For MC driver Hannah Hughes, 30, it’s always been about the trucks. Growing up in New Zealand, her family is very much a trucking family – with her grandfather, uncles and stepfather all truck drivers.
She started learning her way around a gearbox when she was just eight years old and recalls her excitement every time she got to travel in the passenger seat with a family member on the weekends and school holidays.
“I love everything about trucks. I was a big tomboy growing up and had all these toy trucks as a kid. I spent a lot of time bonding with my grandad, uncles and step-dad in trucks and yards,” she said.
“First thing on a Saturday morning, I was raring to go out in the truck, it was my happy place. I started learning to drive a truck before I learnt to drive a car. I was always asking to have a go.”
Hughes made the move across the ditch in 2011, lured by the bigger trucks and wide open roads. “I came over by myself as a 19-year-old. I started out carting horses and hay in NSW, then did a similar thing in Queensland. As I started getting more serious about my career, I decided to move to Perth where I got my MC licence and started driving road trains. It’s very different over in the east on the bitumen. Here a lot of it is red dirt roads.”
Her skills and professionalism haven’t gone unnoticed. In March last year, she won the inaugural Women in Trucking Australia (WiTA) Driver of the Year Award.
Hughes currently works for MGM Bulk and before that worked in the McColl’s Transport chemical division, doing dangerous goods runs to remote stations and mines.
She started at MGM Bulk late last year, where she drives a Kenworth K200. “Kenworth is my preferred truck and I’ve been pretty lucky to be with companies that supply all Kenworths,” Hughes said.
“We do a variety of stuff here – anything from general freight tautliners to side and end tippers. I went straight into MGM’s chemical division. My main run is pulling methanol tankers from Bunbury to Karratha in the Pilbara. It’s about 1700 kilometres each way, so the trip is a three-day turnaround. It’s along the coast so I really enjoy that run.”
Though Hughes says the condition of the Great Eastern Highway leaves a lot to be desired. When asked what she’d rate as the worst road she travels on, she said this stretch wins “hands-down”.
“I’m used to being in a bonneted truck, which was still rough, but with a cabover it’s not real comfortable travelling on that road. With the weights that we carry and the amount of trucks that use them, a lot of the roads don’t last that long over here.”
When she’s not heading into the Pilbara, another regular run is carting salt out of the mines and into Perth. “We have the contract for WA Salts, so go out near Southern Cross and cart salt out of the mines. That’s another of my favourite runs – we get sent away for about a week on that one,” Hughes said, adding that she’s enjoying the current gig at MGM with her new employer.
“It’s so good working for a family business where the family members have been out and done the job themselves, so they know and understand what we’re doing. That goes very far in my books. Because MGM Bulk is a small family business, they listen as well and are really flexible too. They make it really easy for us and there’s a lot of variety so you don’t get a chance to get bored,” she explained.
“We get to deal with the owners. They’re out in the yard with us, they’re in meetings with us. At the moment, the Port Hedland facility is absolutely going off, and Bunbury is going to double in size in a year or so too.”
Hughes rates herself as fortunate to have been able to enjoy the career she has had so far. “I’ve never struggled to get a job but I have heard of a lot of women in the industry who have. I do feel for those who don’t have trucking in their family because it makes it that much harder to get the opportunities,” she said.
While early in her career Hughes had some doubts about being a female in a male-dominated industry, she said those doubts were eased pretty quickly. “I feel like you do have to prove yourself a little bit harder as a female, but I’ve got so much confidence now – and I am where I am because of that.”
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