Having gotten her start in trucks in the mines 14 years ago, Jacqueline Larkin has just completed additional heavy vehicle training through the Foot in the Door program, as she seeks to further her skills.
The Foot in the Door program is an initiative of Women in Trucking Australia (WiTA), officially launched earlier this year that aims to support inexperienced female heavy vehicle drivers into trucking careers. It’s been funded by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI), supported by the Federal Government.
Larkin came into the program with an open MC licence, but she had very little experience.
Through the program, she was able to complete a refresher course with Brisbane Truck School to gain further training in areas such as uncoupling and coupling trailers, reversing and road positioning.
Currently driving a truck mounted attenuator on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, which she’s been doing for about six months, Larkin is hoping to eventually move into full HC work in south-east Queensland.
As Larkin explained, “When I got my open HR licence, I did work in the mines in Blackwater, it was mainly rear dump trucks, moxies and a water truck. When my mum became ill, I got a government job with RoadTek, so I could support mum for a few years. Then when I met my ex-partner a couple of years ago, who was driving a B-double, he inspired me to keep going with my driving career.”
But for Larkin, a passion for trucks is something that started very early on. “My dad was an interstate truck driver for many years, so it’s in the blood,” she said, as she spoke of fond childhood memories travelling in his truck.
“I got to go to Perth, Melbourne… I’d go to sleep in Brisbane and wake up in Sydney. My brother and I loved it. When Dad used to haul grain, he’d make it a bit of a holiday for us and pull up roadside, with billy tea, he’d make sausages and veggies on the stove, I loved that life on the road,” she recalled.
“As a young girl growing up, it was like a romance of the road, seeing things, going through the different towns. My dad used to haul a lot citrus out of Golden Mile Orchard at Mundubbera to the Sydney Markets.”
She says she was always keen to help out if it meant she’d score a ride in the truck. “They’d load the trucks with boxes and boxes by hand. They were hard days, but also fun days too, we’d help roll the tarps out, and when he got home, my and brother and I would have to wash the truck. We’d be up on top of the trailer trying to lean across to wash the top of the cab with a broom. My brother would disappear so I’d be left doing it myself. Being the obliging oldest daughter, I’d keep going – but it would mean I’d get a ride in it, so it was worth it.
“I associate a lot of adventure and hard but good times from my early exposure to trucking through Dad.”
Larkin has held her MC licence for close to 18 months. She also did a stint driving a powder tanker and an agitator for Hanson in Brisbane.
She says she wanted to gain more experience driving semis. “I want to get totally competent in the semi work, knowing I can get it into anywhere, knowing that I can drive the 18-speed anywhere. It’s about competency before I’d consider the bigger trucks,” she said.
“For me, I needed further practice in reversing and hooking up the trailers, and getting my BFM as well. The Brisbane Truck School was able to fit me in very quickly. They were very good, professional and supportive. I spoke to Neil and he outlined a plan for me over the phone and spoke to me for about 40 minutes when I first phoned them.
“It’s about learning the mechanical side of your truck too. I do like the older trucks, and knowing your engine braking, the safety equipment, correct gear selection, different loading and handling capabilities, fatigue management, weight distribution, getting your head around all the aspects, it’s just constant learning. You need to be able to transfer that into the practical.
“This Foot in the Door program is a really good way to get into it, we can drive these things but just need a bit more in the way of training and mentoring.”