Instances of the strange and whimsical on a motorway are few and memorable: A Toyota Corolla wrapped in leopard print, a single shoe (which sends one’s true crime-infected brain into a frenzy), and a sign warning that one is approaching a town that has ‘No Doctor, No Hospital, [and] One Cemetery’.
There are also the big, blue trucks with words of wisdom sign-written on their wide-load behinds in sans-serif all-caps.
These lower back-tattooed trucks of the State Highways encourage one to ‘Never Run Faster Than Your Guardian Angel Can Fly’ and ‘Make Your Dreams Come True’. But when did this all start? Do the drivers get to pick their mantras? And how many unique sayings are there?
I emailed Don Braid, the managing director of Mainfreight, with my questions. Before the hour was up I was blessed with a reply which encapsulated a head-in-the-clouds spirit I was not expecting from one of the people at the top of a $4.35 billion logistics company. Don asked, “Can I come back to you over the next few days? Just drifting and dreaming on holiday at the moment.” Absolutely, Don. Take your time.
In my impatience I did my own digging, which led me to a 12-year-old Facebook comment from Mainfreight that answered one of my many burning lines of enquiry. It explained that, as a driver, you have “a pool of quotations” to choose from, but if you have “a family motto or a credo that you live by (and it's not offensive) you [can] run it past your branch manager to get the thumbs up!”
Mainfreight, which started in Auckland 46 years ago and now operates in 26 countries, announced proudly on another post: “Our colour is blue. Not light blue, not dark blue, not navy blue. Mainfreight BLUE”. Which is, for the graphic designers out there, hexadecimal colour #246999 and has RGB values of R:36, G:105, and B:153. It’s as famed as International Klein Blue!
Facebook tidbits, however old, are surface-level digging. I needed to get my hands dirty. Ah-ha! I had found PDFs of the Mainfreight Team Reviews from 2009-2022; these offered some additional information, including the following: the sayings must be at least 70 mm in height and be readable by the third car in line behind the truck.
The Team Reviews also mentioned a ‘master list’ of all the pre-approved quirky quips that each branch manager had a copy of. I had to get my hands on this.
Eventually, Don stopped drifting and dreaming and replied to my email. He stated that The List has 850 mantras on it, and that they encourage their drivers “to change the sayings [on their trucks] frequently”. Don told me that these sayings have been on the backs of Mainfreight trucks since the company started in the late 1970s.
He also shared some heartbreaking news: this master list is a closely guarded secret. Evidently, this extensive, A4, multi-page, juicy document is more protected than the Epstein list.
Mainfreight phrases feel akin to those mic-drop moments you have in your diary. Years ago, after a break-up, I wrote: ‘you cannot touch me, I am in another universe.’ At the time, I had this phrase screen-printed onto a silk slip. If only I had had access to the back of a truck… I emailed Don back recommending that my motto join the family. It felt right up his alley.
In lieu of The List, I returned my attention to the Team Review PDFs to create the most exhaustive Excel spreadsheet of moving (physically and emotionally) self-help book-esque quotations that I could.
All of this I did to bring you, finally, my top 10 Mainfreight wisdoms:
1. Your children need your presence more than your presents.
2. All children deserve to be loved.
3. Aim for the stars.
4. When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.
5. A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
6. Take time to watch the sunset.
7. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
8. Always keep your word.
9. The secret to getting ahead is getting started.
10. The best is yet to come.
And, for good measure, here are my bottom two. In my opinion, they needn’t reappear on any new vehicles:
1. Don’t stop when you are tired, stop when you are done.
2. The only thing worth stealing is a kiss from a sleeping child.
A list of 850 sayings would create two years’ worth of 365-day desk calendars (and then some). Don’t worry, I’ve already made the suggestion to Drifting, Dreaming Don.
Until then, ‘Listen To Your Mother’, ‘The World is Your Oyster’, and do let me know if you see a dreamy, blue truck with ‘You Cannot Touch Me, I am in Another Universe’ tattooed proudly on its backside.