Micky Prendergast says he’d been chasing after a job driving the Mobile Health surgical unit truck for 10 years before he secured his dream job.
Originally from Westport, Micky now lives in Christchurch and drives the truck around New Zealand on a five-week cycle in rotation with two other ‘steerologists’, Gavin Hurring and Jim Wilson.
Mobile Health also has a bus, so the drivers spend a week driving each vehicle followed by a week off. Micky say he started off in farming and forestry but had always wanted to be a truck driver. His first job was spreading lime for Trans West Freighters in 1983.
“You started off road on gravel – you weren’t allowed on the tar seal until you could drive them properly.”
After a few stints in the office and as a dispatcher, Micky headed to Los Angeles, eventually buying his own truck and becoming an owner-driver. He spent about seven years hauling cars before returning to New Zealand to spend more time with his parents and adult children.
“I’d given up on ever getting this job so I went back to Smith Crane and Construction, doing heavy haulage,” says Micky.
“They were a good company to work for. Then the CEO of this company asked if I was still interested in a job as the lady who drove the lithotripsy bus was leaving. I had three months training and I’ve been driving this for 15 months now.”
The prime mover for the surgical unit is a 2001 Freightliner Argosy with 110” Hi Top sleeper cab, Cummins 500hp engine and 18-speed Roadranger gearbox. The trailer width is 2.5m (on road) and 5m (expanded). The unit’s total length is 20m and the weight 42 tonne. The trailer was custom built by Mills Tui in Rotorua.
“The truck is more hands-on than the bus – with that you park it and go – but with the truck we set it up at each site and have more interaction with the surgical team. We’re Mr Fix It on site too – if anything stops working you try to fix it or make the call to get someone in to fix it.”
When Faye Lougher caught up with Micky he was in Levin, but the following day was heading off to Hawera. He takes a lot of pride in the job he does and it’s obvious how much he enjoys it.
“I think it’s down to being part of the team and the service we provide. When people see our shirts they know who we are and they love having us in their town because they appreciate what we do for them.”
It was no surprise Micky couldn’t really identify any problems in the industry – other than the shortage of qualified drivers – so it was on to the vexing question: pie or quiche?
“Definitely pie – a good old mince pie!”