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Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) commercial driving students now have a real milk tanker to practise in.
The truck and trailer unit, which Fonterra national transport and logistics general manager Barry McColl described as a "cast-off'' at the end of its life with the company, was handed over yesterday on long-term loan for at least two years.
It was the second loan tanker contributing to producing more drivers for the transport industry, he said. The other is at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga.
"We want to fill the [industry] bucket, and eventually, as the bucket gets fuller, more drivers will be available to all of us.''
A shortage of skilled truck drivers in Southland led to more than 30 local transport operators and SIT joining forces last year to offer the Certificate in Commercial Road Transport.
The course, which runs for 16 weeks, includes practical experience and work placement and is delivered by HW Richardson driver trainers.
Programme manager Lisa Shaw said 20 students had qualified since the course began, including several women and most were now working for transport companies all over the South Island.
The loan of a tanker was "very exciting'', she said.
"It will be used regularly on the road by licence holders, and in the yard it will be an excellent resource for low-speed manoeuvring, reversing, and for pre-trip/post-trip safety inspections - all essential practical skills for today's drivers.''
At the hand-over, SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds revealed she gained her heavy traffic licence many years ago in a "brand new Unimog while in the army''.
Truck technology had changed greatly since then, she said.
"I think the general public often does not appreciate the sophistication of today's vehicles and the skills and knowledge required to safely drive such expensive and highly technical pieces of machinery.''
She thanked Fonterra for the tanker, and transport industry representatives for supporting the programme.