A day in the life of a Tanker Operator


Looking for an ever changing workplace where no two days are the same? Hear from Stirling Tanker Operator Richard Lumb about why life on the road is for him.

Interested in becoming a Tanker Operator? See job vacancies here.

It’s 6.30am in mid-September and Richard Lumb is listening to the morning briefing with the rest of the red team at our Stirling tanker depot near Balcultha.

Richard shares the tanker with a member of each the blue and green teams.

“We work three days starting at 6.30am if it’s mornings and then three nights starting at 5pm and then three days off so it’s a nine-day roster. On days you work about nine hours and drive up to 500kms and nights are usually about ten hours or a bit more and you’re driving up to 650kms.”

His family don’t mind the roster, especially as he’s often around to help out with kids’ sports, cook dinner and do renovations on the house. 

“I can’t be there every Saturday for sport – but I do make it there for most of them. When I started with the Co-op back in 2018 the kids suddenly noticed I was around a lot more.”

His kids and wife have all been on a run in the tanker with him. The depot holds two days every year when family or friends can ride in the cab.

No two days are ever the same. You go places you would never go otherwise. It’s been an awesome way to see the South Island.

Richard lumb, Stirling tanker operator

But now, with an empty tanker, he’s heading for his first dairy farm in Waipahi about 50km away. All the information, including the route, is on the Incab display mounted on the cab’s floor to Richard’s left. “It shows your fuel consumption – we’re aiming to reduce fuel burn every season.”

Richard is at his first pickup. There’s no one around and he drives up to the vat, gets out and hooks up the hose to the vat and starts the process, getting three pottles ready for sampling. “The kids on the farms are great. They love seeing the tanker.”

“Making sure everything is okay on the farm is really important for Fonterra and if we can help, or get help to someone, we do it.”

With volumes changing day to day, especially in the Spring, the route is always different. “No two days are ever the same. You go places you would never go otherwise. It’s been an awesome way to see the South Island.”

Tankers lined up at the depot, ready for the day.

Tanker Operators say they have the “best office in the world”.

Richard’s always had a passion for driving. “I had someone ask me when I was younger what I wanted to do and I said ‘I’ve always wanted to drive milk tankers’ and he said ‘only dropouts became truck drivers’, so I didn’t do it. I shouldn’t have listened to him.”

He worked doing forestry roading and other trucking jobs in Northland then decided a move south, to Balclutha, at the other end of the country and his family haven’t looked back. “The kids love it down here. The weather is so much better.”

And today, there are thousands of lambs being born all along his route.

We’re always on the hunt for great Tanker Operators, so if you know someone with a passion for driving let them know about it.