MC driver Michele Simmons, 54, came into trucking much later than many. “My truck driving career started with a job at a mine site,” she recalled.
Though that initial job in the mines had nothing to do with trucks, it was a stepping-stone for the career that would follow.
Simmons was born in the Northern Territory, went to school in Victoria and moved to Perth when her eldest son was just 18 months old.
“I was a single mum, doing crappy jobs. Because my boys are 10 years apart – they’re now 24 and 34 and both in the Navy – I decided I needed to do a ‘man’s job’. When my boys were old enough, I wanted to drive trucks for the mines because I wanted to be able to support myself. When I was about 40, I got a job working in a mine site kitchen and washing dishes. That was to pay for my licence. I’m fiercely independent now and never want to rely on anyone financially,” she added.
And that’s exactly what Simmons did. She got her truck licence and started out driving concrete agitators.
“There wasn’t a lot of money in it at the time so I got work driving agitators at Telfer Gold Mine. Then I worked at Kambalda mine, which was a nickel mine, but nickel prices dropped so the work stopped too.”
Simmons soon upgraded to her MC licence and worked for K&S Freighters in Kewdale for seven years, then Lindsay Transport for 12 months, before it was time for a new adventure – then the pandemic struck.
“When Covid hit, I was finding it hard to get work. A friend gave me a number for Qube in Queensland. I drove my car from Perth to Townsville and did the sugar season for six months. That helped me get my foot in the door.”
Simmons career, and the skills she’s picked up along the way, are wide and diverse. She went on to spend three months doing wharf work, then drove pocket road trains filled with liquid oxygen into gold mines.
“Delivering liquid oxygen was the toughest job I’ve done. I had to wrap my head around tank pressures and fitting up with tools. It’s under pressure and -187°C. It’s used in the mines to give that extra oomph to get the gold out,” she explained.
“You’d get mud maps of this mine, and one of them was three hours to do 76 kilometres because it was so corrugated. And if it rained, you’d get trapped in the mine until they allowed trucks back onto the access road. There were times we were ankle deep in mud.”
In mid 2021, Simmons started working for Bis Industries doing triple and quad work in the goldfields. She’s now started in a new role at the company, based in Perth and driving pocket road trains of recycled fertiliser from waste stations out to farms.
“I’ve come back to Perth now so I can sleep in my own bed. With this role, I’m travelling to country towns two to three hours out of Perth,” said Simmons.
“I’ve been very fortunate with the work I’ve had for the past four years. I don’t want to be a boss; I just want to drive a truck and look out the window and enjoy my day.
“Being a woman in a man’s world can be hard, but I’m a good operator. I just want to work with nice blokes that treat you normal, because I’ve worked with some blokes in the past that haven’t.
“I’ve come from a background with no skills, so if I can do it, anyone can and I’m proud to have been able to do this on my own.
“We need more women out there who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and I think I’m one of those. I like promoting women into trucks. I think it’s a good thing. Everywhere I’ve worked I’ve been the only woman.”
Though her new gig is a slight change of pace from some of her previous roles, Simmons says she’s very much looking forward to the journey. “I’m actually driving a nice auto truck now, a Volvo 600hp that’s only two years old – so it’s a bit of a change from the 18-speed Roadranger.
“I get my job, get into the truck with my coffee and shut the door, put my tunes on and off I go.”
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