Southpac Legends

 
Through the kitchen window - Paula Rogers

Through the kitchen window - Paula Rogers

Southpac Legends

 October 2020   

Over thirty years ago, ardent road transport industry advocate and NRC stalwart Paula Rogers was looking through the kitchen window of her family’s farmhouse when the image of a bright blue Kenworth changed her life’s direction forever.

“When I was about 17 I got into the farming sector and in my 20’s I ended up sharemilking at a farm in Whenuapai . We had a lot of truck coming onto the farm to tip off and I just happened to look out of the kitchen window at Mike Ross’s beautiful blue Kenworth W model (924), I’ll never forget that moment, I thought gosh that truck is stunning I’d really like to drive a truck. So, I decided then and there to go and get my HT.”

Of course, Paula needed to first gain some experience, so a few friendly truck owners came to her rescue. One was Royce Mills from Mills Bobcat Services, he had a 1982 Dodge 4-wheeler 8-tonne tip truck with a 540 Perkins V8 and a 6-speed manual box, “I jumped in that and graunched the gearbox a number of times, but then got the hang of it,” Paula recalls.

Also Kevin Brashier of Brashier Earthmoving, he had a Ford N-Series 4-wheeler flat deck that he let Paula drive around Ponsonby. Paula says, “we went up roads full of BMW’s and Porsche’s, it was a great learning curve because I didn’t want to hit one of those. I actually got my HT in that N-Series.”

While still working on the farm, Paula’s first job was driving a mini tanker for Mini-Fuel, back in the day when the Gulf Harbour development was just starting.

She says, “I used to go fill up machinery and gear on the new bit of motorway on SH1 and even the ship generators for the Navy. I got to climb up on the compactors and scrapers it was great, at the Gulf Harbour job there was a digger on the barge that I used to refuel. I’d hop into the bucket and he’d swing me over the water and onto the barge. I was about twenty-six then, so that was a few years ago, you couldn’t do that nowadays, all the fun’s gone out of the industry.” she jokes.

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Over thirty years ago, ardent road transport industry advocate and NRC stalwart Paula Rogers was looking through the kitchen window of her family’s farmhouse when the image of a bright blue Kenworth changed her life’s direction forever.

“When I was about 17 I got into the farming sector and in my 20’s I ended up sharemilking at a farm in Whenuapai . We had a lot of truck coming onto the farm to tip off and I just happened to look out of the kitchen window at Mike Ross’s beautiful blue Kenworth W model (924), I’ll never forget that moment, I thought gosh that truck is stunning I’d really like to drive a truck. So, I decided then and there to go and get my HT.”

Of course, Paula needed to first gain some experience, so a few friendly truck owners came to her rescue. One was Royce Mills from Mills Bobcat Services, he had a 1982 Dodge 4-wheeler 8-tonne tip truck with a 540 Perkins V8 and a 6-speed manual box, “I jumped in that and graunched the gearbox a number of times, but then got the hang of it,” Paula recalls.

Also Kevin Brashier of Brashier Earthmoving, he had a Ford N-Series 4-wheeler flat deck that he let Paula drive around Ponsonby. Paula says, “we went up roads full of BMW’s and Porsche’s, it was a great learning curve because I didn’t want to hit one of those. I actually got my HT in that N-Series.”

While still working on the farm, Paula’s first job was driving a mini tanker for Mini-Fuel, back in the day when the Gulf Harbour development was just starting.

She says, “I used to go fill up machinery and gear on the new bit of motorway on SH1 and even the ship generators for the Navy. I got to climb up on the compactors and scrapers it was great, at the Gulf Harbour job there was a digger on the barge that I used to refuel. I’d hop into the bucket and he’d swing me over the water and onto the barge. I was about twenty-six then, so that was a few years ago, you couldn’t do that nowadays, all the fun’s gone out of the industry.” she jokes.

When her mum passed, Paula took a bit of a breather from the industry before getting into aggregate trucking. She drove for Bob Turner Transport in their N-series 6-wheeler working primarily on the Westgate development ‘doing a lot of tipping’. She really enjoyed her time there but also got a real quick lesson about checking that her tailgate was correctly shut as she lost a load going up the hill beside the Bethells quarry. ‘I had to get the broom out and even the loader needed to come and help’.

According to Paula she felt like she was ‘Queen of the highway’ back then driving but also acknowledges that being a woman in a male dominated industry was pretty hard.

