A truck driver for the past 12 years, Rachel Thornton, 50, says she can now tick another item off the bucket list.
Based in Brisbane, she works for Rivet Mining Services doing FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) work in Port Hedland, pulling quad road train side tippers of up to 195 tonnes.
“I love and enjoy everything about my job – working with awesome colleagues and really just getting the job done. I’d been contemplating coming over here for a long time. It’s just a beautiful place, the weather is always picturesque, and the sunsets and sunrises are some of the most mind-blowing colours I’ve ever seen,” explained Thornton.
“I’ve reached my goal. This is where I wanted to be by the time I turned 50 – over here in WA, operating quads.”
She’s been in her current job for about 18 months, carting iron ore between the mines and the ports. Deliveries are usually around a 1000km round trip, completed in 11-12 hours.
Her work schedule is four weeks on and two weeks off. But if there are shortages, she’ll often stay back and help out where she can.
Though with being a FIFO worker, Covid-enforced border restrictions did add an extra level of complexity. “The border was hard. I was here for six months at one point and couldn’t really go back home, otherwise it was too hard to come back in with the border closures – so to not be in that predicament, I just stayed here and worked,” said Thornton.
“I have worked in isolated places, but never did FIFO before this job. I had heard a lot of stories about how daunting the work can be, but I haven’t felt like that at all.
“I love the freedom – I am doing what I love and just being me. I’ve done other driving work too, like B-doubles up and down the east coast, I’ve done tautliners and flat tops, I’ve worked in warehouses, and it’s all great work, but I got sick of doing the same thing all the time. Interstate was a bit different, that was good and I liked it, but there were so many tired drivers on the road and I had a few close calls, so I decided to start doing FIFO work. You just get to a point where you have to make a decision. I didn’t want to be doing local and interstate anymore.”
Thornton says she’s always had an interest in trucks, sparked during her time working as a jillaroo during her teenage years. “With that I did a lot of study and stuff about where, why and how the trucking industry became the way it was – starting with wagons through to trucks. I found out my grandfather and my great grandfather were both drovers down at Condamine in NSW. From there, my father worked in the mines, so that added to my interest too and then it all went from there.”
Born in Townsville, Thornton travelled a lot with her family growing up, including living in Alice Springs for 14 years and stints living in Rockhampton, Emerald and Brisbane.
Though she had driven trucks on farms for several years, it wasn’t until 2014 that Thornton decided to pursue truck driving as a serious career. By 2015, she had secured her MC licence – and says she’s never looked back.
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