For farm girl turned heavy haulage pilot and assessor, and now a member of the NZ Heavy Haulage Association, it has been an exciting journey. Richard Silcock explains.
For Tina Ware, it was a love of driving heavy machinery and taking a lead role that drove her to relinquish (for the time being) a farming career and to ‘grab-a-seat,’ not only driving pilot vehicles and becoming a heavy haulage driver assessor, but to also get a seat on the Board of the NZ Heavy Haulage Association.
“As a young women I was working on the family dairy farm when I was offered a temporary job as a stop/go traffic control person with a local Manawatu contractor, J B Ware & Sons who happened to be working on roadworks near the farm gate,” says Tina.
“This led to me getting a permanent position with the company and learning to drive trucks and operate rollers, diggers, etc. and doing the odd pilot job.
“I very soon realised that I loved driving large machinery; however, after getting engaged to John, the boss’s son and subsequently losing my job, I returned to the farm and did a degree extramurally in equine and agriculture, finally graduating some years later.
“However, the lure of contracting, and in particular the heavy haulage side of J B Ware’s business remained with me.
“When John and I had not long been married, his father (Bill Ware) decided to sell the heavy haulage side of the business. We jumped at the opportunity and managed to purchase the plant (a Kenworth T650 and several trailers) and set up our own business in 2002.
“As well as providing the administrative side for the business, I became a registered pilot and doing piloting for John.
“I soon learnt that being a good heavy haul pilot (HHP) requires some considerable skill and that no one job is ever the same,’ says Tina.
“I have great admiration for pilots and especially those from whom I have learnt so much over the years, such as Gary Pearce and Peter Jacob.
“Learning to multi-task is probably the most important attribute a HHP can bring to the job and this can be pretty challenging at times.
“You have to be able to not only drive the pilot vehicle (Tina’s preference is a Hilux) and talk on the CB radio telling on-coming truck drivers that an over-size load is approaching; but also communicate with the load driver behind advising of any obstacles ahead, such as tight bends, low slung overhead power/phone lines, bridges etc; wave down approaching cars; check weight limitations of bridges and for rail movements at level crossings, and if time permits grabbing a bite to eat or a coffee!”
Recalling some colourful experiences while on the job, Tina says you have to be able to handle some abuse from car drivers who do not like being asked to pull over and wait while a heavy load inches across a bridge or around a tight bend.
“Even with signs and flashing lights advising drivers of an oversize load approaching, it is not uncommon to be on the receiving end of some colourful language and inappropriate hand signals.”
These days Tina only does daylight piloting, although this can roll over into evenings.
“I have cut back on the number of piloting jobs as being on the Board of the NZ HH association, being a MITO BESS assessor,* and currently representing the association on nine committees in the region while running the business takes up a lot of my time. I used to do around five or six piloting jobs a week when I first started.”
Tina has recently passed a milestone in her career as an assessor, having completed over 1000 BESS assessments since she started in 2009.
When asked by the writer what she enjoys about being an assessor and the changes she had seen in the industry since she began, Tina says they have been huge.
“When I started it was pretty much a case of learning on the job, with A, B, or C grade pilots. You were guided by the ‘blue book’ (Over Dimension Vehicles and Loads) and the Pilot Drivers Manual.
“However, this all changed when LTSA (now NZTA) changed the whole qualification process and grading. A and B grade pilots were classified as Class 1 and C grade pilots as Class 2, with the Class 1 pilots needing to have qualified after attending a course provided by an approved provider.
“This has again been changed with the requirement for a Unit Standard to be completed and assessed by a MITO assessor. Class 2 pilots are required to sit a multi-choice open book test, but a self-learning computer-based course will shortly replace this.
“Drivers new to the industry ‘get blown away’ when they learn what is required. Attending a four-hour BESS training session followed by an open-book test can be a bit daunting for some.
“The on-the-job driving part that follows is just as important and putting what has been learnt on the course into practice.”
It was in 2015 that Tina was asked to join the Board of the NZ Heavy Haulage Association following the retirement of a sitting member. As the first women to be on the Board, it was another milestone in her life.
“Initially I declined, but on reflection thought why not, and have served on the Board ever since. I believe my strengths lie not only in my experience as a HH pilot and an assessor, but also to represent the ‘little guy’ and to make sure that my voice is heard especially when it concerns the Manawatu region.”
Tina was recently the recipient of the HH association Chairman’s Award for services to the industry and says it was great to be recognised for the amount of time and effort she has committed over the years to ensure the needs of the over-dimension/over-weight load operators are heard.
“While the number of HH operators may be small in number by comparison to other road transport users, they probably move 90 percent of the infrastructure around the country,” she says.
“We need to be heard and given the opportunity to make comment especially where new roads are being designed, constructed or upgraded.”
Tina says the issues facing the industry at the moment revolve around the fact that there are far more over-dimension / overweight loads on the roads these days.
“We need to ensure that these loads are moved safely, and that other road users obey pilot instructions for the sake of their own safety.
“The increasing amount of paperwork, safety compliancing, insurance and hazard analysis all take up time but are all things we need to address as an industry.
“The low weight capacity of some old bridges also needs to be addressed and upgrades planned by the relevant authorities. Likewise, the current trend to install median barriers along roads often leaves little room for an oversize load.”
Commenting on the recent NZ HH conference held in Brisbane, Tina says it was good to see a good attendance with many new faces.
“I think the intention to produce a video on piloting and oversize loads and making it available to transport operators and the public is excellent, as is the idea of introducing an APP for ‘toolbox’ meetings for our industry.
“It was also interesting to glean an insight into the Queensland electronic permit application system.”
On the subject of women working in what has been essentially a man’s domain, Tina says they should go for it, but be aware it is not a cushy job as there is a lot of manual work and getting wet, covered in mud and working long hours most often at night is not unusual.
“It’s not a nine to five day job, and you can’t get home to pick up the kids after school,” she quips.
“For me, it has been an exciting career, and I love what I do, but I guess when the time comes I will return to the family farm.
“After all, I am a farmer’s daughter and love farming just as much as driving large trucks and piloting.”
*MITO is the training institution that currently runs the BESS (Bridge Engineering Self Supervision) Unit Standard. An assessor provides the course for Heavy Haulage drivers to learn and be assessed as competent to drive over-weight vehicles on NZ roads and over bridges.