him today. Sometimes he even expresses admiration for them. "The vehicles are so well-equipped you might think they can do pretty much everything. For example, the Actros has ideal safety systems that enable a full application of the brakes. A few years ago, that would have been unthinkable," he explains. "But all this technology can only help us if we use it intelligently. A driver shouldn't just have diesel in his veins, but should also keep on learning all their life."
Economical driving pays off.
They know that at Duhabex, which is why the company constantly offers training on the subject. It is also supported by Sobiesław Zasada Automotive, a dealership from Krakau-Modlnica in Krakow, that provides direct support to the company. "On the training courses, the drivers learn above all about driving economically. And with a fleet the size of ours, with 230 vehicles, each litre less of consumed fuel means a real gain. For the drivers, economical driving also benefits them, because they are paid a part of the saving as a bonus," says Wiesław.
Tomorrow, "Wodzu" is driving back to Holland. He works in a Duhabex centre there. He's normally away for four weeks, and then he comes back to Poland for a week. "At the site in Holland, I can rely completely on the support of my colleagues. The atmosphere is very cosy, like a family – and that's true of the whole company. Often, someone will cook something. When you've been driving for two days, you appreciate lunch with your workmates," he says. "And also, I feel at home in my Actros. I've got everything I need in the cab. Especially a comfortable bed and a fridge."
For someone who is so eager to discover the world, working as a truck driver – as hard as it is – has some clear advantages. "I've been fortunate that, in my 30 years behind the wheel, I've seen a lot of the world. I've always tried to see as much as possible, so as to make use of every moment available to me. Today, I spend a lot of my break times reading books."
The greatest problem for a professional driver is being separated from their family. That is why Wiesław has often taken his wife with him on his trips, and sometimes his daughters, even when they were only small girls. "The older one caught the bug," says "Wodzu" with a laugh. "She started off as my helper, and then she became a truck driver herself. Now she's got a daughter of her own, and fortunately she's chosen another line of work."
"Not every marriage can survive a job like this," says Wiesław. "Now I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. I've sold the chopper and bought us a yacht. For my next holiday, I've booked a cruise through Poland with my wife: we're going along the Gliwice Canal, through Kędzierzyn-Koźle and Opole all the way to Szczecin and back again. On the way we'll take time to see the sights and recharge our batteries. And we'll have time for each other, too. Plus I'll also get the chance to use my maritime sailing licence!"
Photos: Krzystof Skłodowski