Heavy Truck Driver
Kaitaraiwa Taraka Taumaha
Heavy truck drivers drive trucks with or without trailers. They transport materials, livestock, machinery, liquids, general freight, and sometimes hazardous substances.
Heavy truck drivers usually earn
$21-$35 per hour
Source: careers.govt.nz research, 2021.
Heavy truck drivers usually earn between minimum wage and $35 an hour. However, pay can vary greatly depending on the:
- transport sector you work in, for example, forestry, freight or agriculture
- size and type of the vehicle you drive
- region you work in
- company you work for.
Source: careers.govt.nz research, 2021.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Heavy truck drivers may do some or all of the following:
- routinely check their truck
- weigh their truck before and after it is loaded
- supervise or help with loading their truck
- check the condition of the load and that it is secure
- follow correct safety procedures
- keep records of, and check invoices for, goods they carry
- plan the best delivery route
- make deliveries or pick up goods
- keep a logbook of the hours they work.
Skills and knowledge
Heavy truck drivers need to have:
- excellent driving skills
- basic knowledge of the mechanics of their truck and how to maintain it
- knowledge of how to secure loads using load binders, chains and strops
- knowledge of transport and related industry laws
- knowledge of emergency procedures and how to handle hazardous conditions
- ability to use satellite tracking equipment and on-board computers
- basic literacy and numeracy skills for accurately completing log books and measuring and weighing loads.
Heavy truck drivers:
- work varying hours depending on what kind of truck driving they do. The number of hours they are allowed to work is governed by New Zealand Transport Agency regulations
- work in conditions that may be stressful, including poor weather and heavy traffic
- may work locally or travel long distances, which can mean spending nights away from home.
What's the job really like?
Heavy Truck Driver
Renee's truck trips started early
When she was 10, Renee King sat with her father as he did his truck round, but she didn't expect to one day be driving a truck herself. "I didn't grow up thinking to myself 'I want to be a truck driver.' I just sort of fell into it.”
She now drives a 19-tonne swing loader, transporting containers between the Wellington wharves and depots in Petone.
Loading trucks requires a steady hand
When Renee gets to a loaded container, she first has to calculate its weight to ensure it is within the legal limit of her truck. After lowering the hydraulic legs that stabilise the truck and positioning the swing arm, she hooks the heavy chains that will lift the 40-foot container.
Using a remote that controls the swing lift, Renee then manoeuvres the container onto the truck. It can be a delicate process that involves a high degree of co-ordination and skill.
Long days on the wharves
Renee's days are long – she picks up her first container at 7am and drops off her last at about 9pm. “I go until there’s no more work. If it runs out, I go looking for it. When it’s windy and raining at the wharves, it’s not very pleasant, but I love the work and wouldn’t give it up.”
To become a heavy truck driver you need to hold a licence for the size and type of truck you intend to drive, and pass drug and alcohol tests.
A New Zealand Certificate in Commercial Road Transport (Level 3) may also be useful.
MITO oversees qualifications for heavy vehicle operators (truck drivers).
The New Zealand Army also trains and employs heavy truck drivers.
More information about heavy truck licensing is available from Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.
- Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency website - information on trucks and other heavy vehicle licences
- MITO - information about the New Zealand Certificate in Commercial Road Transport
- Defence Careers website - information about being a driver in the Army
- Te ara ki tua Road to Success website - find out about how to become a trainee truck driver
No specific secondary education is required for this job, but English, maths, and construction and mechanical technologies to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.
Heavy truck drivers need to be:
- reliable and responsible
- able to follow instructions
- able to remain calm in emergencies
- able to work well under pressure
- courteous and law-abiding on the road.
Useful experience for heavy truck drivers includes work:
- as a driver
- as a truck driver's assistant
- at loading and unloading facilities
- in goods handling and management
- in warehouses or stores
- in an industry related to the materials being transported – for example, farming experience before driving livestock.
Heavy truck drivers need to have good general health and good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses).
Find out more about training
- 0800 882 121 - email@example.com - www.mito.org.nz
- Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand
- (04) 472 3877 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.transporting.nz
- NZ Trucking Association
- 0800 338 338 - email@example.com - www.nztruckingassn.co.nz
- National Road Carriers
- 0800 686 777 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.natroad.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Your chances of securing a job as a heavy truck driver are best if you:
- are based in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty or Christchurch
- hold heavy rigid and combination vehicle licences, allowing you to drive larger trucks
- are an experienced, reliable driver with a proven track record.
Good demand for heavy truck drivers
Heavy truck driver appears on Immigration New Zealand's construction and infrastructure skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled heavy truck drivers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
More than 7,000 new truck drivers will be needed by 2022, according to Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand, because of:
- increasing demand
- retirement of existing drivers.
The Te ara ki tua Road to Success traineeship matches people who want to become truck drivers with employers who can offer training.
According to the Census, 34,560 heavy truck drivers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
September to February peak time for heavy truck driver opportunities
Demand for heavy truck drivers is usually highest between September and February. This is due to increased activity during spring and summer in many industries that rely on trucking, such as infrastructure, agriculture and forestry.
While demand is generally higher during this time, some sectors of the transport industry have different peak times.
Heavy truck drivers can be self-employed
Some heavy truck drivers are self-employed contractors who own a vehicle and contract their services on a long or short-term basis.
Heavy truck drivers also work as employees for a wide range of industries and organisations such as:
- freight companies
- trucking companies specialising in particular industries such as forestry, dairy and petroleum
- large companies with their own transport fleets
- local and regional councils, and contractors working on their behalf
- the New Zealand Army.
- Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand website, accessed 19 October 2021, (https://www.transporting.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupational Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- MITO, 'Commercial Road Transport 2016', accessed January 2018, (www.mito.org.nz)
- Ngatuere, M, senior policy advisor, Road Transport Forum NZ, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, January 2018.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Heavy truck drivers may buy their own vehicle and become self-employed. They may eventually run a fleet of trucks and employ a number of truck drivers.
It is also possible to move into:
- distribution or haulage management
- transport and logistics planning.
Heavy truck drivers may specialise in a particular area of truck driving such as:
- line haulage (city-to-city driving)
- driving trucks within town or city centres
- driving trucks for specific industries such as forestry or petroleum.
Last updated 1 April 2022