Cover story: Doing the rounds in a logging truck

Deals on Wheels tagged along with logging truck driver Bridget Scott for a day

When Bridget Scott offered me a ride in her logging truck, I leapt at the chance to see her in action. When she picked me up at 10.30 pm, she’d already been up for seven hours. Yep, if you’re not a lark you wouldn’t like this job, but Bridget doesn’t mind it at all.


A day in the life

While most of us are still snoring, the Dannevirke-based driver has jumped out of bed at 3am, downed her breakfast and completed the regulation checks on her truck before heading off to Kaiwhata Forest in Masterton. It’s an 18km round trip off the main road, across farmland, into the skid site before loading and back out again.

"I have three pick ups a day or what we call three rounds, but that depends on whether there are other trucks waiting ahead to load in which case, you may get held up along the way."

Today we’re heading to Pan Pac Forest Products in Napier to unload. I’m amazed at how quickly this is done and soon Bridget is in the wash bay hosing her truck down, ready for the next pick up.

Logging -truck

Not far along the Napier-Taupo Road we turn into Glengarry Road. I have trouble backing my car down my driveway but Bridget can effortlessly reverse her 40 ton truck along the track for the loader drivers.

It’s a great day to be out and about watching others work and enjoying the view over the Bay. Once done, we’re off again to deliver the load to the Port of Napier. Along the way there are a couple of other things to do: to Ahuriri for scaling for export, Rothmans weighbridge to weigh-in for the port, then unchain at the Port before waiting to be called in for unloading.

Learning the ropes

Learning -the -ropes

The most physical side of logging work is the chaining process, according to Bridget. "There are nine heavy chains to throw over the logs with each load. There’s a real art to it; when you unchain it’s a matter of flicking them in a certain way to loosen them.

If it’s a high load, because I’m a bit short, I have a rope that I throw over to grab the chain and pull it back. When I first did this work my body ached from top to toe, but now I am used to it."

Another challenge was getting used to driving off-road. "Every time you go through a new forest and its dark, you take it with caution because you don’t know the road, or they may change something in there, so it puts you out.

"Once you’ve been in, the crews tend to stay a while before they move on. Winter is more of a challenge especially when you go up a few hills and get stuck. In that case you have to get pushed out by a loader or start digging yourself out with a shovel. You get covered with mud and once you do its like "Stuff it, I’m ready for the day."

Hosing -down 

You learn to adapt and adjust your truck to these conditions she says. "The first time I went in it was hard to know what gear, what tyre pressure- all those little things.

Once in the bush we dump air out of our drive tyres to gain more traction for the skid site. If it’s steep we go down to 35 percent. On gravel it goes down 75 percent."

Growing up with trucks

Bridget’s father, Peter Scott was a truck driver and from a young age, one of her favourite things to do was to go out with him on whatever job he was on. "Yeah, I was an only child and a real tomboy. I didn’t need much encouragement to jump in the truck. It was something I’ve always liked."

As she grew older she realised trucks were definitely her thing. Seventeen years later, with lots of experience under her belt, they still are.

Bridget has steadily worked to gain experience in everything from courier work, (at one stage, aged 20 and a solo mother with a new baby, she bought a franchise with Fastway couriers) to linehaul, refrigeration and timber and steel cartage. As she went, she gained the necessary licences right through to Class 5.

Early on in her career someone suggested she go and see Jim Winiata at Roadfreighters in Palmerston North. "He was the one who took me on and put me through all my licences. I began on the metros and worked my way through to the trailers. I was there for six years."

While there, Bridget was champing at the bit to drive the big Class 5 trailers – at this stage she was only on Class 3 and never went further than Feilding.

Bridget -developed

It wasn’t until one of the other drivers had an accident and she put her hand up and said she’d do it. She’d just got her Class 5 and her determination impressed her boss enough to encourage him to give her the go-ahead. She completed the run in less time than the driver she replaced – and held that same run for another three years. Other transport companies Bridget has driven for include Roadstar, AFL Logistics and Retko. 

She particularly liked working linehaul in the North and South Islands because it gave her the chance to experience one of he best parts of her work, in her opinion: driving long distances. "Nothing beats being behind the wheel and getting out on the road."

When Bridget saw a job advertised with Bayview-based company, Paul Tahere Logging, in 2016, she thought, "I’ve never done that before, I’ll give it a go."

Paul, who runs a fleet of seven logging trucks (six multis and one steam unit), is a really good boss, according to Bridget and in turn, he’s impressed with her positive attitude. When he talks on the bush radio during our drive, there is lots of laughter and joking. He reckons having a good attitude and a willingness to learn is one of the main things he looks for in a driver, whether they are male or female.

Adds Bridget; "There’s always something new to learn everyday in this job. You can never know it all."

Favourite truck

Bridget is a big fan of Freightliners and really enjoys driving her 2015 model. "It’s a comfortable ride and has a sleeper cab that I can use if I get an overnight job. I prefer Freightliners to Kenworths, which I find bouncy and quite uncomfortable. I like Scanias too. A while ago I drove an automatic Scania and when I came back to manual drive I had to get used to the different rev ratios – there was a bit of gear crunching along the way!"

Bridget is proud of the fact she’s a very hands on driver, meaning she’s not afraid to tackle just about anything, doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and can work out how to get out of a tight spot if need be.

When asked if there’s anything else on her list to tick off she says, "I haven’t done tipper or spreading work so I might give that a go. I wouldn’t mind getting my tracks and rollers too. I’d like to be able to say I could do it. Some of these loggers do self-loading and that’s also something I’d like to learn."

By late afternoon we’ve come full circle, so with a toot and a cheery wave, Bridget is off home to Dannevirke to put her feet up after a long day’s work.

Bridget’s logging truck specs

  • Freightliner 2015 with sleeper cab
  • 18-speed Road Ranger 
  • Detroit engine 560HP DD15 
  • Patchell trailer

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