WOMEN IN TRANSPORT – Spreading the word

8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 7, 2017

Two Higgins drivers want to encourage other women to join the transport industry, saying it‘s no longer just for the boys.

Although the hours can be long, Philippa enjoys the challenges that
driving throws up. “Women are just as capable of getting these skills.”

Philippa Beck‘s background wasn‘t in truck driving, she previously worked with horses and in landscape gardening.

“I did my OE in my early twenties and when I came back I started up my own landscape contracting business and did that for 20 years.”

After breaking her shoulder, Philippa decided a change of direction was needed.

“I wanted to upskill and started learning to drive trucks so I could do that as a career. I had done a lot of labouring work and wanted to learn how to operate heavy machinery and trucks, work my way up and get my truck and trailer licence.”

Philippa started driving trucks in about 2012 for Goodman‘s Contracting.

“I was a labourer/truck driver and started off driving Hydrema dumpers and rollers and water trucks. I worked for them for 18 months on the wind farm at Makara and the start of the expressway.”

Philippa had a break, heading to Western Australia to spend time with her son. While there she got her forklift and passenger licences and did some charter and school bus driving.

Upon her return Philippa did some temp work for traffic management and Fliways, before getting a job at Higgins‘ quarry at Linton, driving water trucks and dumpers. Wanting a job closer to her home in Otaki, she transferred to a job at Higgins in Levin last year.

“I wanted to get back on the road driving and complete my Class 5 licence, which I passed in August, and get more experience.”

Since taking on her new role, Philippa has learned about chain spreading, hot mixing, and traffic control, and done a bit of labouring.

“I‘ve got my wheels, tracks and rollers licence too. I‘ve now got more experience and load my own trucks with gravel using the loader, and I‘ve been driving a 19-tonne digger up at the tip site. I quite enjoy the road finishing. I‘ve been in landscape gardening all my life and enjoy learning how to finish roads and drainage, using all the different materials.”

In her spare time, Philippa enjoys getting out and riding her Triumph motorcycle, and she also does Western horse riding.

Megan Harrison with the 2015 Hino 300 she drives for Higgins.

Megan Harrison was looking for a full-time job when she began a truck driving course in Feilding in 2013.

“I had worked in cafes and restaurants and done commercial cleaning, then after I had my boy I was a solo mother. I liked café work but it wasn‘t full time, so when he went to college I decided it was time to get a full-time job and I went on the truck driving course.”

Megan says her family weren‘t very encouraging, pointing out she had never driven a manual vehicle before, but if anything, that spurred her on and she successfully completed the course.

“I learned to drive in an auto but learned to drive a manual van on the course. After I finished I went to AWF (Allied Work Force Group) and they got me a job at Fulton Hogan. I worked there for about one and a half years until they lost the contract and I started working for Higgins.”

Megan works long hours, often more than 40 hours a week, in all weathers. As part of the maintenance crew at Higgins, she does a bit of everything, such as sump tops, culvert inspections, etc.

“I make a note of everything I see that needs to be fixed on local roads and side roads. I also repair pot holes and do some traffic control when required.”

As well as learning to drive a truck, Megan has also had to come to grips with new technology.

“I have a tablet to work off and my jobs come through that, so it‘s good to learn the new technology.”

As a solo mother, Megan says it is important for her to be working.

“It‘s good to have a full-time job and for my son to see me doing it. However this is not an easy job for someone who has kids, you‘ve got to start pretty early in the morning so you can‘t take your kids to school. I also feel a bit guilty as I don‘t spend as much time with my son as I‘d like because I‘m always working, even through school holidays as well.”

While Megan is happy in her current role and recently completed her full Class 2 licence, she does want to gain more experience with wheels, tracks and rollers.

Megan drives a 2015 Hino 300. While Philippa usually drives a 2003 Hino FS, every now and then she‘s lucky enough to find herself behind the wheel of a 2014 Hino 700.

Both women enjoy their jobs, especially being by themselves and having the responsibility to get the job done.

“I like the challenges of driving safely and getting the job done on time,” says Philippa. “Even though it‘s long hours, it‘s nice to be in that environment. You have to be organised with your home life – early to bed, early to rise. You have got to believe in yourself even if some people make you doubt your ability to learn. Women are just as capable of getting these skills. You‘ll be fine as long as you‘re reliable.”