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Feature Article

Challenging boundaries

According to 26-year-old NZ Express driver Samantha Fraser, the only barrier to women getting into the trucking industry is themselves.

“To the women out there who think they can’t drive a truck, they definitely can,” says Samantha. “It’s just about pushing yourself and challenging your boundaries.”

Samantha started at NZ Express five years ago with a Class 2 learner’s licence, “looking for better work stories”. She now holds a Class 5 licence, drives a 16.5T FUSO HD tractor with side loader, and loves the variety her job offers.

“What I enjoy most about the industry is that I get to see different places and different faces every day; I’m not stuck in the same office and there are always new challenges,” says Samantha, who previously worked in a café bakery.

“I was encouraged into the industry by my now husband and my best friend of 16 years. They would come in for lunch with some awesome stories – I wanted some of my own for a change!”

Equal to the challenge, Samantha has taken everything in her stride since changing careers; however, she is also grateful for the support and encouragement she has received along the way.

“My older colleagues have been amazing with encouraging me and teaching me how to become a better driver. If you show people that you are keen to learn, there will be people out there who will definitely help you and push you through it.

“The hardest part for me was probably learning how to use the 18-speed Roadranger. Nowadays it’s all switching to automatic, so that’s becoming less of an issue.

“Reversing the trailer was another thing that I pushed myself to make sure I could do – now I love it!”

Samantha says that having a supportive employer is also crucial to making it in the industry.

“There are six other female drivers at NZ Express; we are all encouraged and pushed to our full potential.”

The Christchurch-based company, which specialises in a range of transport solutions for the Canterbury region, currently has 65 full-time staff on its books; 23 of them are women.”

Operations manager Mat Bruce says that “aptitude and attitude” are the key qualities required of employees.

“We believe that anyone can be trained in a suitable position if they have those qualities,” says Mat. “We are big on training and have cadetship programmes in place to help people develop as far as they want to go. Ultimately, having a diverse workforce offers us flexibility.”

Mat’s advice to other employers looking to diversify their workforce is to broaden their search.

“There are lots of enthusiastic and capable women in other industries. We’ve had employees come from a range of sectors and while they might not have any transport experience when they arrive, some of them are now our top drivers earning top dollars.

“I’d definitely encourage any woman who has a passion for trucks or transport to give it a go.”

Samantha’s continued development as a driver and her sense of achievement and value are a case in point.

“I believe women are valued in this industry. I feel valued every day,” says Samantha. “There are more and more women joining the industry; my mum just got her Class 2! You just need to push yourself and find an employer that would love to have you on their team.”

 

HD FP1641 Tractor

GVM/GCM: 16,500kg/40,000kg

Power/Torque: 301kW/202Nm

Transmission: 12-spd AMT

Wheelbase: 3,800mm

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