Comment: What makes a professional truck driver?

By: Fiona McDonagh

It takes a combination of skills, knowledge, ability, common sense, and attitude to become a professional driver

When considering the Te ara ki tua Road to success traineeship, I gave a lot of thought to the question of what makes a professional truck driver. As the Road to success team works towards providing career pathways into our industry, our aim is to shine a positive light on the skills, knowledge, ability, common sense, and attitude that it takes to become a professional driver in charge of a multi-million-dollar 50-tonne vehicle.

Looking for individuals who have a passion for heavy vehicles, a desire to be a critical part of New Zealand’s supply chain, and who are keen to be employed in an industry that values its people is at the heart of the Road to success programme. For some candidates, it’s the idea of driving the open road and seeing the sights of this beautiful country that has them signing up. For others, being able to do regular short-haul runs and get home each night to their family is a key factor. Whatever the reason, Road to success is uncovering some great people who we know will be of benefit to the industry for a long time to come.

Cat Wilson reckons nothing beats being a logging truck drive
Cat Wilson reckons nothing beats being a logging truck drive

Truck driving may always be a male-dominated profession, however, an increasing number of women are now entering the industry and getting behind the wheel. I’ve been encouraged by the women coming forward and applying to join Road to success. Feedback from operators is that they want more women drivers in their fleets, and we’re excited that our programme can contribute to promoting more women to roles within the industry.

I’ve recently been lucky enough to present to groups who’ve gone through a course run by Kiwi Can Do, an organisation funded by the Industry Partnership Division of the Ministry of Social Development that focuses on preparing and supporting unemployed New Zealanders into a career. The course takes participants through their Class 2 licence and a wheels, tracks, and roller endorsement programme, which gets them ready to step into a role within the industry. The people I’ve met have a great attitude and a genuine interest in what our industry has to offer them.

Recently, we arranged interviews for three Kiwi Can Do graduates with a transport operator for an entry-level Class 2 role. While we’re confident all three will make great truck drivers with the right training and support, we were pleased to hear that one of the ladies interviewed has been given the role and is now starting her journey into a professional driving career.

The Road to success team has also been contacted by people who are currently working in Class 2 and 4 vehicles but who want to grow their career by progressing to Class 5. Having industry knowledge and being on the licence ladder means that these candidates are an attractive option for a lot of operators.

Whatever background, industry, or career our candidates come from, the Road to success can provide them with a chance to achieve their dream job behind the wheel of a Class 5 vehicle. The Road Transport Forum is thrilled to be taking this journey with them and helping to grow our industry’s pool of professional drivers. We’re also pleased to provide operators with a pool of motivated and enthusiastic trainees that will be the backbone of the industry for many years to come. 

If you need any information on Road to success or wish to sign up as a prospective employer, please contact our project administrator Caleb Rapson Nuñez del Prado on 04 471 8283, or email

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