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Trucking is a family affair for the Bakers

When Keith Baker started feeding his dairy herd rejected kiwifruit by the truck load, he realised a working life behind the wheel, rather than in the cowshed had some appeal.

That was the start of Inglewood based Keith Baker Cartage, a still small operation with his daughter Jessica the main employee and wife Wendy and son Ron driving part time when needed.

“We’d been share milking for 16 years and were feeding the Ayrshires quite a bit of kiwifruit,” says Keith. “I figured it would be easier if I had a truck to pick up the feed from the orchards.”

Over the six years the rejected kiwifruit was used, the trucking operation took shape, initially using a two axle Ford.

“I was transporting the feed and people wanted me to do other jobs with the truck.” The business grew gradually by word of mouth as more people called on Keith to do one off jobs.

The new-found freedom of driving coincided with a decline in enthusiasm for the routine of share milking.

“We spent about eight years farming and part time driving,” says Keith.

Eventually the decision was made to quit the cows and the move was made to a two-and-a-half-acre property in Inglewood where the company now operates from. The business was formally set up in May 1993.

Jessica has been working with her father since 2001, having got her heavy transport license as a 16-year-old and moved into the family business straight from school.

“I was doing some contract tractor work before that. Once I had a restricted license I did all the driver training courses as quickly as I could.”

Jessica says it only took her about 18 months to progress through the system so she could start driving the bigger trucks.

“I’m not sure I would want to tackle the much longer process in place now though.”

Jessica admits she was destined to become a driver. “I can remember going with Dad in the truck as a seven-year-old.”

The Bakers have not forsaken the rural lifestyle though. Most of their work is stock cartage or hay and sileage carrying.

“It was hard getting better trucks as we’ve never had any contracts – even today,” says Keith.

They now run two Isuzu eight wheelers with trailers and a two axle Hino.

Extended family members have also helped out over the years. Jessica’s uncle, Arthur Baker, drove for a while and when the need arises her partner Jeff “Raupo” Iremonger also takes the wheel.