Gemma Hogg is no stranger to serious horsepower – in more ways than one.
The 31-year-old from Emerald, Queensland is possibly the only woman in Australia juggling simultaneous careers as a jockey and a truckie.
And while this takes an incredible amount of discipline and organisation, Hogg isn’t the type to be put off by a few hurdles.
“I get up at 3.30am every morning to ride between six and 10 racehorses,” she said.
“Then I get ready and I jump in my truck for the day.
“When I get home in the evening, I have to do about two hours of exercise before I go to bed, because I have to stay fit for the horse racing.
“Then there’s usually a race day on the Saturday so I’ll go to that. I used to find it exhausting but I’m getting used to the routine now.”
As a jockey, your weight is very important, so Hogg also has to be very strict when it comes to her diet.
“Obviously food from servos is not great for a jockey,”she explained.
“I have to have rules. I’ll do food prep at the start of the week.
“And then I try to go to a particular truck stop servo to fuel my truck up because you can use your fuel cards there and you don’t have to go into the servo.
“It’s definitely harder to diet when you’ve got hot box food right in front of you.
”Hogg grew up around horses, with her stepdad encouraging her to pursue an interest in horse riding.
“I always had horses, but I wasn’t the best at pony club,”she laughed.
“I had that need for speed and excitement – pony club was too slow for me.”
She moved on to Active Riders, which ran equestrian events more suited to her talents.
“By the time I was 12, I was competing against adults –parents stopped putting their kids in events that I was in!”
As for truck driving, she first developed an interest in it in her early 20s, but it wasn’t until a decade later that she got her first job as a truckie.
“I’m a bit artistic, and I had gotten an airbrushing kit for my birthday,” she remembered.
“One of my friends owned his own truck and he offered to teach me how to drive it and pay for my licence in exchange for me painting the firewall.”
Hogg started her driving career behind the wheel of a bus, bringing kids to and from school and transporting workers in the mines.
Her big break came when her current boss, Benjamin Scully from BT Tilt Trays in Emerald, offered her work as a tilt-tray operator.“
I welcomed the opportunity with open arms and got to work learning to drive the company’s 18-speed Kenworth as well as learning how to load and unload machinery and mining equipment.
“I also started towing a dog trailer.
“With the support of my boss and loads of opportunities, I pretty soon I outgrew my little tilt tray truck so got my HC license and I haven’t looked back.”
Since then, Hogg has driven road trains hauling everything from cotton and hay to mining equipment and portable toilets.
“I’ve also done wide load under escort work and learned to operate all kinds of machinery.
“I now drive all five trucks in our yard. I love getting my hands dirty in the workshop and out at breakdowns and make a point of pulling my own weight.”
She is grateful to her boss Ben not just for giving her the opportunity to challenge herself at work, but for being flexible around her horse racing career.
“Ben is awesome,” she said.“For example, if I have to travel for a race day, sometimes he might get me a load out of that town, so I can take a truck and I get paid to go.
“I would never be able to do both the trucks and the horses if it wasn’t for a boss like him.”
Horse racing and truck driving are both male-dominated industries, which Hogg said can be frustrating.
“As a woman truck driver, I get spoken over a lot. Like, I might suggest an idea or something that might work, and I won’t be listened to until they’ve exhausted all other avenues.
“Then finally they try what I said and nine times out of ten it works. But yeah, usually I won’t try to overpower the men, I’ll just play dumb.
“However, I will put my foot down when it comes to my trucks. For instance, the tilt tray I drive, Ben paid over $400k for it and we’ve kept it in pretty good condition.
“If I see that someone is get-ting a bit too close to it with a forklift or something, I will step in and pull them up for that.”
On the other hand, Hogg said there can be some advantages to being a female truckie.
“If it’s a really hot day I might be allowed to go into a workshop to load or unload, and there’ll usually be some bitters there for me and they’ll be like ‘Hold on, I’ll roll your straps up for you!’ or they’ll get me a stepladder so I don’t have to climb up the side of the truck to get in.
“It does have its perks as well.”
Truck driving has given Hogg an extra income stream, as well as a backup plan for later in life.
“At the moment I’m 31, single, no kids,” she said. “But I eventually want a family, and I can’t be risking my life on racehorses if I want to be a mum.
“I’m giving myself two more years of the racing before I fold on that.
“The trucks have given me a backup plan, something that I could do if I was six months pregnant.”
Sharing her advice for other women who are considering becoming a truckie, she said:“It’s hard to learn, but you will learn.
“And once you’ve learnt it, you’ll love yourself for it. It’s really empowering.
“I love waking up and going to the horses and then I can’t wait to get in my truck. It’s a really good life.”