Career News, Careers & Training

Transport operator helps put go-getter on the path to success down under

After applying for countless jobs without success, Carolina Bayona Pineros – now 44 – is thankful that South East Queensland Hauliers (SEQH) gave her a chance.

Originally from Colombia, she moved to Queensland in 2016 in search of a better life for her family.

Back home, Carolina had studied and worked hard to develop a successful career in human resources – but unable to speak English, when she arrived here, she had to start from scratch.

She committed herself to learning the language and spent three years working in hospitality, before she was confident enough to take the next step and begin applying for jobs within her field of expertise.

Carolina says she lost count of the amount of jobs she applied for before one company decided to give her a chance to prove she had what it takes.

That company was South East Queensland Hauliers (SEQH), where she now heads up the human resources department, with six people working within her team.

“In the beginning, I thought I’d never see the light of being able to get back into my field. I felt like I was just applying for so many jobs without any success,” she revealed. “I really had to prove myself, but I feel blessed that someone gave me the opportunity to work here, put my skills to use and show that I am capable of many things.”

Started in the 1960s and still family owned and operated, SEQH operates from depots in Brisbane and Toowoomba. The company works closely with its customers, in particular freight forwarders and customs brokers, to import and export shipping containers and break-bulk freight.

SEQH currently employs approximately 230 people, including around 120 drivers; and runs a fleet of about 90 trucks, operated as semis, B-doubles, A-doubles and road trains, along with side-loaders.

Brett Plummer is the managing director and owner of SEQH and Nathan Craner serves as deputy managing director.

Managing director and owner of SEQH Brett Plummer, human resources advisor Carolina Bayona Pineros and deputy managing director Nathan Craner. Image: SEQH

Carolina joined the company in November 2019. She went through five interviews before being offered an admin role, working part time for three days a week. “Brett and Nathan weren’t sure about my English at first which wasn’t great at that point. It took me about three years to really learn the language and even now, I still make mistakes! After the interviews, I kept pushing and they gave me an opportunity,” Carolina explained.

“At first I was working in fleet compliance and then an opportunity came up to work in HR, which is my area of expertise and where my passion lies. That was about two and a half years ago.”

Though she admits, “When SEQH gave me the opportunity to apply for this role, I wasn’t sure I’d get the job, not so much for the skills but for the language – but I’ve had a lot of support from management.”

Carolina says she’s so grateful to her leaders – Brett and Nathan – for giving her a shot. “Because all you need is one person to believe in you and give you that opportunity.”

And now Carolina is also helping others in the business develop and further their skills.

“Brett and Nathan are both very passionate about staff training, so that’s where we came up with our driver training program to help upskill our drivers.”

Originally created in response to driver shortages, SEQH’s driver training program is called Road Masters, and includes assessments for new drivers, upskill training, incident training and upgrading employees’ licences from HR and HC to MC.

To date, 12 drivers have upgraded their licence to MC through the program, with SEQH paying half the cost of the licence test.

Just recently this training program was recognised at the National Trucking Industry Awards in Canberra, taking out the National Training Excellence Award. 

Carolina says this was the first time SEQH had been nominated for such a prestigious national accolade, and she was honoured to accept the award on the company’s behalf.

Carolina Bayona Pineros accepted SEQH’s National Training Excellence Award. She’s pictured with Athol Carter from Frasers Livestock Transport and Andy Hughes from Sutton Road Training Centre. Image: Roxanne Tulk/44 Creative

According to Carolina, SEQH continues to grow and develop its culture and values and she continues to work closely with Brett and Nathan to achieve the company’s goals. 

“Nathan and Brett are also really big believers that bringing in the right leaders is critical to business success. Leadership has a huge impact on our culture, so we’ve introduced a monthly program for the leadership team that focuses on effective communication,” Carolina said.

As well as that, the business has introduced a new mentor program, where experienced company drivers are able to go through the necessary accreditation to become driver trainers.

As Carolina revealed, SEQH has also found it difficult to find skilled side loader operators in recent times, so there are plans for mentors to help upskill drivers to take on these roles.

In her almost five years with SEQH, Carolina says she has championed the level of diversity within its workforce, which has increased greatly. “There wasn’t a lot of diversity when I first came here. Now we have people from all different backgrounds including from the Philippines, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, China, Brazil and Colombia.

“We have also set some aggressive targets to improve female participation in our business with a particular emphasis on training female operators in non-traditional roles, such as drivers, forklift operators and workshop mechanics.” 

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