Village School teacher to discuss memoir on seven years as a long-haul trucker

George Bennett, author of “Into the Distance: The Lost World of Long-Haul Trucking,

George Bennett, author of “Into the Distance: The Lost World of Long-Haul Trucking," will discuss his book during an event at Royalston Town Hall this Friday at 7 p.m. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

George Bennett's book, “Into the Distance: The Lost World of Long-Haul Trucking” looks at his seven years driving a truck across Britain, Scotland and the Middle East.

George Bennett's book, “Into the Distance: The Lost World of Long-Haul Trucking” looks at his seven years driving a truck across Britain, Scotland and the Middle East. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-11-2024 5:00 PM

ROYALSTON – This Friday, Village School history teacher George Bennett will share stories from the roads of Britain, Scotland and the Middle East as he discusses his recently-published book, ”Into the Distance: The Lost World of Long-Haul Trucking.”

The presentation will take place at Royalston Town Hall, 13 The Common, beginning at 7 p.m.

In October of last year, the UK’s Troubador Books released the book,an account of Bennett’s seven years driving tractor-trailers throughout England, Scotland and Wales, across the European continent, and across the Middle East. Among those who encouraged Bennett to pen the memoir was his daughter, Laura, who accompanied him on a couple of trips to Romania.

Bennett began driving the big trucks – or lories, as they’re called in Great Britain – after completing his master’s degree in American politics in the early 1970s.

“I started out driving all over Britain, all over the UK, doing local work,” he said. “I was just driving in and out of north Wales; I was a part of the local community. I brought in (to Wales) equipment, feed and stuff for farmers, and I took out the cheese that they produced for export. I rather enjoyed that, but I always wanted to drive abroad.”

After more than a year driving between England and Wales, Bennett signed on with a company that served clients in Western Europe.

“We did a lot in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, occasionally to Austria,” he said. “In 1978, I was stuck in northern Italy with a broken-down truck at the customs area. While I was staying at a hotel while work was being done on my truck I met a couple of guys who did Middle East work.”

Bennett said he had wanted to work in the Middle East for quite some time. At the age of 18, before entering university, he said he hitchhiked to India, “which a lot of people did in those days. And I’d seen some very pioneering British trucks on the dockside in Istanbul and I said, ‘I could do that.’ And so I did end up getting a job driving in the Middle East.”

His first trip, said Bennett, was from central England to Dubai, a distance of about 4,000 miles, which is where the book begins.

“I got stuck in the middle of the desert because on my first trip I broke down several times,” Bennett said. “After that, I spent about a year in the Middle East. I did trips to Iraq, trips to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and trips to Dubai. But it didn’t earn me enough money.”

At the time, Bennett explained, he had a family of five to support, and went back to work for the company that served western Europe. That company’s markets had, however, expanded a bit.

“Just as I started there, they started getting a lot of work to Romania, which was behind the very iron Iron Curtain in those days – this was 1980,” he said. “(President Nicolae) Ceausescu was there. East Germany was East Germany, and when you came out of East Germany they put a dog in your cab to smell out any people you might be carrying. As you went across the border, you had to go under a structure that had a couple of people standing on it who made sure nobody cut a hole in your trailer. This happened in Czechoslovakia as well as East Germany.”

Every time he traveled to Romania, said Bennett, he had to pay a fine.

“The axles on my truck were wrongly configured and there was a woman who would always threaten me with a thousand Deutschmark fine, which is a lot of money,” he said. “So, I’d give her 200 Kent cigarettes and everything was fine. For some reason beyond understanding, Kent cigarettes were a prize.”

The only time he wasn’t threatened with this fine, said Bennett, was when he was accompanied by then-6-year-old Laura, which the woman who did the inspections was “delighted” with.

“She showed my daughter Laura how to stamp the paperwork and Laura had a lovely time,” he said. “The woman forgot all about the axles.”

After his time as a trucking came to a close, Bennett worked as a journalist who tested and wrote about trucks. He eventually became the editor and owner of two magazines that specialized in the trucking and transport industries. Upon selling his publishing company, Bennett taught for two years in London, after which he moved to the United States. He has taught history at The Village School for the past 20 years.

Copies of Bennett’s book will be available for purchase during Friday’s event, which is sponsored by Friends of the Phinehas S. Newton Library. For more information, contact the library at 978-249-3572 or

Greg Vine can be reached at