With a bit of training and the right attitude there is plenty of work available right now for anyone willing to give truck driving a go
One day you’re working as an executive assistant. You set out for work dressed for the office, high heels on, and ready to tackle all manner of administrative work.
Then a worldwide pandemic hits.
Your job circumstances change, and you find yourself swapping high heels for steel-capped work boots and jumping into the cab of an 11-tonne Man 2011 tipper truck, hitting the phones on the hunt for someone who needs your help.
For owner-driver Lisa, that is the short version of her recent journey in life.
Lisa gained her HR licence in 2017 and launched her earthmoving business in the same year, however it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that she jumped on the tools herself.
“If someone told me five years ago that I would be driving a tipper truck, I would have thought that they were crazy and completely crackers, but yes, here I am today in my third year driving an 11-tonne MAN 2011 tipper truck and I’m a woman,” Lisa says.
Talking about her first steps, Lisa says she registered with several plant hire companies, and Fleet Plant Hire was quick to text back with a lead.
She says while she quickly followed up the lead, she was too late, and the job had gone. Not to be discouraged, Lisa got back in touch with Shane Treweek at Fleet Plant Hire to let him know the outcome and he let her know he’d keep an eye out for any work to send her way.
“About five minutes later, Shane called me back and offered me an on-site job in Point Cook where I was to commence the next day,” Lisa says.
“The job ended up lasting for a couple of months, and from that phone call from Shane, I’ve only worked as a sub-contractor with Fleet Plant Hire.
“The team at Fleet are great. Very personable and professional, and they really care about their sub-contractors.
“I’ve met many other subbies that will only work with Fleet and have done so for anywhere from 8–10 years plus.
“In my view, that says a lot about the company.
“I’ve told the team that if I was to do an advertising slogan for the company, it would be ‘Fleet are the Elite’.”
When it comes to the work itself, Lisa says there’s a bit more to it than simply driving up next to the excavator and waiting to have the truck filled with dirt.
“When I first started, I thought I just needed to drive the truck carting material from one place to the next, but there’s so much more to it than that,” Lisa says.
“You need to manoeuvre your way around bollards, water barriers, pits, ditches, drive through tight spaces, be aware of your surroundings such as pedestrians and power lines, be mindful of soft spots in the ground so as not to get bogged and not drive over anything that might damage the truck or tyres, like rocks or nails.
“You also need to be aware of low bridges when you’re out on the road, but, over time, you get used to all of these obstacles and it becomes part and parcel of the job.”
She says another challenge is sharing the road with other drivers who have no real idea of how long it takes a truck to stop.
“Trucks don’t have a rear vision mirror and we can only rely on our reverse camera screen in the truck and our side mirrors.”
Lisa hopes to see more initiatives and changes in the future, to keep the roads safe when they are being shared with trucks.
For Lisa, whose love of the construction industry stretches back to her previous work, it’s a place where the right skills and attitude make all the difference.
“In this male-dominated industry, I’ve met and worked with some really great and down-to-earth people, which is refreshing,” she says.
While women may be outnumbered by men as truck drivers, Lisa says she feels accepted by her colleagues.
“I feel that they’re probably a bit surprised when they see me rock up to a job in my truck with blond hair and long polished nails, but once work starts, we all just get on with it,” Lisa says.
“I’ve been asked if I get treated differently to the men and the answer is yes. The operators will speak to me differently, but in a good way.
“Don’t think that by any means they’re lenient on me because I’m a woman; I do exactly the same job as the men, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I have also worked with a couple of female tandem drivers, and I am always happy to see another woman in this industry.
“I know there are other women who have also taken the plunge, which is great, and I would encourage any women thinking of getting into the industry.
“I also commend Fleet Plant Hire for their support to women drivers.
“I am led to believe that women only make up two per cent of workers in the construction industry throughout Australia and I hope that, in years to come, this number grows substantially.”
Fleet Plant Hire systems & compliance manager Jade Brooks says more than a third of the staff at Fleet Plant Hire are female and from a “registered contractor perspective we are seeing more and more females coming into the industry, which is fantastic to see”.
When it comes to the sorts of attributes needed to work in the construction industry, Lisa says, for her, it started with an interest in the work.
“I believe that you have to be a special type of woman to be involved in construction, but I can’t really put my finger on what the criteria is.
“I just know that, for me, I’ve always loved the construction industry and have been loosely involved in it one way or another in my previous corporate world.
“I’ve also never been afraid of giving things a go and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, so to speak. I am also fairly outgoing and able to relate to a wide variety of personalities.
“I think it’s like anything you do – once you get confident in what you’re doing, the job becomes second nature.”
On the work hours, Lisa says she’s found there are some long hours involved with trucks needed on site by 7am, and still rolling at 3.30pm, with Saturday morning work too.
In saying this, Lisa also enjoys being involved in a range of projects.
“I also find it interesting and rewarding being a part of creating something. Anything from residential parcels of land to a new maximum-security prison.”
Jade says Fleet Plant Hire is always looking for new contractors to join the team, and encourages anyone who might be interested to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 03 9561 3988, or visiting the website.
“Furthermore, Lisa is also available to discuss her experiences working in the industry, so if that is of interest to you, please get in touch with our office,” she says.