Driving big rigs a great challenge for these truckies

WHEN it’s time for a change, it’s time for a change. No-one knows that better than Alison Puru, who after about 18 years in the hospitality game has decided she wants to be a truck driver. Alison is one of the nine women taking part in the Women Take The Wheel program being run by Strategix in partnership with the Queensland Trucking Association. As for why she decided to turn to trucking, Alison said she already loved driving so wanted to challenge herself by driving a “big rig”. “I love the challenge and what we see out on the road,” she said. Strategix Transport Academy manager Ian Stanley said the program had been running for the bus and coach sector for about seven months and now for the trucking industry. While the course is not new to the company, Strategix also run Certificate III in driving operations all year round, specifically aimed at women. “My experience over the years does indeed tell me that women behind the wheel are good operators,” he said. “They tend to be gentler on the gear than some guys and their general approach to life seems to be different. Employers seem to like them coming on board and from all reports we get back, they are a great asset to their company.

“We have now run four of these type of courses for the bus sector and of the 38 ladies trained 30 now have jobs in the industry and remain in it today. This is a great outcome. For most of our ladies thus far the reason they do the course is either to do a complete career change or coming back to work after being stay at home mums. “One of our current ladies is moving from being a beautician to a truck driver.” Sara Phoenix is another of the women taking part in the course. But unlike Alison, she already knows a thing or two about trucks. She drives a little rigid as a Coles online delivery driver. “I want to go big,” she said. As for her career aspirations, she said she’d love to do some fly-in, fly-out work, utilising her licence to drive heavy vehicles on the mining sites. Ian, who has been in the transport game driving heavy vehicles around Australia now for 34 years, said he made the move to training six months ago. “I started at 19 in the bus and coach sector and over the years have been driver, driver supervisor, operations manager and fleet manager,” he said. “I guess you could say I just like playing with big toys.” He said training was another side to the transport industry that really needed passionate, professional people to pass on their skills to new people and get them excited about getting into a great industry. “I also have the privilege now of doing a fair amount of community work and am involved with a group called Drought Angels from Chinchilla,” he said. “I have a few hay runs in our B-double to drought affected areas of Queensland. It is so rewarding it give back to the struggling families.” Both women praised Ian’s wealth of knowledge and passion for teaching. “He keeps us intrigued,” Alison said. Ian said he enjoyed teaching women – because they wanted to be there. “They want the outcomes of a licence, a Cert III, the prospect of getting a job and the comradery is just amazing. They form Facebook groups to support each other during the course and after,” he said. “In fact, I’ve been invited to lunch this weekend from our very first group from mid last year. That’s great to have that sort of attitude in the classroom, it makes it so easy to teach when the students want to learn. “They are so hungry for the information and ready to learn.”

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