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Keeping the wheels of the dairy industry turning

Keeping the wheels of the dairy industry turning

Fonterra drivers are the often unsung heroes of the dairy sector. We have a chat to driver Heather Doudle about what life is like behind the wheel.

1. What does a typical day look like for you?

My day starts at 6am. Our shift team has a brief morning meeting with our shift manager, then we head out to our trucks – we usually drive the same truck for the season.

After I’ve done all my truck safety checks, I'm all ready to go.

Our milk collection runs are on our in-cab computer, so we follow the map provided to take us to the dairy farm for their milk collection.

Our region is quite large, so we could be anywhere from Twizel to Oamaru, Ashburton, Darfield and sometimes beyond Christchurch. The Fonterra Clandeboye site works closely with the Fonterra Darfield site so often our trucks head into Darfield to unload.

Typically, I travel between 400-500km daily, and this takes anywhere from 8 to 10 hours, sometimes longer. I can visit several farms during the day, and every farm has a different volume of milk to collect. There are quite a few big farm suppliers that need two tankers daily to collect their milk.

Once my tanker unit is full, I head back to the site to unload, then away out I go again on my next run.

At the end of the day, once my runs are complete, I wash down the truck, fuel it up and leave it ready for my shift partner to take over for his shift.

Every day is different!

2. What do you love most about your job?

The best thing about my job is getting out and about in our beautiful countryside, going on farms, and places I wouldn't normally go.

Another positive is my work colleagues, they are a great bunch of people. They’re always supportive and we have lots of laughs and fun!

3. What made you want to drive trucks, and how did you come to work for Fonterra?

I've always wanted to drive trucks, but it wasn’t an easy industry to get into when I was younger.

I put myself through my licences in my 40s and worked in a couple of local transport companies gaining experience to get the skills required for Fonterra.

I always wanted to drive tankers, so four years ago I finally applied and succeeded.

4. What advice would have for young people wanting to join the industry?

Just do it! Find someone who will give you a chance and just do it. Don’t ever be afraid to up skill.

There are lots of local transport companies that will help with getting you through the stages of licences required. Fonterra run a Class 4 to Class 5 program to help people succeed in gaining their licences.

5. What is the most challenging thing about your job?

There are challenges that come with sharing the road sometimes, for example it can be hard if another other road-user is impatient with a tanker. It’s important that we’re all considerate of each other on the road.

as told to Claire Inkson