In celebration of the work of the nation’s female heavy vehicle drivers and the birthdate of industry icon Toots Holzheimer, July 5 this year was proclaimed National Female Truckie’s Day. To mark this special occasion, Women in Trucking Australia’s (WiTA) inaugural Toots Award was also presented to young Gold Coast heavy haulage driver Chloe Anderson.
To add some fun to the celebrations the nation’s female drivers were invited to send in selfies with their rigs and hundreds joined in, in what was to become the biggest show of female heavy vehicle driver support in Australian history. As our way of saying thanks, we handed out hundreds of pairs of fabulous work socks generously donated by Finlease.
Weeks later, wandering into the Dunstan’s Low Loader Haulage yard to meet owners Andrew and Kylie Dunstan and their team to help present Chloe with WiTA’s Australia’s inaugural Toots Award, I could be forgiven for thinking I’d stepped back into a bygone era.
Refreshingly, I was immediately struck by mutual respect, the mateship and the humour that was clearly an integral part of this family run business – one of thousands of family-owned trucking companies that are the backbone of the Australian road transport sector; businesses that have and continue to shape our history and character.
Andrew and Kylie Dunstan are the type of people you meet and immediately feel like you’ve known forever. A hard working, knowledgeable, genuine, salt of the earth couple, we wandered over past a line-up of prime movers glistening in the afternoon sun to meet Chloe and Toots’ daughter Donna Vawdrey who had also flown in, to present Chloe with WiTA’s inaugural Toots Award.
The first female driver recruited onto the Dunstan team, it was immediately clear – despite constant ribbing from the boys – that Chloe is highly regarded and clearly recognised for her dedication to learning the job and having a go. Dunstan’s have given Chloe the opportunity to meet the considerable challenges of heavy haulage in a supportive environment – her work ethic and positive attitude setting the bar high for female drivers following her footsteps.
According to Andrew and Kylie, being female has definitely not held Chloe back as she works alongside the boys in the tough uncompromising environment that is heavy haulage – a great ambassador for their business and female drivers everywhere!
On July 5, 2024, to mark National Female Truckie’s Day and Toots’ birthdate, a gala awards dinner in Adelaide will see a number of Toots’ Awards presented not only to companies successfully incorporating diversity and inclusivity into their workplace cultures, but also to women doing great work in the heavy vehicle driver arena.
Saturday July 6 will dawn early with the start of the largest convoy of female heavy vehicle drivers in the nation’s history (we’d love the boys to join us as well) followed by Women in Trucking Australia’s inaugural one-day conference.
Now recognised as the peak advocacy body for female heavy vehicle drivers, WiTA is enormously grateful for the generous support of industry sponsors such as Finlease – who not only support the Toots Awards but also the organisation’s “Foot in the Door” female heavy vehicle driver training and recruitment initiative – an initiative that supports women into sustainable employment with companies who recognise gender diversity as a key driver of excellence, innovation and safety across the road transport sector.
Thankfully, a major industry-wide shift now sees employers actively recruiting women in order to ensure the sector is maximising its potential on the national economic stage.
That said, there is still much work to be done and as a group of volunteers and working female heavy vehicle drivers, the WiTA Board and myself as CEO rely on and thank progressive organisations like Finlease for their generous support – support that allows WiTA to continue its work in this critical area.
- By Lyndal Denny, CEO, Women in Trucking Australia (WiTA)