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Driver Determined To Swap Wheelchair For Big Rig

February 13 2008

Otaki Truck Driver Determined To Swap Wheelchair For Big Rig

An Otaki truck driver is determined to chalk up a New Zealand first – to become what is believed to be the country’s only paraplegic Class 5 truck driver.

Scott Baldwin broke his back in March 2003, when part of the hiab on the truck he was driving hit the bottom of an overbridge in Ngaio, Wellington. A hiab is a loading crane that is attached to a truck and is used to load and unload cargo.

Mr Baldwin’s spine was crushed in the accident. “I had a burst fracture of the T12 (the vertebrae right at the bottom of the spine). The bone just shattered and shot into my spinal cord and stuffed that. So, effectively I’m paralysed from the waist down,” he said.

In a wheelchair ever since, the 36-year old is determined to get back to trucking. Last year he won back his Class 5 truck licence after a driving assessment. That means that with hand controls installed, he can drive heavy combination vehicles – the biggest trucks on the road.

The truck he did his test in came from TR Group in Palmerston North, while Adaption and Engineering Services, also in Palmerston North, installed the hand controls. Even that is thought to have been the first time a Class 5 truck was modified in New Zealand.

Mr Baldwin needed the reassessment to ensure he was physically capable of handing a truck of that size. “Now that I’ve got my licence back I can do almost any job,” he said. While he knows of a paraplegic digger driver, and another that drives a bus, he doesn’t know of any paraplegic Class 5 vehicle drivers in New Zealand.

“But there’s nothing to say that I can’t do it. I could drive container trucks or refrigeration units, or a mail truck, or do most kinds of long-distance hauling. Or even drive forklifts. I know I can get a hoist installed in the driver’s door, and I can put my wheelchair in the passenger seat, so I can do any driving job where I don’t have to get in and out a lot,” Scott Baldwin said.

“The goal is to get Scott a job,” said Lynda Bower, Mr Baldwin’s case manager at ACC. “He came to me and said ‘I want to get back driving trucks’ and I just knew that he could do it, if he was offered the right job. He’s so determined and it's really inspiring.”

“I don’t want to end up, like many paraplegics do, in an office, because I’ve never been an inside person. That’s what the truck does. It gives you the freedom to get outside and not be tied down,” Mr Baldwin said.


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