Like many interstate truckies, 27-year-old TJ Mansfield came from a trucking family background – the only difference is that she didn’t want to be a truck driver. Instead, Mansfield says she fell into the industry – and she’s fallen in love with it.
“You can drive the same roads 100 times and somehow it’s always different – the windscreen constantly changes. My favourite places to travel through are the Bight and through central-west Queensland,” said Mansfield.
The daughter of two truckies, Mansfield got her truck licence at the age of 19. “My mum stopped driving and dad needed the help – and I’ve been driving trucks ever since.”
In addition, she also has four brothers who are all truck drivers, and says her husband is super supportive of her work too.
Growing up on a cattle farm in Durong, Queensland, her parents used to transport cattle. Once they moved to Brisbane, they switched to fruit and veg. “I’ve been around trucks my whole life, so I used to do everything with Mum and Dad,” Mansfield said.
She worked in the family business up until 2016, then started working for her current employer Eastern States Engineering, which is a steel fabrication company with factories in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
“With Dad, I was driving all through Queensland. He had a mobile fruit shop so I started in a little Isuzu rigid, then moved onto a Kenworth K104, doing a lot of fridge van work,” said Mansfield.
“Then I started in this job and went straight into oversize work. The company has three trucks across its three locations and I do all of the interstate work. It’s mostly between each of the factories but also to cater to some contracts as well. I carry a lot of structural steel, building bases and building frames. For the first four years, most of the stuff I carried was oversize, but in the last six months, it’s been mostly double road train work with occasional oversize loads.”
Mansfield is currently behind the wheel of a Scania, which she says is a really comfortable truck. When she chatted with Big Rigs, she had just left Ceduna and was headed to Perth, as part of a month-long trip.
Mansfield had left Brisbane at the end of November and was due back just in time for Christmas, before enjoying a few weeks off. “This is the longest trip I’ve been on,” she said, adding that the time away was one of the most challenging aspects of her work.
“Being away from the family is hard. I have two small kids, a seven and a two-year-old – so being away from them for long stretches does get challenging. I guess it’s trying to find that balance between personal and business life. It’s definitely something that’s not quite come that naturally to me,” she added.
“But the kids love the truck, both my boys think it’s great. They love getting out and giving me a hand. And the younger one is absolutely truck-mad – he loves anything with an engine.”
Eight years into the job, Mansfield says she’s “still a spring chicken in this industry” and values every chance she gets to speak to those who’ve been driving the highways for many years. “Whenever I pull up to the roadhouses and see the old timers, I always say g’day because there’s such a wealth of knowledge from these guys who have been in the trucking game for so long. There’s so much you can learn from them.”
Her favourite roadhouses to stop at include the Nullarbor Roadhouse, Emmdale Roadhouse and Little Topar.
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