Inside the WA training centre putting more women behind the wheel

The transport industry has long had a problem with driver diversity, namely not enough women want to drive trucks. Driver Risk Management (DRM) in Perth WA is trying to change that, with six-week driver training courses that target aspiring female drivers. ATN sat down with DRM’s general manager Mia Taylor to talk about the program and what it means for industry.

The heavy vehicle training centre Driver Risk Management Pty Ltd (DRM), based in Perth, WA, sits on strong foundations.

The group who started the training centre and the key operatives who help to run it share more than 100 years of combined experience across the industry.

DRM says it embodies the team’s shared passion for safer driving whilst developing unique and innovative approaches to driver training and road safety solutions. Now DRM general manager Mia Taylor is drawing on her own experiences to help the centre focus on bringing more diversity into the industry.

“Being a female myself in a male dominated industry I understand some of the issues being experienced by the ladies. And I want to help show them how they can succeed,” says Taylor.

DRM is a registered training organisation that receives state funding to deliver the Heavy Vehicle Driving Operations Skillset AE451. It operates from Australia’s only purpose-built driver training facility, built 23 years ago, located near Perth International Airport in Western Australia.

Recently DRM celebrated its 50th intake of its popular and very successful Heavy Vehicle Driver Operations Course. The six-week program aims to deliver job-ready drivers and has now seen almost 400 truck drivers graduate.

In terms of attesting to its effectiveness the courses’ statistics speak for themselves: Taylor says of those who completed the skills test, 100% of their graduates looking for employment have been able to find work afterwards. The course’s diversity intake, the percentage of female students, at 30% now. The transport industry’s diversity rates, by comparison, usually sit at around 3-5%.

Taylor says the course empowers women to see themselves as having an equal ability to be good truck drivers as their male counterparts.

“We might not have the strength that a man has but we still have the capabilities, so let’s find ways to overcome those barriers,” says Taylor.

Taylor also says the real key to the success of DRM’s courses is the holistic approach the centre takes to delivering heavy vehicle training, understanding that there is much more to truck driving than knowing how to drive a truck.

“They don’t leave with just a license; they leave with the foundations of a broad range of skills to which employers can then further nurture,” she says.

DRM also recognises the barriers women face to entering the transport industry and offer many wrap-around services that aim to make the transition as easy as possible.

“Women wonder if they’ll be accepted into workplaces in the transport industry,” Taylor says. “Nobody wants to go to work if they’re not welcome.”

One of the key non-driving aspects DRM focuses on is mental health. As part of the course training a psychologist is brought in to talk about how to upkeep one’s mental health while working in the transport industry. Taylor says it is important potential drivers understand the mental health challenges the job can present.

“Mental health is a big issue in this industry,” she says. “Truck driving can at times be a lonely job and a high-pressure job.”

With the right training it has quickly become clear that women can have satisfying and successful careers in the transport industry.

“Women are starting to hear the success stories from other women”.

The transport industry has long suffered from a dire driver shortage and one of the solutions to this shortage, among others, will be to increase industry diversity.

“Mature women are one of the most untapped sources of labour in Australia now,” says Taylor.

DRM argues that despite the traditional perception of trucking being dominated by blokey men, the transport industry is an industry that should appeal to women as a potential career. Taylor says the time drivers get to themselves and the potential for job sharing are very attractive aspects of the job for a lot of women.

Moreover, Taylor says that women can offer a range of transferable skills that will boost the industry such as customer service, inter-personal skills and it’s been reported from industry they can be a bit gentler on the trucks.

“Many women tend to have amazing people skills as many women often have experience in hospitality and other customer service facing industries.

“A diverse workforce can have the best of both worlds”

Taylor says there is now a big push from industry and employers to get women trained up and working in the industry.

Taylor is confident that DRM’s successful model could be implemented across Australia and hoped that many other parts of the country, particularly rural and regional areas, will soon be able to access high quality heavy vehicle training.

“Women are no longer nurses and hairdressers. Industry is changing and it’s clear that employers want more female truck drivers”

In terms of the DRM approach to training, Taylor says it is “person-centred” and reflects a willingness to work with individuals to see them succeed.

While building a strength in training for both male and female drivers, DRM aims to help anyone who wants to become a truck driver to learn the skills they’ll require to make the grade.

Taylor shares the story of one recent graduate, a woman with physical disabilities, who participated in and passed the course, realising her dream of getting behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle as a career.

This feature first appeared here.

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