BHP drivers mark decade

Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph

It took a 10-year reunion to get the class of 2007 train drivers together again for the first time since their acceptance into BHP Billiton’s first-ever traineeship for its Pilbara operations.

The group, known as “the six chosen ones”, met at Nelson Point last week to to catch up and reminisce about their time a decade ago.

David Barton, Hank Wiltschut, Rebecca Tavo, Matthew Bleasel, Sally Mcllrath and Paul Groenheide may have gone their separate ways across the Pilbara but one thing they have in common is a love for the job.

The crew was selected from more than 800 applicants, and went through 12 to 14 months of intense practical and theoretical training with an experienced driver before becoming qualified.

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At the time of their recruitment, BHP only employed 130 train drivers — there are now more than 400 drivers servicing Newman, Port Hedland and Yandeyarra.

Ms Mcllrath, a driver, said the traineeship had been instrumental to get to where she is today.

“I love the whole role,” she said.

Mr Wiltschut, who now relieves as a co-ordinator at Yandeyarra, said it was a fantastic lifestyle.

Mr Barton, an acting co-ordinator, also at Yandeyarra, noted safety procedures had changed significantly over the past 10-12 years.

“The procedures are there — you follow them so you don’t get hurt, and you come home to your family every night,” he said. Mr Groenheide, a supervisor, said there had been changes to adapt to.

The “chosen ones” continue as the only intake group with 100 per cent retention.

The trainees pictured in the North West Telegraph 10 years ago.
Camera IconThe trainees pictured in the North West Telegraph 10 years ago.

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