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Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, Pink Lorry: From NHS Secretary To Self-Employed Class 1 HGV Driver.

What does the Logistics industry need to thrive and prosper?

Well, in the opinion of Rachael Scanlin, TTA’s Commercial Business and Development Director, it’s more women to redress the balance within what is effectively a male-dominated industry.

That’s a view shared by all the trainers at Transport Training Academy.

We’re passionate about the subject, and are true advocates for equality within the Logistics Industry. We pride ourselves in being one of the most respected ‘female friendly’ training organisation in the country, and would urge every woman with a passing interest in Logistics to read the story of Julie Kirkham, a woman who’s proved she has got more than what it takes to make it in what is perceived as a man’s world.

How did you get into Logistics and what sort of training did you do?

“I used to work in the NHS as a secretary/PA to a medical consultant. The job was OK, but I didn’t find it all that satisfying. Then one day whilst I was travelling in the car I heard Rachael Scanlin talking on Radio Lancashire about the Girls in Gear scheme and I found it really interesting. I thought about what she said, and found it inspiring, so I decided to apply for the Girls in Gear scheme.”
“After passing with Girls in Gear in January, 2008, I worked for a couple of regular agencies. Shortly afterwards I trained for my Hiab licence, and started working for companies like BT, B&Q, Jewsons and A-Plant. I loved it. In March 2009 I took my class one, mainly because I was finding that the majority of class two work was very physically demanding, and then went on to do regular work for Stobarts, Warburtons, 3663, Archbolds and too, too many other companies to mention. I’ve done all sorts of work since and have been on landfills, building sites, sewage plants, abattoirs, oil refineries, power stations, farms and stately homes.

How did you find the transition from NHS worker to trucker?

“I have to admit that I found the whole transition to Logistics a bit of culture shock. Although things are improving now, when I first walked into Logistics it was heavily male-dominated and quite sexist. I struggled to come to terms with how the industry worked too. Working in the NHS I was used to picking up the phone and getting things done straight away, but with Logistics I found the working practices alien and inefficient. That opinion has changed since, as the more you get used to it, the more you understand the system. Things don’t necessarily always get done right away: sometimes you just have to sit and wait and things will eventually work out. But it’s frustrating when you can see how improvements could be made or how inefficiency could be addresses, but know that no-one will listen to what you have to say because you’re only a truck driver.”

Has Logistics changed since you’ve been involved?

“Oh definitely. I’ve been working as a female truck driver since 2008, and things are a lot better now. There’s definitely not the same amount of sexism to deal with. Maybe that’s because more and more women are entering the industry. When I first started I found some of the behaviour of the older drivers rude and offensive. Even when I’d qualified and got my HGV Class 1 licence, I still faced problems. I went for one job through an agency and made the mistake of picking up the application forms wearing high heels, only to be asked by the transport manager if it was my husband I was picking forms up for. When I explained they were for me and that I’d got plenty of experience, I was told to ….. let’s just say I was shown the door in no uncertain terms.”

“The one thing I learned quite early on it was that if you wanted to survive in the industry you had to have broad shoulders. Fortunately things are getting better, especially with younger drivers who are very encouraging and positive about what female drivers can bring to the industry. I still encounter occasional problems, but generally the attitudes are fine. I’ve worked with fantastic companies who can see post the stereotypes and appreciate what women can bring to the Logistics industry. If there’s one downside to being a female truck driver, it’s the lack of toilets, but you just get used to it and find out where every McDonalds and Subway is well in advance.”

Have you enjoyed your time in the industry?

“Yes, it’s been good. There’ve been lots of positives to it. I really enjoyed the training and took to HGV driving like a duck to water. Apart from the occasional physically demanding jobs like having to carry 30 frozen boxes of chips up three flights of stairs at KFC in Llandudno, I can’t say I found driving a truck difficult at all. It was difficult finding work just after I’d passed my test, but I just accepted that until I got sufficient experience I’d just have to take whatever work was passed to me by the agencies, regardless of when and where, day or night. The more experience I got, the better it became; as companies soon realised I was a hard worker and asked for me again. The good thing is that I’m now self-employed, so I get to pick and choose the work.”

Would you recommend Logistics to other women looking to enter the industry?

“Definitely, it’s a really good job and can be very fulfilling. I’ve managed to do a whole variety of jobs and have gained experience with low-loaders, chains, Hiab, waste, landfill, sewage work – though that wasn’t one of my highlights. I’ve got to meet some fantastic drivers who are always willing to help you out. I get to see some very nice scenery on somebody else’s fuel and I’m able to earn really good money. It suited me perfectly as I have a family, so I was able to make the work fit in around my family circumstances. I also don’t have to work 9 to 5 or get dressed up to go to work anymore. I’ve said goodbye to pencil skirts and high heels and traded them in for rigger boots and overalls. There’s a lot about the transport industry that frustrates me and a lot that still surprises me, but I can’t ever imagine going back to my own office ever again.  I love it and would recommend Logistics to anyone.”

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