It has never been easier for women to get a start

One of my favourite “duties” as WiTA CEO is fielding calls from women considering a trucking career. These women do their research thoroughly and I’ve noticed that most – if not all, voice similar concerns.  

Will they have what it takes to make the grade in terms of physical capabilities, and will their efforts be met with a brick wall when they finally hit the job search listings, wasting their hard-earned cash on training that gets them nowhere.

Thankfully, “Women Not Welcome” shingles have been taken down from recruitment department doors across the nation as employers recognise increased female heavy vehicle driver numbers as critical to business sustainability.  

This significant cultural shift means it’s never been easier for women to get a start in their chosen vocation.

In terms of capability, on day one of heavy vehicle driver training school, every student regardless of gender stands in front of their training truck looking up at it with varying degrees of trepidation and in 2013, I remember I was certainly no different.

The road to my first job as a paid truck driver was paved with potholes. As a dedicated “indoorsy,” pampered type, my expertise as a mechanically minded person was stretched when I had to put staples in a stapler – so the thought of jumping up behind the wheel of a vehicle the size of a one-bedroom unit filled me with dread.

When I finally did, the array of gauges, levers and lights on the aircraft-like dash, the “art” of reversing without a rear-vision mirror, the 18 gears and the need to “double-clutch” when changing them was almost enough to send me running back to my comfy, safe existence as a high maintenance shopaholic!  

Lesson one I learned on day one of training was that you can never, ever go near a truck without getting grease all over you!  By the time I got home, my outfit was ruined and glancing in the mirror, I discovered at some stage I’d also gained a third eyebrow, running diagonally from the centre of my forehead all the way across to my left ear!

Sitting in the truck gazing blankly at the diagram on top of the Roadranger gear stick, my endlessly patient trainer Allan explained the secret to a successful gear change is to synchronize the truck’s engine revs with the diff revs somewhere between the 1200 to 1600 RPM mark before depressing the clutch and moving the gearstick into neutral, then instantly clutching again to have it mesh seamlessly into the required gear. Piece of cake – not!

After eight weekend lessons crunching gears all over the NSW Northern Rivers region, Allan finally signed me off as I set a new record for the longest time ever taken to get an HR license!  Thankfully, Allan was already grey before we started – but to this day, I still firmly believe this is a man who deserves an award for patience and guts – for stepping up against all odds to meet this next-level challenge.  

Wrapping up my final session – as we neared the truck yard, he said “take the truck through the gate Lyndal.”  After a slight pause he added, “The open gate would be good.”

They say trucking gets in your blood and ten years and hundreds of thousands of incident-free kilometres later, I still enjoy every minute spent behind the wheel.  

This is a vocation where a great attitude, grit and determination will stand you in good stead. It’s also a vocation where help is always on hand if you need advice or support. 

If you’re considering a career behind the wheel and have questions – Women in Trucking Australia is always only a phone call away! 

  • Lyndal Denny is CEO, Women in Trucking Australia

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