Career News, Careers & Training, Truck driver, Truckie Profiles

From behind the desk to driving road trains

Despite a “bumpy start”, MC driver Gail Ritchie, 49, has found her calling, stepping away from a career in the office to drive road trains, hauling 60 tonnes of lead.

For Gail, being out on the road, behind the wheel of a B-triple, is a dream come true – but it’s a dream she had once thought she’d never achieve.

She had tried to make the move into trucking on more than one occasion, but for one reason or another, things didn’t quite work out. So she decided to give it one last shot and is glad she did.

Gail currently works for Qube Logistics, having started the role in August 2023 as a HC driver, and then securing her MC licence shortly after in November.

She says the V8 Scania R580 is “smooth, comfortable and has all the bells and whistles.” Image: Gail Ritchie

Driving a V8 Scania R580, which she says is “smooth, comfortable and has all the bells and whistles,” Gail does the three-hour trip from Qube’s Adelaide depot to Port Pirie in South Australia for export, and back again. It’s roughly a 500-kilometre round trip.

She does that each day Monday to Friday, setting off at 3pm and arriving back in the yard at around 10.30pm.

The Scania is shared with another driver named Steve Hayward, who drives the truck during the day – from around 6am until 1pm – before Gail takes over for the afternoon shift. “So the truck is running from 6am until I finish. We work great together, keep things running smoothly and he’s a top bloke too,” said Gail.

Prior to securing her first stint on the road, Gail had worked in a call centre for vehicle breakdowns for about 10 years, and before that was in finance. It was also during that time that she got her unrestricted HC licence.

“I had also set myself a challenge. When I went for my HC, I went for my unrestricted licence in a Roadranger – it was terrifying and exciting at the same time,” she said.

“I thought if I’m going for my HC, I need to get it in a Roadranger. If I can’t drive that, I shouldn’t be driving!”

Gail Ritchie does the daily run out to Port Pirie in South Australia. Image: Gail Ritchie

Gail left her call centre job in March 2021 and started working as a truck driver that same month, but that driving job lasted about three months.

“I got a job at a training place that took on people who had relatively little experience,” Gail said. “I was doing my Certificate III in driving operations. But I found they really didn’t provide the training and support I needed.”

Though she did finish that qualification, along with her Basic Fatigue Management (BFM).

Then it was back to the office.

Though her confidence was lacking, she knew driving a truck was where she wanted to be. Her husband had made the shift from office work to truck driving 15 years prior and she was determined to be able to do the same.

“I always thought I’d love to be able to do that, but even standing next to a truck with the engine running, for me it was intimidating. I thought this was never going to happen.”

Gail began working in an office job at the same company her husband was working at. “I’d see all the road trains coming in and out of the depot and that cemented it for me. Because I had been doing desk jobs for so long, as soon as I got my first taste of being on the road, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

“I was in that role for about five months when I realised I couldn’t stay chained to a desk anymore. I had hoped if I started in the office there, they’d be able to give me a go but my confidence was no longer there. They have all this really nice new and expensive gear and I thought there’s no way they’ll let me into one of those.”

Unfortunately, she was still lacking confidence. Gail’s next role was driving a water cart within the yard of her next employer. “I did that for a couple of months cruising around the yard and drove the street sweeper around the yard too. Then I moved into some of their heavy rigids doing ratchet and strap work and multi drop stuff, then went into the semis – but it wasn’t the right place for me.”

From there it was back into an office role for the next nine months.

“It gave me time to get my head where it needed to be to give it one last go in trucking,” she said.

For Gail, it was Women in Trucking Australia’s (WiTA) Foot in the Door upskill training program that was just what the doctor ordered.

She came across a post for the program on Facebook and decided to apply. “Lyndal Denny [WiTA CEO] thought I’d be a good fit. She’s been a massive inspiration and my boss Matt Newman at Qube is wonderful – he’s the one who gave me the job. He’s just been great to me and given me a great opportunity. He’s a very fair boss and he actually listens. He’s been the make or break for me in getting into this industry,” explained Gail, who was able to upskill to her MC in November, which was funded through the program.

Gail says her boss Matt Newman has been instrumental in helping her to get where she is. Image: Gail Ritchie

“It was a very bumpy start for me to find that sweet spot of being able to drive on my own and feel totally relaxed. And it took me a long time to get there. I think it took me a little longer than most. A lot of it was me just doubting myself.”

The job itself is much more physical than her previous roles – with the need to use rubber matting and five tonne straps and ratchets to secure the three trailers – but Gail has been thriving.

“This was definitely the right move. I felt like I took that very last chance. I was determined to do it this time and it’s the best decision I ever made. I didn’t expect to get my MC as quickly as I did,” she said, adding that the role has been even better than she thought it would be.

“I think Qube is a really great place for women to get a start. The women here are all really hard working because they want to prove they can do it – if I can do this, anyone can!

“The freedom of being out there is the best part of it. You don’t get that sitting at a computer with a headset plugged in. I’ve also met a lot of great people on the road and made some great friends too. It’s great having that comradery out there.”

1 Comment

  1. In my world out on the track I would load the 60 tonne all up on one trailer (it would be an excellent drive with that weight )as used to be done in the logging industry and general cartage in far north Qld that saw many truck owners fined enough that caused them to have to sell their trucks all for them doing their job to deliver the load consigned to to them by the tree felling company transport business so why should drivers be fined ?

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