In her own words
I was bought up in the Pilbara and was always a bit of a tom boy. I loved riding motor bikes and doing things with my Dad who was a unrestricted crane operator and a truck driver for a short time. When I was at high school my career plan was to be a motorbike stunt woman, but I had an accident and that put an end to that. I went to college and headed to the mines to do secretarial work. But I couldn’t stand sitting in an office. When a job came up to drive the dump trucks at Cape Lambert I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and after 12 months thought - this is a fantastic career for women!
When my marriage ended a close friend and her husband were managing a transport company in Karratha and offered me a job if I absolutely promised that my two daughters, then aged four and five, wouldn’t hop out of the truck. I was in heaven because I could be with my girls and earn a really good living. For seven years the truck was our home and our school as we covered routes in Western Australia and parts of the Northern Territory.
My daughters joined a Perth school in year seven and I took a job in the city. My employer let me drop them off to school and they were so mortified that their mother drove a truck I had to drop them around the corner out of sight so none of their mates could see them. In high school that all changed because if your mum drove one of those massive trucks she was really cool then. I then had to drive past the school and honk the horn each morning. What a difference a year makes!
In 2004 I started Success Transport, which I led for 18 years, and built my network of fellow women truck drivers.
In 2013 one of our girls came across a study justifying bringing in foreign truck drivers because - it stated - women didn’t drive trucks. It claimed women wouldn’t join the industry because they didn’t like the male culture and would rather stay at home and have babies. It really disappointed us.
I said - we need to address this, take the bull by the horns and do something different. So we formed the Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls (PHHG) and off the back of Success Transport started training women and young men from 2014. We launched a campaign around ‘you don’t see who is behind the steering wheel - women drive trucks too’ and in a very short time we had hundreds and hundreds of women from all over Australia asking to do our training.
Empowering women, changing lives
Around 50% of the women we train come from domestic violence and abuse situations. It’s not just about getting a job and income, it’s very empowering being a driver. When you sit up in one of our shiny, hot pink Mack or Volvo trucks you are above everyone else and it fills you with a sense of power before you do anything else. All the male driver trainers and buddy drivers in the program are so supportive often women’s views of men can shift as well. The experience can remap their brains that not all men are abusers and predators. We do a lot of extra work and careful nurturing for those women and girls who come from abuse. We didn’t know this would be a focus when we started PHHG.
For women facing marriage breakdowns or homelessness in their fifties, truck driving can offer a mobile home, a community, and a good income of between $100k to $150k each year. We can change lives.
My parents fostered 57 children and we did quite a lot of courses as a family through the child services department. I think that experience equipped me to work how I do, manage the different situations, and help direct our trainees onto the right path.
Our training involves a day in the class room in the first week to learn compliance, route mapping, and health and exercise for drivers and then we put them in the truck, first in the passenger seat. Then they drive the truck empty, then loaded and gradually build up to driving quad road trains. You can’t train what we do in a class room - you need a minimum of 160 hours driving experience.
Paying it forward
I do this work because someone was kind to me. My friends gave me the opportunity to drive their trucks with my young girls and I don’t know where I would have been otherwise. I feel I must pay it forward and every single driver that I train I ask them to pay it forward and at least one other person.
The best advice is: don’t ever think you failed, you have only learnt a 100 times how not to do something. I wished my parents had told me it was ok not to be liked, it’s ok to have different views and ideas. Yes – you have to be respectful and yes you need to follow rules and regulations, but you can be different because difference changes the world.
I just love the industry with a passion. The possibilities in the transport industry for so many people are unreported and untapped. I would like to see a massive spend on promoting trucking and those doing a good job. I want the industry to invest in their own people.