Women truck drivers in demand

DRIVING FORCE: Alana Kidd, 42, abandoned nursing training to play her part in Canterbury’s rebuild as a tip-truck driver
DRIVING FORCE: Alana Kidd, 42, abandoned nursing training to play her part in Canterbury’s rebuild as a tip-truck driver

Women are being called on to help ease a Canterbury truck driver drought.

The New Zealand Trucking Association said the region's rebuild was short 500 "suitably experienced and qualified" truckies and women and school leavers were being targeted to plug the gap in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Of the 23,000 heavy haul truck drivers in New Zealand, 3 per cent are women.

Association chief executive David Boyce said the shortage was exacerbated by the "aging" sector. The average age of a truck driver is between 52 and 53.

"This is certainly putting constraints on some transport operators ability to meet the expanding freight task in the region," he said.

Women in Road Transport chairwoman and Tranzliquid Logistics director Jackie Carroll said women added much needed diversity into the industry.

"Because the transport industry is so diverse there will be different types - logging, fuel tankers, general freight, bus drivers, forklifts operators, dispatchers - and a lot of them may be more suitable for families where you can do a job sharing working around children, family and school where other industries may not be as flexible," she said.

Hilton Haulage human resources general manager Ally Laing said 5 per cent of its drivers were women. "A month ago, we hired about 30 tanker drivers and two of them are women," she said.

Alana Kidd, 42, was two days into her nursing training when the February earthquake hit.

Facing months of uncertainty and needing to provide for her 8-year-old son, she decided to become a truck driver.

"I thought, 'what can I do that is paid reasonably well? I can't wait around, I've got to do something'."

Now driving a tip truck with Hilton Haulage, Kidd is sold on remaining a driver.

"It is the best job I ever had. You have the mountains, the snow with the sun beating down . . . it is great," she said.

Her son has his sights on his mum upgrading from a Mitsubishi to a Kenworth truck one day.

"He wants me to have something with attitude, with a nose, air horn and pipes - you've got to have that rumble," she said.

Boyce said the driver drought had led to an increase in wages for truckies. "If you go back a few years ago, a class 5 driver would get on average about $18 an hour. Now, you don't start the conversation for any less than $25 an hour and there are certainly plenty example of drivers earning $30 to $35," he said.

The Press