“I heard my nickname was ‘hotpants’ and there were a lot of comments about me driving but I couldn’t let it get to me. I had to let a lot of it go over the top of my head, because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have survived, thankfully the industry has addressed diversity.

Paula believes that because she worked hard at gaining knowledge about trucks and how they worked, she gained industry respect pretty quickly. Also the fact that when she was growing up, her parents had a wrecking yard in Tauranga, “so cars have been a really big thing for me - I’m a bit of a petrolhead I suppose. I ‘walked the talk’ which I think helped”.

Following a marriage separation, an opportunity came up at TWL (Transport Wholesale) in Penrose. She says that she was one of the first female customer services in the Gough’s group. “It was a testing time for me because the owners would ring up and ask me for a doughnut to try to trip me up, they were surprised when I said do you have a 40 or 50mm ring feeder. I learnt very quickly about the parts and even used to climb under the trucks and trailers to identify the axles and suspensions”.

Evidently her time at TWL was an interesting one. Aside from getting to know a lot about parts and the members that she deals with now, in 2000 she won a boat and two kegs of beer from Radio Hauraki and subsequently received five marriage proposals. “That was quite a hard case.”

With aspirations of being a rep for TWL, but no openings available at that stage, an opportunity arose for Paula to join the Road Transport Association, which she took.

“My area was Auckland and I got to go around all the customers that I was dealing with at TWL. I managed to get most of them on boar but also learnt the whole other side to the industry, the regulations and legislations.”

While at the RTA, Paula helped her then partner Lee Robinson set up Robinson Heavy Haulage and got to meet such ‘truckie legends’ as Lee’s dad Mick Robinson and Mate Franicevich. She says “I learnt so much off of those guys, they used to talk to me about the parts, the history of NZ trucking and what there was to know.”

Paula spent around five years at the RTA until her region became unviable and was disbanded. She was offered the chance to run some branches back at TWL, however, a job appeared at NRC - “So that’s where I went.”

Over the past twelve and a half years Paula has seen the industry change and experienced a lot at NRC. From the high’s of being involved with an industry that’s ‘like family’, to the lows of hearing how hard the industry is for some people and dealing with an unsympathetic government.

“I love going to schools, talking to students and promoting the industry. Telling them how to get into this great industry and that it’s a great way to see our country for free. Also, getting more women into road transport too. I’ve been in it for so long (about 26-years) so seeing more women out there driving I think is absolutely fantastic. Because we are better drivers at the end of the day. You can quote me on that. We’re easier on the gear.”

However Paula admits that it can be a hard industry. “I give 100% to the industry, it’s not just an 8-5 job, it’s 24/7. I hear about people’s personal, financial and business issues and its very gratifying when I can help them out from my training and experience. And I don’t think the government actually gives the road transport industry a lot of respect, they don’t realise that we keep the country moving, we’re targeted too easily with high RUC’s and given poor roads to drive on.”

Paula is quick to point out the importance of the association, “we’ve got to have the support to have that voice and representation. I work with a really great team and the board are fabulous they contribute a lot to the industry and association.”

The Association has been important for her on a personal level too. “I met my husband through NRC and we’re coming up to our 9th wedding anniversary. Warren is with Fletcher Construction and was looking to get information about trucks, legislations and regulations and was told to give me a call. I met him, signed him up with the NRC and he got the bonus prize – me, he talks cranes, I trucks it’s a perfect match”. She does say laughingly that this is not a regular sign up deal.

Paula has got two sons, Shane who is a qualified butcher and Matthew who has a class 5 and is driving with Tally-ho Industries in Rotorua. “I’ve even helped the industry by providing one driver,” she jokes, “am proud of my sons and their achievements”.

When not being all-consumed by road transport, Paula was secretary for Women’s Refuge for 6-years and is an American car fanatic. She used to have a ‘65 Cadillac and now has a ‘72 Mustang Mach 1 in her garage.

“I love the old gear, cars and trucks too. Modern trucks are beautiful to drive, they’re like driving a car but I love the old gear, it’s like the industry icons, it’s the history. Just like that old Dodge, it was a dog to drive but a great truck”. Paula’s favourite truck is still a Kenworth W924.

Paula reckons that there are so many legends out there that have given so much to the industry, “they have worked their way up to what they’ve got today, it’s so gratifying” and the same can be said about her. “It’s been a really interesting time looking back, road transport is my life”.


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