Meet our team: Frank Burksfield, Senior Driving Instructor
It’s easy to think that Freedom Mobility is all about modified vehicles: the cars and people movers along with the specialised hardware that goes into them. In reality, our most important assets are our people, particularly the ones who interact most directly with clients: our driving instructors. It’s their ability to get people comfortable and confident when controlling a modified vehicle that makes everything possible.
It takes a special mix of skills. As well as technical knowledge it demands great people skills, patience and real focus on every individual client’s needs. Our Hawkes Bay-based Senior Driving Instructor Frank Burksfield is a prime example. He’s been working for Freedom Mobility for around nine years, at first out of Auckland. “We moved down here in June last year. Originally it was a bach but we decided to move down so we sold up. Doing what I do, I can travel anywhere from here. A couple of weeks ago I had to deliver a car to someone in Invercargill, meaning I flew into Christchurch, picked up the car at our facility there then headed to Southland.” In typically accommodating style, Frank then found out the customer was at a doctor’s appointment, working around their movements and finally delivering the lesson around five o’clock at night.
“The thing that really motivates me is helping people,” says Frank. “To know that you’ve helped someone, be it short term or long term. You give them back their independence really.” In one instance Frank delivered a car and training to a High Court Judge in Wellington. “He said, am I glad to see you,” recounts Frank. “I’ve been housebound for nine months.” It came as a shock but it impressed on Frank just what a difference Freedom Mobility’s cars can make.
People often don’t know how the vehicles work. That’s why Frank and his colleague Sefa have recently made some videos to email in advance. “It at least gives people some idea what to expect,” he says. To illustrate why this matters Frank recalls a recent job. “Once I’d made initial contact the woman said don’t bother coming.
Why is that, I said. She said, ‘I can’t ride a motorbike.’ So I said, you realise I’m bringing you a car? ’Yeah but I can’t ride a motorbike.’ I was wracking my brain to understand what she might have a problem with, so I said look I’m going past your place so why don’t I swing by to let you have a look? I took her out in it and she said it wasn’t what she expected at all. ‘I heard you have to twist and pull it like a motorcycle, but it’s all kind of easy, eh?’ Hence the video, so people have a better idea of what to expect.”
Frank is really enjoying life in Hawkes Bay. It makes a change from Auckland but an even bigger change from some of the Frank’s earlier experiences. Starting as an apprentice diesel mechanic with the British Army, he went on to be trained to drive heavy trucks, including tank transporters. He then applied his skills as an instructor for Swift transportation, the United States’ largest truck-transport company, teaching students on 18-wheelers. Based out of Washington State, Frank instructed many scores of drivers over his five years with the group, and is proud to say only one of his charges didn’t graduate. And only because he couldn’t face the long periods away from family.
So if you get one of our vehicles and training delivered by Frank, one things for sure. You’re in safe hands.