New Volvo for Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls fleet

By: Greg Bush

Volvo Trucks Australia adds more pink power to the Pilbara with a new 600hp FH16 prime mover

Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls CEO Heather Jones has taken delivery of a new 600hp Volvo FH16 prime mover. Photo Gavin Blue.

The trip across to Brisbane from the Pilbara in May proved to be a rewarding one for Heather Jones, Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls CEO.

Heather was handed the keys to a new pink 600hp (447kW) roadtrain-rated Volvo FH16 prime mover, courtesy of Volvo Group Australia (VGA) during the Brisbane Truck Show.

The new FH16 replaces a five-year old Volvo which has been in operation in the Pilbara for the past three years.

The new prime mover joins its existing Pilbara pink stablemate, a 685hp (511kW) Mack Super-Liner which VGA handed over in 2016.

"VGA is continuing their support with us and supplying us another late model FH16 Volvo so that we can increase our training and continue our training," Jones says.

"The previous Volvo had clocked up 285,000km, but it was two years old when we got it, so it’s five years old now. They like to rotate these every two years."

Volvo Trucks Australia VP Tony O'Connell and Heather Jones check out the interior of the new Volvo FH. Photo Gavin Blue.

Tony O’Connell, vice president of Volvo Trucks Australia, says the new Volvo comes with a full safety pack.

"It’s really important for us to ensure that she’s got the latest, so when the drivers come out they know what the latest technology is."

Jones confirms that, as the Mack has just reached 200,000km, it will stay in the Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls’ ranks, in the short-term.

Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls was founded in 2014, a project aimed at promoting a career pathway for women, and young people in general, to enter the road transport industry.

However, the Pilbara Girls is not simply a driver training operation. It is also a bona fide transport company in the area.

"We don’t get any funding from anybody, so the way that we are able to fund and do our training is we have a real live transport company, and these trucks are used in that company," Jones says.

"And that’s where we get the training from as well."

However, she confirms that many clients get nervous when they see a trainee or a new student in the truck, but not so the four companies that the Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls currently service.

"We’ve had to work for quite a few years to show that there is no risk having a trainee because we always have a senior driver with them.

"We’ve had to do a lot of work to keep that work, and in return we provide drivers for those companies as well.

"So they’re trained under their work and policy and procedures."

Jones says the Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls Driver Training Institute mainly attracts women, although there are plenty of young men looking for a career change. Applicants come from all walks of life – and there are plenty of them.

"I’ll be dead before we train them all. Honestly, there’s so many that are interested.

"Even in our local area, we’ll do a school visit for road safety and careers choice, and at the end you’ve got the teachers wanting to come and drive trucks as well.

"We’ve had doctors, lawyers, bricklayers, men and women in their 40s who want to get into driving trucks.

"They come from all over Australia and they do their training with us and they go back to where they came from," Jones says.

"We’ve had a few that have moved to the Pilbara which is really awesome for our community in what we do, because being trained in the oil, gas and mining area is at the highest level you can possibly train in.

"One day you can be drug and alcohol tested three times, so it’s a really high level training."

Pink power: The new Volvo FH alongside the 685hp Mack Super-Liner at Reddacliff Place in Brisbane's CBD in May. Photo Greg Bush

Jones believes the industry does not suffer from a shortage of drivers, rather a shortage of qualified drivers.

"There’s that gap that’s missing," she says.

"If multinational companies would take on new drivers, and train them, then you don’t have to undo any bad habits. You’ve got a clean slate to start with.

"If they would train them, we would not have a shortage of drivers."

The Super-Liner and the new Volvo were on display during the four days of the Brisbane Truck Show in May, although not at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Instead, the pink prime movers were parked across the river at Reddacliff Place, outside the Treasury Casino, sparking interest from many of the city’s office workers.

"These trucks, the pink trucks, and how they’re presented, they are magnets that attract people to the industry," Jones says. "We really are winning on all levels."

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