Driven by passion for trucks

November 18, 2020

EIT graduate Rachel Ripohau and her new truck Dark Angel.

As a child Rachel Ripohau loved to accompany her father, a truck driver, on rides around the country. Rachel (Ngāti Kahungunu) says that her passion for trucks and heavy machinery stems from these childhood days. Some years went by before Rachel decided to follow her greatest interest. “I had been doing many different jobs and chased a lot of things but I always wanted to drive,” says the 39-year old mum-of-two.

Rachel enrolled in a NZ Certificate in Commercial Road Transport from which she graduated in March last year. While the programme is fees-free now, it wasn’t free back then but Rachel received the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Scholarship which paid for the course.

Only a few days after passing her last exam she started her first job at Mark Pittar Transport. Mark, who employs twelve drivers, has been in the industry for over 30 years and knows the industry inside out. Rachel is the second EIT graduate that he has taken on.

“The EIT programme is brilliant,” says Mark. “We simply don’t have enough truck drivers in the country. There is so much work out there, and the drivers also take home a reasonable pay packet.”

For the first three months, Rachel just drove her loaded truck and trailer from the mill to the port and back, getting up to speed with operating the heavy vehicle, learning how to identify hazards, trucking safely in road construction zones and changing gears constantly. “Rachel now drives a truck that carries 18 meter long logs and weighs 46 tonnes. At the start, that was pretty intimidating. I started slow, I certainly didn’t want to flip my boss’s truck,” admits Rachel.

In October Mark bought Rachel a brand-new $500,000 dollar truck. Rachel named “her” Dark Angel.

Meanwhile Rachel has extended her radius, drives to the forests and loads the truck which takes 30 minutes. “It’s mentally demanding. Everything has to happen by the book. You have to be on the top of your game all the time. Driving in the dark and transitioning from night to day shifts is really hard. And there are a lot of challenges, steep sites, slippery slopes and sharing the road with reckless drivers. I’m still learning every day.”

Currently Rachel is completing a Log Transport Certificate. Rachel appreciates the fact that she is able to progress in her job to – hopefully – one day owning her own truck.