It was about 12 years ago that Theresa Scott packed up her carving knives and her suitcase, leaving behind the career she had built working as a chef at a New Zealand casino to embark on a new adventure in Australia.
Working in exploration, Scott had her first taste behind the wheel of a truck – albeit a much smaller version than what she’s used to now. She had secured a job working out in the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory. “I would drive a rigid and trailer, taking drill samples from Alice Springs, back to camp near the WA border.” That’s what sparked the beginning of a new passion and a great career. “I was sitting on the side of the road and saw a road train pass by and I thought ‘I want to drive one of those one day’ – and that’s how it all started.
“I remember before I was allowed to take the truck out to Alice Springs, I had to demonstrate that I could change the tyres before my boss would let me go. Being quite remote, I had to prove I had the mechanical mind and strength to do it all because there’s no one there to come and rescue you when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
Scott, 35, has now been steering road trains for the past eight years. She started her latest gig with Toll about three months ago and is the only female truckie among a pool of over 180 drivers. These days, you’ll find her behind the wheel of a Kenworth 909, pulling three belly dumpers filled with ammonium nitrate to various mine sites across the Pilbara region. The full combination usually weighs in at about 123 tonnes and the truck is speed-limited to 90km/h. All up, it’s a 3500 kilometre round trip.
Just prior to that, she was with Centurion, transporting groceries in a triple road train from Perth and into Kununurra, in WA’s far north, as well as driving from Perth and into Brisbane and Sydney.
Her decade-long career in trucking has been quite diverse. Scott has also done tautliner work for Woolworths, has piloted wide loads to various mine sites for Rio Tinto and worked a pocket road train with a side loader too.
“I always challenge myself and wanted to get into triples ever since seeing the big stuff on the road,” she said – and now she’s using social media to try and encourage young people and women to enter the industry.
About a year ago, Scott started a TikTok account. “I don’t know how I managed it but I have 13,000 followers at the moment. One of the great things is that I can see who my followers are and 42 % of them are females.
“I get a lot of them commenting on how awesome this sort of work is and I’m really excited about that,” she said.
“I think social media has been, and will be, a huge part of trucking. Everyone networks. The older guys call on their phones and mentor each other. I think the next wave of networking is through social media. I actually found out about this Toll job through social media. It’s about getting younger kids excited about trucking as well. There are lots of young kids on TikTok and they love seeing the gear too.
“With the driver shortage at the moment, especially with COVID, now is also a really good time for those wanting to upskill themselves.”
Unfortunately, being a female in a male-dominated industry doesn’t come without its challenges. “There’s prejudice and remarks all the time. Yesterday I did a radio check and someone said, ‘You’ve had your two minutes of fun, get off the two-way and get back to the kitchen’. This sort of attitude is still around which is a shame. They won’t say it to your face, but will say it on the two-way,” Scott said.
“But for every comment I get like that, there would probably be about 20 comments of encouragement. In the yard everyone is lovely. Truck drivers are really friendly. I think they are very proud in what they do and enjoy imparting their knowledge onto the next generation. Every truck driver becomes a mentor for the next generation.”
According to Scott, there are more opportunities for women wanting to get into trucking than ever before. “I think a lot of companies have come to realise that we can do the job well and are just as good as the men – there’s nothing stopping us. At my site, I’m the only woman at the moment, but I’d really like that to change and I think my bosses would like that too. I often get asked if I know any other women that are good truck drivers.”
For those considering a career in truck driving, her advice is, “Though you might doubt yourself, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, because you can do it and are strong enough to do it too.”