Following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, father and grandfathers, MC driver Jessie Freeman is keeping her family’s trucking tradition alive.
Jessie Freeman was just three weeks old when she made her first trip across the Nullarbor, and it was in a road train with her parents, Daryl and Karen. It was the first of many trips over many years. Freeman has been in and around trucks all her life and became fascinated by them very early on.
Based in SA, the 29-year-old truckie works for McMahon Services Australia, pulling truck and dogs and stag B-double tippers out of Blanchetown, SA – all of which she loads and unloads herself.
Freeman comes from a long line of truckies, her mother’s parents Gilbert Anderson and Yvonne owned a transport company on the west coast of SA, but they divorced in the early 1970s and Yvonne often drove one of the trucks to help out.
Yvonne then met Graham Paterson. They went into trucks in the early 1970s and then bought Balaklava Transport in 1987, in SA’s Mid North Region. They owned the business until 2002 when ill health forced Yvonne to retire. “She was the backbone of the business, managing the office,” said Freeman. “My mum Karen Freeman was the all-rounder in the family business – she was the forklift driver, loading and unloading trucks, working in the office and running to Adelaide loading leftover freight. They were a family business.
“My father Daryl Freeman drove road trains to Perth, Darwin and Queensland, doing market, mine shifts and general freight. Mum and him drove and the bunk was my second home until I started school. Sadly my father passed away suddenly in 2006, aged 42. My father’s father Robert Freeman was also a truck driver and drove for years for Carbone Transport at Gol Gol.
“I’ve been around trucks my whole life, growing up in the bunk or hanging around the transport depots, I guess it was inevitable.
“Dad would come home from being away, and the portable DVD players had only just come out, so he’d put it on in the bunk for me and I’d watch while he detailed the truck. I’d get all these little Hot Wheels cars and trucks he’d bring home for me.”
Freeman got her HC licence at 19 and progressed to her MC licence during a seven-year stint living in Victoria – though she’s been back in SA for the past two years.
Despite trucking being firmly intertwined into her family’s history, Freeman says her mum wasn’t too keen on the idea to start off with. “Mum didn’t want me to do it in the beginning. She said interstate these days is too hard, but she came around. Dad passed away when I was 13, so I couldn’t get the advice from him. It was actually Dad’s best mates that offered me advice and help, because it is a pretty hard industry,” Freeman explained.
“When I look back now, Poppa Graham and my dad were very influential in my choice to go down this track later in life with truck driving.”
Her father Daryl worked for Booth Transport, carting ethanol, wine and spirits in B-double tankers. Freeman says she spent a lot of time in the truck. “Dad would go away for weeks at a time, but if he knew he was just going away for a day or so, I’d go with him.
“I was about 16 when I first drove a truck. My friend Kurt taught me my way around a gear box.”
Freeman has been with McMahon Services for about nine months, driving a brand new Volvo 600. “I share the truck. I do permanent days and there’s a guy that does permanent nights. It used to be rotating when I started but they’ve worked with me to balance with my home life,” she said.
“I also hold and use my front end loader ticket on the daily as I load myself out of the quarries with a WA 470 Komatsu loader.”
Previously working as an interstate truckie, Freeman is now enjoying being able to spend more time at home with her partner and six-year-old stepson Marcus.
Though there are elements of interstate trucking she misses, there’s a lot that she doesn’t.
“When Covid started, I was still on interstate. I was doing a lot of Adelaide to Melbourne, Canberra, into Queensland, carrying stock feed, mainly the east coast. Sometimes two to three trips to Melbourne a week carting salt. It was really hard through Covid, even just trying to get showers got really difficult. And then I had people that wouldn’t believe that I’m a driver. I’m dirty, giving you truck keys and wearing a work shirt – so that was really frustrating. And there was the consistent hassle of having to be tested two to three times a week,” explained Freeman.
“I do miss interstate and being away, and living on the road, but I love home life too. What I enjoy most about truck driving are the views and the people you get to meet. On the beautiful days, there are the sunrises, the sunsets – I love travelling. I always have.”
Away from trucks, Freeman has had a lifetime of showing horses at the highest level, including being selected to represent Australia at the Quarter Horse Youth World Cup in Oklahoma City in 2010. Freeman then spent three years travelling and working in the USA, training and showing Quarter Horses with much success at the highest level, but the trucks were always in the back of her mind – and that drew her back.
Freeman was also recently chosen by Women in Trucking Australia (WiTA) to take part in a Christmas road safety television campaign titled Will YOU Be Next? She starred alongside several other female MC truck drivers. Funded by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, the campaign’s aim was to educate motorists on how to share the roads safely with trucks.