On 7 July, the Suffolk-based Scania dealer took the opportunity to present Keeling with his long service award in an outdoor celebration; together with his colleagues and a stunning collection of vehicles he has worked with over the years.
Managing Director John Biggin commented: “50 years of service is a truly momentous milestone for Dave to achieve and I am delighted to present him with this award on behalf of TruckEast and wish him the best with his imminent retirement.”
Joining, what was then Scantruck in the summer of 1971, David Keeling began his journey with the Scania brand as an apprentice technician straight out of school only one year after the Stowmarket branch had opened.
At the heart of it, the role of an apprentice sounds the same today as it was back then – shadowing an experienced technician, get given the fundamental tasks at the beginning and then learn as you go. But the details about what Dave did in comparison to today gives a tiny insight into how a technician’s role has evolved over five decades. “The first six months I was buddied with a welder, I assisted with drilling the chassis and fitting headboards. Trucks didn’t arrive from the factory ready to go. We’d always have about a week worth of work on each unit and there was a lot of fabrication involved,” reminisced Keeling.
“When I look back over the years in general, I’d sum the changes up by saying it used to be a slower pace of life. But that could be said about everything though, not just our industry,” he added.
It is safe to say that the demanding and fast-paced industry may have changed over the last half a century, but when discussing with Keeling the biggest factor he quickly states is the vehicles themselves.
“They’ve changed so much. When I first started, there were still some of the Vabis 76 around. The cab didn’t even tip over, so as you can imagine getting to the parts was such hard work.”
“Through each generation of trucks, each cab has taken that big step forward. And that’s something for technicians to adjust to as well as operators and drivers. The advancements in the trucks are huge. Scania has always been on top of their game; I suppose you might say I’m always going to be biased towards Scania, but I really believe it,” he commented.
Stowmarket is the oldest serving branch within TruckEast, one which takes the company’s history back fifty-one years. This makes Keeling the first to hit the highest company milestone yet; something quite rare in the industry for a technician, and in this case not just within the same company but at the same branch as well.
“People keep mentioning the 50 years, and I just think, where’s the time gone! I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve met some amazing people over the years who have been like family. I’ve definitely liked being part of a team and how the work becomes instinctive. It’s pretty surreal that I’ve done 50 years,” Keeling concluded.
As a business, TruckEast offers long service awards on ten-year milestones up to 50 years. Over the last 18 months alone, that has included 21 individuals within the business.