Female Truck Drivers

More women driving big rigs is Heather’s dream

Women make up just 1 per cent of Australia’s long-haul truck drivers.

Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls (PHHG) co-founder Heather Jones has been working to change that statistic since she traded in her office chair for a spot in the driver’s seat 25 years ago, taking her two daughters with her on the road.

female truck driver heather jones in front of pink truck

Heather grew up on a farm, the second eldest of nine children – the family also fostered 57 children over 18 years. She drove her first tractor at age four and loved cars and bikes.

She was working as a secretary at a mining company when the call went out for Haulpak drivers and she answered.

In 2004 she bought her first trucks and set up her own company, Success Transport. Within two years she had 16 drivers and 15-20 trucks servicing the mining, farming and shipping industries in some of Australia’s most remote regions.

She still gets out on the road in addition to her role with PHHG, a not-for-profit which provides professional development and traineeship opportunities for women drivers.

F.E.S. TANKS interviewed Heather about the attractions and challenges of life on the road as a heavy vehicle driver in Australia.

What are the attractions of heavy vehicle driving for women in Australia?

Financial freedom and literal freedom. The entry level to driving a HR truck is very easy and it offers an extremely attractive financial package, dependant on the company you work for.

Once your truck is loaded you are your own boss, with no-one looking over your shoulder. Long haul is a lonely life, but that’s the work I enjoy the most – time to really think and with no phones ringing, no phone service.

Do you still get out on the road?

Yes, as my transport company is a small company I still drive three days a week. If you do come off the road into the office you can forget the real challenges of driving, the long hard slog, and the battle with the motorists who have no idea! As a professional driver you are constantly saving motorists’ lives by taking evasive action so you don’t rear-end them or hit them head-on.

Currently I do a Karratha to Wheatstone run, (the Wheatstone LNG project at Onslow) in a triple road train. At least once a week I do local semi deliveries and I am a pilot escort as well, so the odd job comes up every few weeks.

The longest vehicle I drive is 53.5m (three trailers). So long as I am fit and able I will continue to drive at least two days a week, in an ideal world!

What is the most challenging route you’ve driven?

The most challenging runs would be when you have put in a big week or two or three, and you are doing the long haul home, say from Derby or Broome to Perth (about 2400km), and it just never seems that you are making a mile!

What are the biggest fuel issues for truck drivers in Australia? Have unmanned refuelling stops helped?

The biggest challenge is the availability of fuel after hours and in the areas where we need to access fuel. Ease of access for a triple or quad road train is important too.

Stand-alone unmanned refuelling stops are fabulous. We have a few up here and yes, we use them.

As professional drivers we also need a 24-hour manned fuel stop to go to every 600km or so that has a big parking area for trucks, a quiet drivers’ room and a TV room, as when you are on the road you don’t often keep up with the news. We can get limited ABC radio reception, but every 200km or so you have to tune into a new station.

Also at the manned truck stops we need showers – preferably free if you fuel up there – healthy meal options, washing machines and dryers to clean our clothes.

About 80 per cent of all trucks in Australia are owner-drivers, and we work day to day so the road houses become our home away from home. For example in November 2012 I received a call from one of my dear clients who asked if I could be ready in one hour to head over to a mine 650km away for a week. I was ready in two hours and I came back four months later!

How did Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls begin?

In 2013 a group of us female truck drivers would meet every six weeks or so to have a drink and socialise. We got talking about the misconceptions about women drivers.

The five of us got together and formed the Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls to promote the women behind the wheel already, to promote road safety and to open up an opportunity for more women to join us out on the road.

And the response?

We get a lot of support. Last year we had two prime movers donated for 12 months from Volvo Group Australia for us to train new drivers in. We also have three companies we sub-contract to who encourage us to have new drivers while we work. Two of these companies, Joyce Krane and QUBE Energy, have also donated offices and classrooms to us for our training.

Heather and the team at Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls continue to work to encourage more women into the sector as a solution to looming heavy vehicle driver shortages, with the national road freight task predicted to double from 2010 to 2030.

We’d love to hear about your challenges on the road. Tell us your story below.

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  1. This is amazing. As a female I cannot reverse at all, have never reverse parked my car since getting my licence along time ago (aged 46 now) lol..I would be happy to sell up in Melbourne, do the training and go wherever you are short of truck drivers but where would I leave my ute/slide on camper whilst on the road as I wouldn’t have a residence to leave it there or come back to? Have no pets, no commitments other than selling my home and quitting current employment of 21 yrs, don’t drink, smoke or gamble and don’t get bored… where do I sign up?

    • Just do it. It’s a big world full of adventure out there.
      Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls need you. (link at top of the article).

  2. Hi do you have any jobs or groups based in Sydney?

    • Nothing at the moment. Best of luck.

  3. Hi!

    I have been driving trucks for 2 years started out in a Kenworth Bogie. It’s taken me a long time “feels that way” to get to where I am now. I now drive a mack truck n dog. Learning to reverse has been frustrating but also rewarding. I totally recommend any ladies that are looking to get into the industry to do it. Find the right company that offers training and are supportive. The company I work for and the men I work with are amazing and really supportive of me. Always willing to help.
    You’ll get frustrated some days, but just be persistent.
    Ladies like Heather Jones just set the mark for us and I’m proud to work in this industry because of ladies like her.

    Thank you.

    • Kim,
      Loving your commitment.
      Keep doing what you do, learn and then pass on to others.
      Thumbs up from us…

  4. Hi
    I’m from Darwin and have been thinking of a career change in Truck Driving.
    Since I have no background in Truck Driving, I have no idea where to start and I don’t really know anyone who would take me on.

  5. Jessica,
    Talk to the team at Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls (PHHG) they will be able to offer some advice i’m sure.

  6. This is a really good read for me. Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I have ever read. Thanks for posting this informative article.

  7. Any chance of getting into the industry? I’m 52 yrs young.
    I’ve worked farm, driven heavy machinery and have my HR licence..
    Lost my partner of 34 yr 2 1/2 yrs ago, kids are grown, feeling redundant need a challenge, new direction and a life change..
    Loyal, honest and no ties.

  8. Thanks for explaining why becoming a truck driver is a good career for women. I’m at a dead-end job, and I have been brains storming what to do with my career. I like that you explained driving a truck can give you a sense of freedom. That sounds perfect for me.

  9. Morning… Been driving bulk haulage tipping with artic ….any work in Perth area please

    • Nothing with us. Keep trying and good luck.

  10. Very cool! We are a mostly female team and are looking for a casual driver in the Melbourne area and would love another women on board. Get in contact if anyone is keen.

  11. Hi
    I’m from Melbourne i really want to work as a track driver job i got a licence for MR truck but i didn’t get the job please can i get a help to get the job

  12. Great article. I have have a passion to drive trucks but it is frustrating as a beginner to get pointed in right direction. Wish there was a career training path for this industry.

  13. Hi, I’m wanting to know how I could do a truck driving course, get license. One that I could pay off or with government subsidies?

  14. Hi there, any advise how a single mother can get into the industry please?

  15. I am fascinated with your road trains. Always wanted to drive one. I’ve been Hazmat tanker for 25 years here in the states. Love what you are doing for female truckers. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the love….Follow your dreams.

  16. Hi I’ve been thinking of getting a truck lic for a couple of yes now… I know I would just love it, my son also drives trucks. Here’s the thing why I’m over thinkin it lol, I’m 55yrs old… What do you, with your experience think?
    Love your style Thanks

  17. Just got my HR licence anybody tell me where I can get a start everybody wants experience, been driving tractors and all sorts of machines, I’m extremely a extremely confident driver.

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