“My interest in trucks started when I was a little girl,” says Tutai, who was born in New Zealand and grew up in the Cook Islands.
“I went to college with a friend, whose father was working for Mainfreight. We used to sit in his truck and pretend we were going somewhere – we’d always say we’d one day be truck drivers.”
“Sadly, two years later that same friend passed away in a truck – he was a passenger and the driver fell asleep at the wheel. Shortly after, I fell pregnant and life just got in the way, but I always knew I’d eventually pursue my goals.”
Tutai says her burning desire to join the industry grew even more after the accident; she felt it her mission to chase the dream she had imagined with her friend and wanted to “make him proud”.
After spending a few years in the hospitality industry and gaining invaluable people and service skills, it was time for a career change.
Inspired by a female friend working as a driver for Carr and Haslam, Tutai decided to take the leap and try something new.
“I started off at Carr and Haslam as a store person, but I always knew I wanted to drive one of the big 10-tonne trucks. I decided to go out on my own and get my Class-2 licence – as soon as Chris [Carr] found out I’d done that, he gave me a brand-new truck to drive!”
By showing that she was hard-working and willing, Tutai says it encouraged Chris to develop her in the role.
“It’s an awesome industry and I’m just mind-blown to have been given the opportunity. If you’ve got the passion and drive, and you love what you do, then you’re not going to have any problems.”
Encouraging more women to follow suit and realise their dreams, she says the best advice she can give is to “just go for it; set a goal and go for it.”
“Many women perceive this as a man’s industry, but what makes it a man’s industry? Seeing other female drivers gave me the push I needed to take the first step – it’s as easy as that.”
Looking forward to growing her career in the sector, Tutai says she’s already got her heart set on working through the licensing tiers and travelling to more places in the process.
“It’s an amazing feeling to pursue something you’re passionate about!”
Now Tutai is passing that passion to a new generation.
“I took my 16-year-old daughter out with me in the truck the other day and she said it had inspired her to follow in my footsteps, which I reckon is pretty great!”