Awards, News, Truck events

Queensland truckie named Female Driver of the Year

Queensland truckie Karen Hawker has been named Female Driver of the Year at Women in Trucking Australia’s annual Toots Awards.  

Hawker is an owner-driver contracting for Express Cargo Logistics in the gas mining sector.  

The 55-year-old has only been driving professionally since 2018, but her connection to the transport industry goes way back – and WiTA CEO Lyndal Denny said she and the rest of the Toots Awards judging panel agreed she was a deserving winner.  

“The word ‘icon’ gets thrown around a lot, but Karen really is an icon,” Denny told Big Rigs.  

“She’s a hard-working owner-driver, she’s been in the industry a long time, and she has so much to offer.  

“She’s constantly acting as a mentor, sharing her knowledge and experience – not only with women but men also.  

“She’s just incredible and we all felt she was a worthy recipient of this year’s award.” 

Toots Female Driver of the Year winner Karen Hawker and WiTA CEO Lyndal Denny.

Hawker is also actively involved in the Lights on the Hill committee, helping to organise the event each year and honour truck drivers who have passed away.

“She is working with families who have lost loved ones on the road, supporting them with the Lights on the Hill memorial,” Denny continued.

“She dedicates her time to helping people.”

A mother of five and grandmother of 12, Hawker spent 15 busy years in the Lindsay Transport office, learning a lot about what goes on behind the scenes in the transport industry.  

Looking for a change and unable to resist the call of the road, she got her rigid licence in 2015 – and worked her way up the ranks to become a skilled MC driver.  

In 2022, she decided to really make a go of it and buy her own rig, a 1997 Heritage Western Star.  

In 2022 Karen purchased a 1997 Heritage Western Star with a Detroit Series 60, 18-speed Road Ranger gear box.

“I’ve been around trucks my whole life, and I just got to the point where my kids had left home and I thought, ‘What am I going to do next?’” she said.

“I had been out in the truck with my husband Simon and I really enjoyed it, and I had this itchy urge to drive so I just went for it.  

“I’m loving being an owner-driver. There’s so much freedom and flexibility, and I love seeing the country.” 

Hawker said it was an honour to receive the Toots Female Driver of the Year award, which is named after trucking trailblazer Toots Holzheimer – a hard-working mother of eight who ran her own trucking company, delivering freight across Queensland from the 1960s until the early 1990s.  

“It’s totally amazing to think I got singled out from hundreds of women,” Hawker said.  

“I was told that I got chosen partly because I live up to the ideals that Toots had.  

“I’ve had some bad things happen to me – I was widowed and became a single mother – but I haven’t let those things stop me. I just get up and I keep going.”  

The Grantham native said her advice to other female truckies is to follow your dreams.  

“Don’t be scared to try,” she said. “Don’t be shy to approach an employer and tell them why you would be a good candidate to do the work.

“If you feel you want to reach out to another female driver for support, we are always there.”  

The Toots Awards were announced at the Victoria Park Social Club in Adelaide during National Female Truckie’s Day, July 6.

Other winners included Matt Newman, Transport Manager at QUBE, who took out the Diversity and Inclusion Award for increasing female driver participation at the QUBE depot to 40 per cent.

For more coverage of the Toots Awards and National Female Truckies’ Day, see the next issue of Big Rigs, on shelves July 19.  

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