Monday, 15 January 2018 GMT
Author: Staveley Head
It’s with great pleasure that we introduce Imtiaz (Charlie) Karolia as the deserving winner of the Trucker of the Year 2017 title.
We all know that trucking is more than just a job for drivers, it’s a community of passionate people who take pride in their work, ensuring that Britain’s economy keeps on ticking over. Throughout the year, in association with Trucking Mag, we have been searching for the Trucker of the Year 2017.
The trucking community certainly didn’t disappoint with their nominations with some brilliant entries being made in this year’s competition.
After searching through all the amazing nominations, it was decided that the title of Trucker of the Year 2017 goes to Imtiaz (Charlie) Karolia.
Imtiaz received over 30 nominations for bringing the trucking community together and doing some sterling charity work, raising money for some brilliant causes. He’s also the creator and admin of the Facebook community truckmate, which brings fellow truckers together for group meetings and charity events.
In their nominations, Imtiaz’s friends and colleagues described him as, “a big-hearted kind soul, who is a great ambassador for our industry” and an, “awesome bloke”. Praising him for his driving skills and continuous work in organising events for charity.
We caught up with Imtiaz to ask him how he feels about winning the competition.
How does it feel to be crowned Trucker of the Year 2017?
I feel absolutely fantastic to be crowned Trucker of the Year 2017. I’m still in shock if I’m being honest. Christmas has come early for me.
What were your initial thoughts when you found out you had won?
I really don't take calls from numbers I don't know; however, I saw it was from landline and decided to take the call, and when I was told I had won, I thought this is a wind up, and someone had put you up to this. But as the conversation went on, I realised this was no joke.
You’ve done plenty of charity work for a variety of fantastic causes. Can you tell us how this came about and why you think it’s important?
About 5 years ago my partner and I were attending an event in Batley, they were supposed to be raising money for various causes, however we were badly let down, and it was a no show. I got asked by a total stranger at that time, if I could set a charity event up, and me being me, I like a challenge, so I did and I looked at various causes. Yorkshire Air Ambulance appealed to me so that's what we did and basically it took from there.
The government should be doing this, but I am fully aware there is not enough money in the kitty for the government to support every charity organisation going, so we should, regardless of colour, creed or sex, play our part in helping the needy. It’s good for the soul, good for the causes and good for the community with everyone all coming together.
You also started the Facebook community Truckmate, can you tell us a little more about the group?
Some 2 years ago I hardly knew about or went on Facebook. It didn’t have much appeal to me. But when I did I would come out with the odd joke on a truck Facebook forum.
On this occasion on October 2015, I posted a funny joke on a truck forum and I was booted off that site, and when I asked the administrator of that site why I had been kicked off, his reply was, that they are a serious truck group trying to address the plight of the transport industry. I said, “you guys need to lighten up, the job is bad enough without you guys taking this gungho attitude”.
I was told that if that's how I feel then I had best create my own truck forum, and this I what did. In just 2 years we now have over 4, 226 members and it's still growing.
Why did you decide to become a trucker?
Back in early 1990s I applied for job as a truck washer, but I only had a full UK car licence. That was OK as I was washing trucks on private land. The company was called Carryfast/Haulfast but now called UPS.
I started washing the company reps cars and gradually, as the months went on I was asked to wash 7.5t trucks and so on. I was very inquisitive in those days and was fascinated with the artics coming and going as the drivers drop and swap trailers. After several months of being employed there I was asked if I fancied getting a unit hitching up to a trailer and putting it through the wash, bearing in mind I have never sat in a unit or driven one before. They all watched me, and I managed to get the unit through the wash.
Afterwards the transport manager came over and said, “you have an ability to drive, not only did you hitch a trailer as you should, but you got it off the bay and walked it, and in one go after washing the trailer put it back. You are a natural.” They then put me through my Class 1.
What is your favourite thing about the job?
My favourite thing about this job, believe it or not, is going to a delivery point where I have not been before. I also like driving my brand-new unit that I have been given (a Mercedes Actros 66 plate) and making new friends through this job.
Some the roads I have taken to a delivery point, the scenery has been simply breath taking and makes you proud to be an Englishman living in this great country of ours.
What’s the toughest thing about the job?
How little we truck drivers are thought off by the public, the near misses with car drivers and some truck drivers wanting your safety space that you’ve created. All we want is some respect. If you receive respect, in return we drivers will give it back.
What is day-to-day life like out on the road?
Day to day life of being a trucker is very challenging, you must have your wits about you every single second. The roads are clogged up, one minor incident can basically ruin your whole day with delays up on delays.
What are your plans next year? Will you be doing any more charity work?
We have just recently finished our fundraising event for Great Ormond Street Hospital. We raised in the excess of 5k in just under 5 months by pulling trucks at various TruckFest events.
2018 is going to be extremely busy for me and truckmate. The chosen charity for next year is the British Heart Foundation. I have various challenges that I am looking into to raise money for them.
The first event will be Saturday 7th April in Batley. We will be running a truck pull competition and have teams from the emergency services, a team from truckmateuk England, truckmateuk Scotland, JD sports physical instructors, Fitness first gym and there will be physical instructors and another 4 teams pulling trucks in a race to raise money for British Heart Foundation. I have been in touch with Mr Geoff Capes to make a guest appearance, he asked me to make him aware closer to time, as he runs his own academy. Mr Paul Smith, Britain's strongest man is also coming.
If you weren’t a trucker what do you think you’d be doing?
If I wasn’t a truck driver, I would dearly love to be a policeman. It’s something that I have always wanted and still do to a certain degree. However, in saying that, I do not regret what I have done which is becoming a truck driver. The friends that I have made, the respect I know I have and the trust the folks of truckmate have in me will tell you that.
What would your advice be for a future Trucker of the Year?
My advice to a future Trucker of the Year, would be to be proud of the job you do, be respectful, give it your all and that no one can doubt your commitment. Be proud of who you are, it's not an easy job, but you can make it easy by following your gut instincts.
I’d like to make a few thankyous, firstly this accolade would not have been possible without mentioning a few names who made it possible for me. The truck group truckmateuk, I based it on family values, regardless of your colour, your creed and your gender. Also, regardless of which company you drive for, be it Stobart’s, DHL, Wincanton’s or the company that I drive for which is Woodland Group.
In truckmate we are all equal and treated with respect. This achievement is even bigger than I thought, now I look at it from a different perspective. I am British born Muslim truck driver and to win this which is predominantly an all-male environment is a massive accolade, made possible by my family and friends of truckmateuk. Without these folks, I would just be another number, so I really do need to thank them for voting for me.
The three people that help run truckmateuk, Mr Steve Greenhlagh, Miss Lynda Day and Mr John Oliver, we are all drivers and put in lot of hours into truckmateuk , it's a truck group about enjoying your day whilst out carrying on with your daily task, we send jokes posts memes all day long, it's helps passes the day, and if one joke or one posts puts a smile on your face, we have done our job, because believe me this job, can send you loopy. We don't allow any racist or sexual posting, because in truckmate we have Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and many more faiths and religions.
I also need to thank my transport manager Mr Andy Knight for giving me the time to carry on with the charity work that we do, and my partner Susan who has stood by me with all the time I put into truckmateuk. I would also like to thank everyone who has helped with this year's charity truck pulls, without their help it would not have been possible.