Heavy Haulage Profile

Greg Sheehan
Top flight pilot

Greg Sheehan has been a stalwart of the heavy haulage industry for years. At this year’s HHA conference he received the Gus Breen Memorial Award, acknowledging his dedication, time and efforts in serving the industry. BY MARY SEARLE BELL.

THE HEAVY HAULAGE ASSOCIATION doesn’t give the Gus Breen Memorial Award away lightly. The association’s premier award, it recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to the industry over a period of time.

Greg Sheehan fits the bill perfectly. He’s been keen on trucks and haulage all his life, and after joining the Heavy Haulage Association in 1999 he has been a willing and active member.

He started in the industry 50 years ago when he got a job truck driving for Smith & Davies, which was based in Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore. It was August 1966 and he was just 19 years old.

“I was the youngest driver in the oldest truck,” he told Contractor with a laugh.

He worked hard and progressed to better trucks and bigger jobs. By the time he left the firm in 1981 he was the transport manager. From there he headed to Australia and a role with Mercedes Benz, selling trucks and buses in Melbourne and around Victoria.

After two years he returned to the North Shore, this time working as a supervisor for Refrigerated Truck Lines, or RFL as it was known. But it wasn’t long before he was head hunted by Ross Poole of Bridge Freight and went to be operations supervisor there. Under his watch the company broke the record for shifting the greatest volume of containers in any given day.

In 1986 Greg was approached by CablePrice, which at the time held the Mercedes Benz truck franchise. He was recruited as the truck sales manager for Auckland. However, in 1989 Mercedes Benz told CablePrice that if it was to retain the franchise it would also have to sell cars, something the firm wasn’t interested in. Greg’s role vanished with the franchise, so he returned to Smith & Davies.

He wasn’t there long before Colin Giltrap took over the Mercedes Benz franchise and took Greg back to sell trucks again. At that time, in 1993, Greg, along with colleague Dave Ballantyne, was instrumental in bringing the Freightliner brand of trucks into New Zealand.

After five years Greg was thoroughly tired of his long daily commute from the Hibiscus Coast in north Auckland to the city so he resigned to take up a role with Highway Stabilizers, which was a convenient five-minute drive from his home. He didn’t stay long though, a hankering for heavy haulage and piloting had become too strong to ignore.

In 1999 he went into business on his own as a pilot. In addition, he picked up a contract to look after the logistics and storage for Mercedes Benz – this division of his business he sold 10 years ago to his son Mike who owns Truck Moves NZ.

These days, Sheehan’s Transport Assistance, offers oversize load piloting, permit applications for over-height, over-dimensional, or overweight loads, training for heavy haulage drivers and all types of heavy haulage logistics and route planning.

From day one, Greg’s focus has been the heavy haulage industry. He joined the Heavy Haulage Association and threw himself into the mix with great passion, knowledge and commitment.

Association CEO Jonathan Bhana-Thomson says: “It soon became clear that Greg was very willing to get involved and contribute to the heavy haulage industry.

“When the association sought feedback about a particular issue, Greg would always be willing to contribute his two cents and his feedback was always considered and relevant.”

Jonathan says it wasn’t long before Greg sought nomination and was voted in as the first pilot representative on the board, where he made “an immediate contribution to the governance of the association and specifically to the pilot sector”.

Greg was elected to the role of chairman in 2007, a role that suited him well, says Jonathan.

“He undertook it with the greatest professionalism but also passion. He always put forward the interests of the wider industry, but always with a practical bent – such as the development of resources such as the VDAM driver’s guide.”

“He undertook it with the greatest professionalism but also passion. He always put forward the interests of the wider industry, but always with a practical bent – such as the development of resources such as the VDAM driver’s guide.”

During his two-year tenure as chairman the association worked with Tranzqual and MITO on industry national qualifications and the rollout of the BESS (Bridge Engineering Self Supervision) system, which required industry assessors.

“Greg put in significant amounts of his own time towards the development of these as well as the delivery of BESS training and latterly National Certificates in piloting and heavy haulage,” says Jonathan.

Greg served on the board again from 2011 to 2015.

Fellow pilot Peter Jacob is also full of praise for Greg: “I got to know Greg when he joined the association in 1999 and from then on it became apparent that he would become a top pilot operator. Through his dedication he quickly became a stand-out member, assisting member companies and communicating closely with CVIU and NZ Police traffic control in the Auckland area to the benefit of the industry.”

According to Peter, Greg’s knowledge of the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule remains unmatched, and NZ Transport Agency national structure manager Barry Wright shares a similar view, commending both Greg’s passion and expert practical knowledge in a letter to support his nomination for the Gus Breen Memorial award.

When Greg received the trophy at the conference in August he was completely blindsided.

“It’s humbling to receive this award for 50 years of doing exactly what I like to do,” he says.

He was moved to tears at the awards dinner, and thrilled to be able to not only share the moment with his wife Karen, and his friends in the industry, but also with his three children and their partners, who the organisers had snuck in through the back door and kept out of Greg’s sight during dinner.

“The Gus Breen award is the icing on the cake,” he told Contractor a few days after the event. “I love heavy haulage – I love the camaraderie, I love the trucks, I love piloting. It’s just what I do.”

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