An industry where people can earn a six-figure income is struggling to find workers.
Employers say some experienced truck drivers with a Class 5 licence are paid $100,000 a year with overtime, with some crane drivers making even more.
However, the sector has not escaped the labour crisis and the rising cost of doing business, and leaders say it needs to attract more women and address its ageing workforce.
Tranzliquid Logistics director Greg Pert said there was a shortage of truck drivers before Covid hit and now trucks were being "parked up" around the country as some companies struggled to find staff.
The issue was global, compounded by equipment cost increases of 20 to 40 per cent, fuel hikes, and waits of up to 24 months to get new trucks into the country.
Pert, who has worked in freight and logistics for nearly 40 years, said the sector was facing "very challenging" times.
The company employed 50 Class 5 truck operators, a role with the potential to earn six figures including overtime.
Pert hoped more people would take up training opportunities for the career.
"I guess you can go to university but you can also train towards a Class 5 licence and earn really good money. We've had 22-year-olds in our business."
He said Tranzliquid Logistics would be recruiting for four or five operators in the next three months. The company had two female operators.
Like others in the industry NZME spoke to, he was concerned about poaching and a perceived Government reluctance to let experienced overseas drivers come in on the worker shortage list.
McLeod Transport managing director Scott McLeod said he had crane operators "easily earning over $100,000 a year," with overtime and perks such as company vehicles and mobile phones.
Demand had increased for the business, which employed 150 people, but costs had spiralled. Fuel, labour and parts were all under pressure.
From his perspective, the Government was doing "nothing to help" ease the situation or address the national shortage of drivers for trucks, cranes and hiabs.
"If anything [the Government is] placing more barriers to business."
He said he was constantly training new drivers but feared they would take their skills to Australia or take fly-in-fly-out mine jobs.
McLeod had female operators on staff. "It's really an industry we would like women to consider."
The company was advertising for new crane, truck and hiab operators with positions in Tauranga, Taupō and Hamilton.
Taylor Bros Transport managing director Andrew Taylor said the labour crisis exacerbated driver shortages in the road transport industry in a similar way to trades and construction shortages.
In his view, the education system did not provide a clear pathway for students and there was an incorrect perception of poor driver earnings, unappealing working conditions and long hours.
"We have always paid well above the average driver rate to ensure we attract and retain good performers.''
Taylor said, according to Road Transport Industry Forum figures, the average truck driver was aged 54 and more than 20 per cent were over 60. Only five per cent were women and 80 per cent of trucking firms had never employed a female driver.
In the past six months, Taylor Bros had employed six new driving and dispatch staff including its first female dispatcher and first female driver.
McFall Fuel managing director Allan McFall said it had made some good hires in the past two years, and had a retention programme.
"We take a long-term view to employment and invest heavily in the training of our team. Professionally trained drivers are in high demand, however with a positive employment offer that meets their expectations, they can be found."
The family-owned business had 164 staff and had vacancies.
Heavy Haulage Rowes operations manager Jason King said drivers were the core of the business and the company made adjustments to charges to keep good people on.
King said poaching was not a new dilemma but its approach was to "pay people what they are worth".
It had vacancies for a dispatcher and truck drivers.
As in other companies, its customers were impacted by supply chain woes and equipment price rises.
"We custom design and build slide decks and under lifts onto bare cab chassis for tow trucks and concrete trucks. Our customers are finding it hard to find new trucks and get them into the country so that we can modify them.''
Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett said its Save Our Supply Chain recruitment campaign calls on former drivers to get back behind the wheel. About 200 to 300 people had responded since last month's launch.
A trainee programme that matched candidates with transport businesses and offered nationally recognised qualifications was also helping.
He said the industry needed to do more to encourage women into training.
Transport Minister Michael Wood said the Government was working with the road transport industry to support the development of careers in the sector.
Migrant crane operators offered a salary at least 1.5 times the median wage could be granted a border exception to travel to New Zealand now, and truck drivers were on the construction and infrastructure skill shortage list.
Road transport education was available through options including Gateway and Trades Academies.
The driver transport centre based in Manfeild also had regional careers expos with Ministry of Education financial support, and these included a strong presence from the road transport industry.
Wood said the Government had reduced road user charges by 36 per cent.
"I have asked my officials for advice on how we can strengthen the workforce pipeline."
From hairdresser to crane operator
Anna Browne, 33, traded her hairdressing scissors for a 40-tonne crane.
The Taupō crane operator said she sat her truck licences at polytech. A hairdressing client who worked for McLeod Transport invited her to do work experience there.
She spent about 16 weeks driving a hiab truck, dropping off containers and timber supplies. When she hit them up for a job, they offered her a crane apprenticeship.
Six years later, Browne is living her dream.
"I work with amazing operators and management who have taught me a hell of a lot and shown me everything I know today. My job is awesome.
"I love it because of the variety; you don't know if you are going to be with a drilling rig or lifting something unique or helping out our bigger cranes with houses or boats."
Her most memorable moment was when she was fairly new and was put inside a building to work on a steel structure.
"I had to get the crane in there and manoeuvre around some tight spaces, which was really awesome."
Most of the contractors the company did work for were used to her but others' reactions to a female crane operator still made her laugh.
"You do get the looks."
By the numbers
• The road freight transport industry employs 32,868 people
• It had a gross annual turnover of $6 billion, and transports 93 per cent of the total tonnes of freight moved in New Zealand
- Source: Transporting New Zealand