In her own words
I was doing secretarial work for a farming machinery company in the yard next to a trucking company, owned and operated by my future husband Bob. He wanted the freight of the business where I was working and would come in and see me, we clicked and here we are nearly 40 years later. It has been a big journey! Together we have built a thriving business with turnover of around $25 million a year. We have grown from small beginnings and now have 60 people in our team. The name Whiteline comes from Bob being mesmerised by the white line of our first route from Sydney to Perth. Today we have a fleet of 35 trucks run as triples and road trains, to effectively give us the capacity of 80 trucks. I joined the industry when there were not many women and I had to develop a tough skin and learn fast. You don’t survive in this industry if you are not tough and can deal with the challenges thrown your way, as there are certainly plenty of them.
People don’t understand what a good living you can make in trucking. It is highly paid, and it is an extremely diverse industry. It’s not just about being a truck driver – there is marketing, compliance enforcement, operations, workshops – just so many roles in a trucking company required to make it tick. I still drive because the trips keep you grounded and informed. No one has a better office view than a truck driver when the moon is lighting up the highway. It is very special to witness that as well as morning happening and seasons changing. There is good camaraderie out on the road if you want to be part of it.
We are also a big part of the communities we work within. What makes me proud is that the trucking industry is so essential to everyday life. During the pandemic and border shut-downs, bush fires and floods, it’s always up to the trucking industry to solve the challenges and stock the grocery shelves. When products need to go into a stricken area after floods or fires, the trucking industry always steps up.
Trucking as an industry of first choice
We need to promote the industry as a first choice career - not a default option. In trucking the world is your oyster and I would love to see it championed in the same exciting way the air force, army and mining sector showcase their industries. We need positive advertising and commentary from people working in trucking about how essential we are and how diverse careers in the industry can be. And we need to highlight how giving we are to the community. The trucking industry routinely helps people each and every day, kilometre after kilometre.
I believe we have to engage with school kids to start the thinking around trucking early so I wrote a children’s book around 10 years ago, to support visits by primary school kids to the depot and challenge kids’ minds.
I am a thinker and always curious, and the longer I am in trucking the more I see to do to make the industry better. Deciding to join industry associations 22 years ago to help improve the industry was a career defining moment for me. Getting change takes times and forming relationships are important. Sometimes it’s a tough gig. All I know is that people who make decisions about this industry who have never been directly involved in trucking are not the right people to be making these decisions alone. Reform needs consultation with the people who are actually going to do the task being initiated to tell you if what you are even thinking about is remotely possible. Being involved in industry associations has allowed me to meet a lot of fantastic people, interact with a lot of governments and bureaucrats and help those people making decisions around regulation consult with people actually working in the trucking industry. My tough experiences in the early days of Whiteline made me resilient and I draw upon this.
We also have a good environmental story. The industry has been doing a hell of a lot of work for many years limiting its footprint – including investing heavily in new trucks with emissions friendly equipment fitted – and we keep evolving.
Driving healthy lives
I started the Foundation Shine 2008 with a long-time friend who had family members experiencing ill mental health. Since then we have raised just shy of $400k channelled into services. I believe it is no longer about building awareness of mental health issues. It’s now time for investing in action, services and tangible solutions.
Also in the trucking industry it is important to support our drivers who are often first responders to accidents and to help them exercise and eat properly on the road. There is a lot of time to think behind the wheel, so it is important to proactively help people focus on their physical and mental health.
In terms of safety the industry badly needs workable solutions to the fatigue laws and access, particularly as there will be greater use of high productivity vehicles to meet growing freight demand well into the future.
I have been a singer and performer from childhood, including multiple appearances on the popular television series Young Talent Time. I use singing and performing to connect with people and am known as the ‘singing truckie’. It helps with my confidence in other areas of my career.