7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 31, 2018

At the moment Leah Gattsche is responsible for delivering fertiliser for Shannon Bulk Haulage, but one day she hopes to be delivering babies instead! 

Photo: Life‘s for living and Leah Gattsche is certainly making the most of hers.

Leah‘s parents, Brian and Janelle Gattsche, own Shannon Bulk Haulage in the Horowhenua. Janelle says Brian has been a truck driver since he was 17. He got his his own truck at 21 and was contracted to Kevey‘s Transport under Opiki Linehaul, while at the same time carting spuds for the family farm in Opiki. He merged with Bulk Spreading Co Ltd in Shannon in the late 90s (at the time owned by Janelle‘s parents, Mel and Claudia Eveleigh) to form SBH. Brian and Janelle purchased the business outright in 2013.

Leah went to work for SBH in October last year, and her parents encouraged her to get her class 2 truck licence, which she passed in December “ W hen I was younger I enjoyed being with dad and getting to see everything, and I thought I would become a truck driver,” says Leah.

However, when she left school four years ago at the age of 17, she went to Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in Masterton to study dairy farming. “I was drawn to the rural study because I loved the outdoors,” says Leah. “ The course was one year long and I stayed in Masterton at the campus.” When the course finished Leah went and worked on a dairy and goat farm at Opiki in the Manawatu, but decided to move on after about three years. She says while in her teens her goal had been to work on a dairy farm, she soon realised she wanted more variety.

Photo: Leah‘s all eyes and focused on the job at hand as she swings the Hino around.

“I started looking for other jobs, but then the opportunity came up to work here [Shannon Bulk Haulage] and because transport has always been in my life it seemed like a good choice.

“ W hile truck driving I am also currently studying to become a midwife. I‘m in my first year and I have to do a year-long health science course before I can apply to train as a midwife, which will take three years of study. I‘m doing it extramurally but I go to Wellington every couple of months for a block course.

“ Truck driving is always something I know I will be able to come back to at any time and I can do it part-time for the next four years while I am studying.”

Photo: Loader skills and a steady eye on both truck and weight.

Photo: Minor adjustments.

Photo: Leah is well-practiced at covering loads of fertiliser.

With her class 2 licence under her belt, Leah now drives a 2006 Hino GT. She does spreading and quarry work, as well as loading trucks and undertaking other duties. She enjoys the spreading, saying it reminds her of her time spent working with dairy cows.

“Some people just sit in their office – I‘m in a truck and seeing different sights of the countryside all the time. It‘s beautiful really. A typical day for me involves checking over the truck before I get in and sort out the day ‘s plan. I go to the bulk store in Shannon and load it with fertiliser and then go to a farm and spread it.”

Leah has packed a lot into her 21 years and says she finds driving a spreading truck a lot of fun. “I was quite scared to start with but I like knowing I‘m capable of driving something that ‘s quite big on the road. Some people have known me since I was little and when I turn up in the truck they go, ‘you drive that? Whoa!‘ A lot of people are quite surprised.”

Leah may be slightly built, but she is quick to point out that any female could do the work she does.

“It can be challenging learning to drive the truck properly and fitting in tiny gates and trying to tarp the truck properly – my arms are quite weak! You can do it, it just takes a bit more time and effort and patience.

“I think women are a lot more cautious and a lot more aware of what ‘s going on, like the weather conditions. If it starts raining then the paddocks can be wet and it becomes slippery so you take more time.”

What with her job and study, Leah doesn‘t get a lot of time to herself, but when she does manage to find some free time she plays indoor netball and spends time with her Rottweiler, Sarge. “I also make time for friends and family amongst all that as I think that ‘s important.”

The next exciting step for Leah will be her Class 4 licence which she‘s due to go for at about the time this issue hits the shelves.

Photo: Not a bad workplace really.