New Aussie recruitment drive aimed at attracting female truck drivers

In News3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMarch 30, 2023

Kiwi Hannah Hughes featured in New Zealand Trucking magazine in 2021 after winning the inaugural Women in Trucking Australia Driver of the Year competition.

Advocacy group Women in Trucking Australia has secured Commonwealth funding to begin the largest recruitment of female heavy vehicle drivers in Australia’s history.

It comes as fears grow of a national shortage of drivers across Australia, while female truck drivers say they are being turned away from jobs due to a lack of experience.

The recruitment pilot, called Foot in the Door, will launch nationally next month in an attempt to get more women in the driver’s seat.

Lyndal Denny, CEO of Women in Trucking Australia, said after women have paid for their own heavy vehicle licences they struggle to secure employment.

“Women wander round in a wasteland on their own trying to find work, and are asked constantly to come back when they have three years’ experience,” said Denny.

“The only way to get experience is on the job.”

Denny said a gender bias continues to be a major defining barrier for women seeking a career in trucking.

“It’s a male-dominated sector, and I guess [it’s] that unconscious bias, where we pick like for like, which means, the men will normally get a run before us girls do,” she said.

“Men also tend to oversell their skills and women are the exact opposite.”

Foot in the Door will be one of 132 projects funded by the Australian government’s $33 million Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative and will connect inexperienced female heavy vehicle drivers with employers in their local area.

Denny said the recruitment drive will establish those missing relationships between heavy vehicle drivers and employers to encourage on-the-job training.

“Very few people are training drivers from the ground up, so we just need to change that — a bit of a cultural shift and get the industry to look again,” she said.

The project will assess women’s skills and aims to help them to break into the workforce.

“Attitude is critical when you’re driving a heavy vehicle, so you can teach anybody to drive a truck. But you cannot teach someone to have a good attitude,” said Denny.

Initially, the Foot in the Door pilot will be for those who already have their trucking licence.

But Denny hopes that, in time, it will be offered to those who don’t yet have a heavy vehicle licence, and those seeking employment.

“We have had the department approach us, wanting to work with us to get unemployed people up into trucks,” she said.

“We said no for this first iteration.

“But those unemployed people are welcome to approach us and we would be delighted to work with them in the second iteration later on in the year, and get them up into heavy vehicles as well.”