Like many blue-collar industries, the trucking sector is dominated by men. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2013, only 20% of Australia's truck drivers were women. Despite its 'boys' club' image, however, women who work in the sector report strong job satisfaction. Female truckies say they are attracted by the excellent rates of pay, flexible working hours and the thrill of being in control of massive B-doubles. That said, for many hiring managers in the sector, old habits die hard, and women still find it difficult to get a start in the industry. If you are thinking about becoming one of Australia's next 'heavy haulage girls', read on to find out more about some of the challenges faced by female truck drivers, and how to overcome them.

Getting a start

According to the Department of Employment, previous work experience is the number one factor that employers take into account when considering job applications. However, many women seeking work in the trucking industry report that the attitudes of some corporate HR managers to female job applicants can be somewhat out-dated, making it difficult for these women to secure that all-important first job.

Many women have overcome this barrier by participating in work experience programs run specifically to bolster female representation in the heavy haulage sector. One Western Australian program, for example, gives women who already hold their heavy vehicle licences 160 hours of free on-the-job training designed to help them secure employment in heavy haulage for the mining industry.

Building a network

According to a series of surveys conducted by the Department of Employment between 2011 and 2014, truck driving nearly tops the list of occupations for which employers typically use word of mouth to recruit new employees, as opposed to more formal recruitment methods such as written applications. This can cause problems for female truck drivers, who may find it difficult to build a professional network in an industry still seen by many as a 'boys' club'. 

Women's professional organisations, such as Transport Women Australia, run mentoring and networking programs that give women already working in the sector an opportunity to build relationships with others in the industry. Some transport companies, such as Toll, have a stated commitment to increasing female representation in their workforce, and have gender diversity strategies designed to help women overcome this issue.

Despite female representation in the Australian trucking industry having increased by nearly 10% over the last two decades, women still face significant barriers to employment in the sector. By taking a few proactive steps, women with their hearts set on a career on the road can break into the industry and enjoy all the benefits trucking has to offer.