Bennett backs female truckies

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 16:43 09/08/2013
Paula Bennett
MORE MOTHER TRUCKERS: Paula Bennett is keen to get more women off benefits and out behind the wheel.

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We need more mother truckers in this country.

That's what Paula Bennett announced in Christchurch this afternoon.

The social development minister was attending the launch of a ''women in transport'' campaign by the New Zealand Trucking Association.

Association chief executive David Boyce said it was trying to encourage more women to get involved in truck driving.

''There is a huge shortage of truck drivers and we can't just ignore half of the potential work force. We need to break down the barriers and stereotypes and get more women into truck driving,'' he said.

Bennett spoke at the campaign launch about her own experience with truck drivers.

She worked ''flipping burgers'' in the 1980s at a truck stop in Taupo.

''I have good experiences of truck drivers,'' she said.

''I soon started dating a truck driver. He was your stereotypical, tattooed, not-got-much-to-say male but he was also the first man that ever told me women could do anything and actually believed in me.''

Two years ago, she met and married the same truck driver.

''He's not a truck driver any more, but I'll always have a fondness for truckies,'' she said.

Bennett said she would love to see more female truck drivers.

''There's scientific evidence women are better drivers. There are many beneficiaries who could do so much more than just have a life on the benefit. We need to encourage them and train them up.''

She knew of one female beneficiary who had recently come off the benefit to become a truck driver.

''This woman shook my hand and said, 'I want to shake the hand of the b.... who changed my life','' Bennett said.

''She went into Work and Income and they asked her what she wanted to do. She'd never been asked before. She told them she liked driving so they trained her up. The sense of pride her job has given her was immense.''

Boyce said there were significant barriers preventing women getting into transport, including the long hours and lack of support for those with young families.

''We need to get serious about finding solutions to these problems,'' he said.

Bennett agreed that the Government needed to help ''break down barriers by providing more support, particularly for women with children".

''It's not just more women we need but more mothers truck driving. This country needs more mother truckers,'' she said.

Christchurch truck driver Cathie Gardiner said it was ''very difficult'' being a mother and a driver.

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''There are long hours and it's hard. You need a lot of family support. I love my job though; I'm a real petrolhead,'' she said.

- The Press

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