Promoting a career in truck driving to the masses

MC driver and board director of Women in Trucking Australia (WiTA) Corrina Riley appeared on mainstream television over the weekend to discuss the driver shortage and the need to attract more people into the industry.

In recent times, Riley has been doing the rounds to promote truck driving as a rewarding career.

The segment that appeared on Channel 7’s Sunrise on the weekend follows recent interviews on ABC News Queensland and on Triple M’s Night Shift radio program.

Riley has been in the driver’s seat for the past two decades and currently works for Gaffs Heavy Diesel and Haulage, carting general freight throughout Queensland. She drives her beloved 2012 Peterbilt 388, which she’s named nicknamed ‘Salacious Pete’ – and even has it tattooed on her back.

In the television segment, Sunrise reporter Tamra Bow joined her in the truck for the interview, with Riley’s passion for her job shining through.

As a single working mum, Riley said the flexibility of the job has been a big drawcard. Her 12-year-old son Jack is developing a strong passion for the big rigs too. During Covid lockdowns, Riley even home-schooled him in the truck.

While the number of female truck drivers is on the rise, they still only represent around 3 per cent. And, unfortunately, gender bias does still exist.

As a case in point, Riley said, “If you do talk on the UHF you’re straight away shut down and told to get back in the kitchen. I just come back with, well my kitchen’s in my truck, why don’t you come and grab a sandwich on your way back to the shed with the other tools!”

Fellow WiTA director Fiona Armstrong also appeared in the Sunrise segment. “At the moment when a potential employee is interviewed, their gender is a question. In Women in Trucking Australia, we’d like to create it such that when an application is made by anybody, that their gender has no bearing on whether the position is suitable for them or they’re suitable for the position,” she said.

“The biggest thing that the industry needs to change is just an attitude. I noticed the difference in attitude even from when I first started at that company, where my gender had obvious questions: what about your kids, what about family, to the end, where it just wasn’t a relevant question. It was just, are you available, can you do the job?”

Daniel Walters at South-East Queensland Hauliers continued, “We need so many drivers. It would make sense for the girls to start stepping up and showing the boys how it’s done. If you can get a licence, you can drive a truck. It’s as simple as that. It can’t be gender specific anymore. We need all the help we can get!”

And since the Sunrise segment went to air, Riley has already been approached by people keen to get into the industry. “I’ve been contacted by two women and a guy so far, asking how they can get a start,” she said.

“WiTA has also just got funding for a program that will help get more women into trucking, so we’re really getting the message out there.”

WiTAs ‘Foot in the Door’ (FiTD) program has received this funding through Round 7 of the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI), which is supported by the Australian Government.

“[It] will bridge the license to employment gap by engaging with industry stakeholders nationally to drive improved outcomes with this fit-for-purpose initiative that will link already licensed, inexperienced female HR/HC/MC drivers who’ve not been able to get that critical foot in the door with training organisations and employers nationally,” said a media release issued yesterday.

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