From dreaming of one day driving a truck as she watched them pass through the highway as a little kid, Kathryn Mobbs, 56, has now been named the Queensland Trucking Association’s (QTA) 2022 Professional Driver of the Year – and she’s the first ever female driver to take out the award.
“I grew up on a dairy farm on the Pacific Highway in Moorland, NSW. There were three us girls – myself and two cousins – who would watch the trucks go past. Two of us became truck drivers and one married a truck driver. I always wanted to be in one of those trucks when I grew up,” said Mobbs, who this year celebrates her 25th anniversary of working with Easter Group/DTC.
She credits CEO Ken Easter for being the one to give her a go. “Ken really put his neck on the line by employing me. At the time, employing a female driver in the express game was unheard of and he copped some flak from others because of it. I was their first female driver and I owe all of this to the Easter family and to Ken. If he didn’t give me a start back in 1997, I wouldn’t be here. And if the Easter family hadn’t have looked after me as a second family, I wouldn’t still be here after all these years,” she said.
Easter Group describes Mobbs as the professional driver that every employer wants in their fleet. She is a quiet achiever with an outstanding driving record and is well respected by all.
As an express linehaul driver, Mobbs has performed thousands of runs for the business and has excellent mechanical and technical knowledge. With a professional attitude towards safety, she continues to embrace innovative safety technologies as they’re introduced into the fleet.
Mobbs had her first taste behind the wheel driving an old cattle truck on the family’s dairy farm. Then as soon as she was old enough, she went for her truck licence – and she’s never looked back.
Her first truck driving role was four years spent transporting horses throughout NSW and Queensland. From there, she progressed to tankers at McColl’s Transport for over four years, which was her first real foray into interstate transport, travelling all over NSW, and into Victoria and Queensland.
In 1996, she made the move to Queensland and did local work for about 12 months, before securing a job at Easter Group/DTC the following year. “That’s where I’ve been ever since, it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” said Mobbs.
She drives a four-year-old Western Star, which she’s had since brand new, doing Star Track work from Brisbane and into Newcastle and Wyong.
To Mobbs, driving a truck as a female is nothing special, but she admits times were a little different when she was starting out. So, was it hard to get a foot in the door in the beginning? “Oooh yes,” she said. “It was unheard of for a female to be doing that sort of role. A lot of blokes didn’t like it. Head down, bum up and pretend you weren’t there, that’s how you win a lot of them over.
“One thing I’ve always stood by is that I’m a truck driver that happens to be a female and not the other way around. I don’t play the female card at all.
“But people often don’t understand how different it was back then. Female drivers got treated different at truck stops, got treated different everywhere they went. I’d ask for a key to a shower at a truck stop and they’d tell me they were only for truck drivers. But there were also a lot of truck drivers who stood up for me when these things happened.
“It’s so different now and a lot easier for women to get into the job – I wish a lot more girls would get into it. At Easters we have a lot of female drivers now and a lot of two-up teams. Ken doesn’t even bat an eyelid about employing a female driver.”
And that’s not the only thing that’s changed through her decades as a truckie. “Now the roads are better, but the trucks are slower. The fines are bigger too, they just don’t justify the crime – if you don’t spell something right or don’t tick a box, which is ridiculous. Trucking is a lot more policed now,” Mobbs explained.
“When I started you weren’t treated like criminals, whereas now if you get pulled over, you’re treated like a criminal. And that got worse through Covid. When you were crossing borders, even when you knew you had everything right and had been past there that many times, you’d still get a cop saying that’s not good enough, so the stress levels were high.”
But despite the challenges that come with being a truck driver in this day and age, Mobbs says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Once you get in the truck, you’re your own boss, you’re in your own world – and even after all these years, I still love driving.”
On finding out she had been nominated for the QTA’s Professional Driver of the Year award, Mobbs said, “When our safety manager Nicolle Charlesworth nominated me, I was proud to be nominated but the thought of winning never even entered my mind. It was pretty scary to have to go up on stage because I don’t like big crowds, but Nicolle spoke for me.
“My family is very proud of me and my work – my dad was so proud when he was alive and my mum is extremely proud of me too. She wanted a photo of Ken and I to put on her wall, now she wants the award photo too!”