Karen Hawker’s been driving professionally for five years but her love for and involvement in road transport goes way back and includes 15 busy years in the Lindsay Transport office.
Looking for a change and the call of the road getting louder, Karen worked her way up through the licence classes to finally join the small but growing ranks of female MC drivers.
As a young mum and wife she travelled with her late husband and two small sons in their truck. The boys – tucked up safely in the bunk – loved every minute and still talks fondly of the days when they travelled as a family out on the road.
Throughout 2019 Karen and hubby Simon did fridge van work together, moving produce up and down the east coast. From there, they moved into road train work across north-western Queensland. Karen says their biggest adventure was a 16-day, 11,000km round-Australia trip in their Mack Super-Liner.
In 2022 Karen purchased a 1997 Heritage Western Star with a Detroit Series 60, 18-speed Road Ranger gear box and 120t rated six-rod suspension and these days, she and her distinctive purple rig (with customised purple trim interior) work west of Toowoomba out to the gas fields – specialising in rig moves and oversize loads.
When not behind the wheel, Karen and Simon dedicate their time as committee members on the Lights on the Hill Committee working tirelessly with a dedicated team to plan and run the Memorial Weekend and Convoy.
Gatton, located in the beautiful Lockyer Valley, is home to the Lights on the Hill Memorial Wall. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Lights on the Hill Memorial and Convoy.
In her spare time Karen breeds Alaskan Malamutes – balancing her driving and committee time with whelping and showing her beautiful dogs.
Karen says her most memorable moments are the sunrises and sunsets, the wide-open spaces and the ever-changing landscapes. She loves the freedom of the road, the genuine and interesting people she comes across every day and of course the stunning Australian outback and its history. “Not many people can experience this beautiful country and get paid for the opportunity” she says.
“The biggest issues are the mechanical and physical issues that can plague drivers who work remotely and the lack of assistance available when you need help and you’re on your own. It’s not as if someone’s just 10 mins away to give you a hand.”
Karen says the most confronting day she’s had out on the road was the Siege at Tara, west of Toowoomba earlier this year when two young Police officers and a farmer were tragically gunned down and lost their lives.
“I was heading through the area that day when one police car went past me at speed then another, then another then many, many more. Initially, I thought there’d been a nasty accident with so many police heading west. Something was terribly wrong. By then the word had gone out over the UHF and local radio station, that a gunman was on the loose. It was like a war zone.”
“One of the more challenging issues of the job is trying to access any truck rest areas with toilet facilities. You do what you must, but it’d be great if there were more amenities for all truck drivers. Could you imagine the outrage if office workers had to go out the back behind a bush!”
Karen’s advice to any women considering trucking careers is simple: “Go For it! Don’t hold back – life’s way too short! Don’t be thin-skinned. Get out and enjoy life whilst you can!”
- Lyndal Denny is CEO of Women in Trucking Australia.