MC driver Amber Wright, 33, certainly doesn’t do things by halves – and that may well be how she earned her nickname the ‘Hot Mess Express’.
In addition to her fly in-fly out gig carting quads filled with fuel throughout the Pilbara and Port Hedland for Toll, Wright also helps others get their start behind the wheel as a trainer and assessor, while running her own business too.
Growing up in Bullsbrook, WA, Wright says she got her start in trucks on the family farm. “I used to have to move sheep and hay on the farm with the truck, and then I realised it was a job I could get paid for. Because I worked on a farm, I was able to get my car licence at 15 so I had my MC by the time I was 18,” she explained.
“I’m still in Bullsbrook and run that as a horse agistment property, with over 30 horses, so I’m a small business operator at the moment. My sister does the day-to-day operations while I’m away.”
Wright started her trucking career carting grain from farms, then progressed to sheep, followed by tipper work.
“I spent six years driving side tippers all over the Pilbara. I was the only woman on the Telfer run, carting copper concentrate – probably because I was the only one stupid enough to do it. That run is brutal. I’d go through several tyres a day, I was out on the edge of the dessert and I once even hit a camel,” Wright revealed.
“The run was about 800km, but it was 4.5 hours on the bitumen and 4.5 hours on the dirt. You could be doing 60km/h and going nowhere!”
Wright started her current gig with Toll at Port Hedland about six months ago. “I’m only new to fuel. Toll gave me a go on the fuel and has provided lots of training and opportunity.”
When Wright spoke to Big Rigs, she was behind the wheel of a Kenworth C509, pulling a quad set of tankers, though a Western Star 6900 is her usual ride.
“I prefer the quad work. It’s a long and hard drive with some of the hardest working gear, particularly when you’re going up-hill at the Chichester Range in the Pilbara with 130,000 litres of fuel behind you – it’s full-on,” said Wright.
But her regular run also means she gets to see some breathtaking views too.
“Munjina Gorge in the Karijini National Park has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world – I’m blessed to be able to see it every day. The Pilbara holds a really special place in my heart.”
Wright regularly heads out to the Solomon, Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mines. “The Soloman run is pretty hard,” she said. “It’s a 15-hour run and we do at least a tyre or two each day.”
The role with Toll is eight days on, six days off, which suits Wright to a tee.
“I’ve got a Certificate IIII in driver training and assessing. I do MC training and HC assessments at Westaus Driver Training in Malaga on my days off from driving.
“I took a year and a half off FIFO to complete my certificate, so I’ve been training and assessing on and off for about five years. When you’re not at work, you should be at work, I say!
“The eight and six roster is a lot more family friendly, so it’s a really sustainable roster. I used to do 12 weeks on and two weeks off, which was pretty hard. This is a really good gig at Toll and I’m really happy. I have time on my weeks off to run my business, hang out with my friends and do volunteering. And if I decide one day to have a family, I’ve also got the training and assessment to fall back on. I’ve only got one more assessment with the Department of Transport before I can become an MC Assessor,” she added.
“I’m very lucky, the crew I’m with is the best. We all look after each other. It’s us versus the heat, versus the storm, versus anything that can go wrong. We try and set each other up for success and make sure no one fails – that’s what being a truckie is all about.
“It’s been a really good career for me. The people who’ve employed me have let me go with people who are kind and patient. I try and pass that on.”
And Wright says it’s the people that she loves most about the industry.
“I love meeting new people and just getting on with it the best way I possibly can. If someone wants to look up to me, I’ll give them any help or advice they need, because you don’t know what you don’t know. If I can facilitate someone being a little happier for five minutes of their life, I’ll do it.
“The Women in Trucking Australia (WiTA) page and the girls who run it have been really great for me too. It’s such a great initiative. It’s been a great platform to reach out and initiate the conversation about how important women are to the industry, whether they’re drivers, schedulers, mechanics, etc. I’ve made a heap of friends and I feel like I’m not on my own anymore.”
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