Eleanor Lefever, known to everyone as 'E', is a highly skilled and very passionate swing driver in the film industry.
We asked E for a few more details about what she does...
What exactly is a swing driver?
A swing driver (also known as a drop-load driver) swings (moves) trucks, generators, campers, utes, light towers, bathrooms and other trailers etc from one location to another and sometimes helps set them up. It can be anything from one truck to a whole company move, across town or the length of the country.
How did you get in to this role?
I started in the industry in 2005 as an operations manager for a small film company in Wellington. The first time I heard about swing driving was when I was payroll assist on The Hobbit and had to pay them. A few years later I was working on a production and another production at the same studio needed swing drivers. Till then, the most exciting thing I’d used my truck license for was bouncing around my father’s potholed yard on the day my first baby was due, hoping to get him moving (which only made Charley hold on for dear life for another week btw!) I was keen to get out of the office so decided to give swing driving a go. I was hooked immediately.
What does it require you to do day-to-day?
Swing driving has erratic hours, therefore erratic pay, so you have to pace yourself physically and financially but one the good thing about being a self-employed contractor is that we can work across as many productions as we can manage within our logbook hours.
What strengths and abilities do you need for the job?
Adaptability. Being able to get into any vehicle, whether it’s a manual, clutchless manual, automatic or road ranger and drive it safely and confidently.
It seems obvious, but following instructions is essential. Adrenalin is often pumping when first starting a swing so it’s easy to make mistakes with directions etc
On long hauls it helps if you’re happy being alone.
You have to be comfortable being around lots of men. There are more women becoming drivers, which most men welcome, but the ratio is still about 1 to 10.
What are the things you love about it?
It’s always an adventure.
The other drivers and their humour and work stories.
I thrive on change so I love being called to fly somewhere the next morning to start a long haul swing.
I’m grateful that I’ve always been treated with respect and as an equal by the other drivers, even when I wear a dress with my steel caps on Frock Friday.
I like it that everyone gets paid the same rate and if there is a rate difference, it will only be because of licenses.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to do the same job?
A lot of transport captains like women drivers because we’re more careful. You can be a swing driver with just a Class 1 license. You can list yourself on screen industry websites such as Crewlist or Filmdrivers etc but work is mostly word of mouth, so contact a driver if you know one.
Tell us one of your work stories.
I’ve had numerous highlights and often can’t believe my luck that I’m paid to drive trucks around our exquisite country with my favourite people. My biggest highlight was when another driver who usually drives solo caught up with me in my eight-wheeler at a truck stop in Turangi. He then followed me all the way back to Auckland. When we were both fueling up in Kumeu, he admitted that three colleagues had called him when they found out he was driving with me (because it was so unusual) and asked how I drove. I was really moved and humbled at how kind he was. He then told me he’d been King of The Road (like a Truckers' Olympics) a few times. If I’d known that, there’s no way I would have driven in front! But it meant so much to get that positive feedback from such a respected driver, and I’ve never questioned my abilities since.
I’m madly in love with the film industry and my happiest place is behind a steering wheel so I really am living the dream and every day I can’t imagine how my life could get any better.