After a career with many twists and turns, Rod Simpkins has taken the wheel with a job that combines his love of people and strong sense of community spirit.
The journey has taken Rod from Mullumbimby to Sydney, then across NSW with his four children, and finally putting the brakes on in Port Macquarie. Rod has experienced an impressive variety of professions over the past 40 years – from Electrical Foreman to Business Analyst, to Facility Manager and business owner.
In 2014 he retired, resolving to ease off the accelerator and enjoy the view. According to Rod, the reason he became a taxi driver is simple: people. “Retirement at an early age can have great rewards, but coming from an environment of people management, I wanted to keep up conversation with a diverse mix of people. There is a great cross-section of the public who travel in taxis,and all have an interesting story to tell,” he said.
Rod is passionate about his community. Over the years he has been involved in many organisations, including the Friends of the Players Theatre, the Scouts and the Rural Fire Brigade. Recently his local Masons & Friends Group has partnered with students from CSU “Student Heart Project” and Rod’s employment provider Port Macquarie Taxis to install the first 24 hour Public Access Defibrillator in Port Macquarie. The unit is housed in a secure cabinet at the Horton Street Taxi Rank, and Port Taxis is proud of Rod’s involvement in securing this life-saving equipment.
This care and concern for others is appreciated by the locally owned and operated Port Taxis. A recent focus for the company has been the attainment of “Dementia Friendly Organisation” status, awarded by Alzheimer’s Australia. The Port Macquarie electorate has been ranked as the third highest dementia prevalent area in NSW, and Port Taxis estimate 50 – 60% of the 2,500 passengers they pick up every day are elderly. The company also equips drivers with specialist training in first aid, special needs children, Returned Veterans, plus disabled and wheelchair care.
Behind the scenes there’s plenty of state-of-the-art technology and complex dispatch logistics helping Rod and his 75 colleagues get you to your destination. Bookings, which come in via phone, email, web, and the new “Australia Wide Taxi” App, are transmitted to on-board computers, complete with GPS navigation. Jobs are allocated to specific vehicle types as requested, including “ecofriendly”hybrids, Maxi Taxis and Wheelchair Accessible Taxis.
So what’s next for Rod? Maybe a bit more driving on his days off … “With the help of others, I run the not-for-profit “Discover Your Own Backyard” tours to places of interest in and around the Hastings, Manning and Nabiac areas.” A few more good deeds … “Our next project is a trivia afternoon on 28th August, to raise money for a defibrillator for the Lord Howe Island Police to carry in their Patrol Car.” Or more opportunities to drive on the wrong side of the road … “My partner, Maureen (an artist with an exhibition currently in Harrington) and I have just returned from the Mediterranean Islands.”
6:00am Up with the alarm, out of bed and into the shower.
7:30am Head off to the Taxi Base.
8:30am The most rewarding part of the morning – pick up a disabled student and transport him to school.
9:30am Airport jobs and more wheelchair passengers.
12:30pm Jobs are slowing up, so now is a good time to take a lunch break – off to Munster IGA for a chat and a flat white to go with my home made wraps.
2:30pm Time to take my “little mate” back home after school and a leisurely drive to Rawdon Island.
4:30pm Slim pickings in jobs now, but soon the planes will be arriving.
6:00pm The day’s work has finished – so many new faces with stories to tell.
7:00pm Home at last to spend the evening with Maureen, my wonderful partner.