Women in Trucking Australia (WiTA) has held its inaugural International Women’s Day Awards in celebration of the many talented Australian women truck drivers.
In February, 21 female truckies from across the country each received multiple nominations across two award categories: Driver of the Year and Trailblazer Driver of the Year – the latter recognising women who’ve hung up their truck keys for the last time.
The nominees came from varied backgrounds, with 20th-century veterans at one end of the spectrum to young women with four- or five-years’ experience at the other.
Driver of the Year Award went to Hannah Hughes, who drives roadtrains for McColl’s Transport Chemical Division in Western Australia.
From a young age, Hughes, a fourth-generation truckie, dreamt of driving big rigs – particularly ones with the big yellow ‘Road Train’ signs on the front.
Working her way up through the various license classes, with the backing of her employer, Hughes finally realised her dream and is now behind the wheel of a Kenworth pulling a set of tankers transporting dangerous goods across WA’s outback to remote cattle stations and mines.
Driver of the Year runner-up – Eather Group truck and dog driver Bianca Clark – transports tonnes of excavated raw material to and from major infrastructure projects across the Sydney metro area in a bright red 600hp Kenworth T909 called ‘BLOCKA.’
Clark has a passion for trucks and finds her career challenging and rewarding. She inspires other women to take up driving and encourages companies to recognise the importance of policies and initiatives that promote more transparent working environments.
“I really love what I do, being involved in all kinds of civil and large infrastructure projects, and working with all kinds of clients,” said Clark.
“Eather Group is very supportive of my career goals, working with me to increase my industry knowledge with a view to advancing into management roles in the future.”
According to Eather Group Marketing Manager, Divinia Eather, the company has never played into stereotypes.
“Eather Group is proud to have a workforce that is more than 20 per cent female, with women thriving in senior management positions right through to machine operator levels,” said Eather.
Trailblazer Driver of the Year Award winner Jenny Coleman got her MC licence in 2006 and spent the next ten years driving the length and breadth of the country doing two-up with her partner.
Coleman said those ten years were some of the best of her life to date and provided much of the material for a book she’s currently working on.
Trailblazer Driver of the Year runner up Michelle ‘Cuddles’ McDonald enjoyed a successful trucking career spanning 40 years – much of it through the era when community expectations encouraged women to stay at home cooking, cleaning and raising their families.
At the height of her career in the ‘80s – through sheer guts and hard work – McDonald purchased a 1984 Ford Louisville LTL 9000 with a 15-speed Roadranger ‘box and a 40’ Haulmark trailer with gates and tarps – making her one of just a handful of female owner-drivers on Australian roads.
According to WiTA, historically Australian female heavy vehicle drivers have not been widely recognised.
As a consequence, there are women with 30-, 40- and 50-year trucking careers whose significant contributions to the industry have never been publicly acknowledged.
With a view to remedying the situation, WiTA’s inaugural International Women’s Day Awards was designed to shine a light on these quiet achievers – recognising female truckies as the resilient, capable, resourceful professionals they are.
According to WiTA Board Chair and Port Hedland quad-driver, Nat Kascak, women not only maintain successful trucking careers, many raise families or care for older relatives at the same time.
“As diverse as these women are,” said Kascak, “they all have one thing in common – their love of trucking.
Kascak said she believes their contributions have not only boosted the visibility of female heavy vehicle operators, but also helped debunk misconceptions that continue to contribute to a nationwide truck driver shortage.
(Image: Bianca Clark, runner-up WiTA Driver of the Year, at the wheel of Eather Group’s Kenworth T909).