Third-generation truckie Ashlee Hollett hadn’t initially considered trucking as a career option – but since jumping in the driver’s seat, she hasn’t looked back.
Though she grew up around trucks, Ashlee Hollett, 29, says she had never thought she’d be driving them.
After finishing school, she began working in the beauty industry. “I did that because I had no idea what I wanted to do. It was on and off for about eight years. I’d do it for a while then try something new and go back into it. I was never really happy doing that,” she said, adding that when Covid hit in 2020, it forced her to venture out of her comfort zone – and ultimately, gave her the chance to find her passion.
“I was looking for a career not impacted by lockdowns and shutdowns, etc, so I decided to get my HR licence.”
Her first foray into truck driving was in a rigid tipper, carting gravel, sand and blue metal for an earthmoving company. From there, Hollett got her xrigger’s ticket and started rigging for a local crane hire business called Capel Cranes, where she has worked for around three years, based in Capel in the south-west of WA.
“When I started with Capel Cranes, my partner Jacob was working there. He’s a rigger, so he got me into rigging and I’ve flourished from there,” said Hollett, a woman of many talents – a rigger, crane operator and truck driver.
“When I first started rigging, I was always talking to the truck drivers and asking questions when we were unloading the trucks. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I thought it was so cool, so that’s what I pushed for. As soon as I got my MC, I was thrown straight into it.
“I love the satisfaction of my job and showing others that gender has no bearing on the work you can do. The bigger the gear, the longer the trailers, the greater the challenge – and I love every minute. Backing into tight spots is a favourite,” she added.
Hollett secured her MC licence about a year ago, which added another level of diversity to her role. “Every day brings different work and going to new places, which I really love. I drive singles, B-doubles and road-trains carting counter-weights and gear to various jobs. I also do a lot of oversized work under pilot. My widest load so far was 7 metres. I enjoy the trucking side of it most of all.
“I never thought a female could do that sort of stuff. It never really crossed my mind but as soon as I started doing it, I realised that this is where I should’ve been all along. I love my job.”
Both her late father Brett Hollett and grandfather Michael Hollett were truck drivers too, working in livestock. But tragically, Brett passed away in a truck accident when his daughter Ashlee was only five years old. “We used to go in the truck with him when we were younger. What’s creepy is that I actually do a lot of oversize work over the bridge which was the site of his accident. Trucking is definitely in my blood and I know my dad and grandfather would both be proud,” she said.
“When I had a look through old photo albums my dad had of his trucking days, it made me want this even more. As much as it’s scary knowing this is what killed my dad, I want to carry on a family of truckies and follow my passion.
“Back in the day my dad taught my step-dad Paul how to drive trucks and then Paul taught me how to drive trucks, which is something very sentimental to me.”
As the only female with Capel Cranes who is out in the field, Hollett added that she’s grateful to the company for giving her a chance. “I have the best crew. They’ve been so accepting of me. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do this without them. I give credit to my boss too because they gave me the chance in the first place. I understand bringing a female into a male dominated field is hard and they’re taking a risk as well. I’ve learnt so much with them. They’re honestly the best group of people I’ve worked with. That’s why I’ve stuck with them,” she said.
“I love proving people wrong. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of guys in the industry who aren’t accepting. They look at me and I get judged on my appearance. But that quickly gets shut down once they see me doing my job.”
This feature first appeared in Big Rigs.