Real Life

Why I’m proud to be a female truckie

Jane Dowdeswell (55), of Auckland, is a big rig operator and teacher.

“People don’t expect me to be a truck driver.

I drove up to a shop, parked the truck and the young girl behind the counter looked at me strangely. She asked if I drove the truck and I thought I must have parked it in the wrong place. But when I told her it was mine, she looked at me wide-eyed saying she’d never seen a female truck driver before.

I never, ever thought I’d be a truck driver either!

Years ago, my brother-in-law was managing a trucking firm down in Hawke’s Bay, and he took us around a pea farm and gave me a go in a harvester. As I was driving, I saw a truck behind me and thought, ‘I like that one better!’

My brother-in-law told me the lady at the wheel was a better driver than the blokes. After that, I decided to look into truck driving.

It can be very expensive but after six months, I had my class 5 licence. When driving trucks, you can learn to drive anywhere from a class 2 – which is your smaller trucks – through to a class 5, your truck and trailer. I love driving the big trucks.

There is the dirty side, like getting mud under your nails, standing in the rain – it’s not glamorous. But I really enjoy the hard work and I muck in with the guys.

There are women out there who don’t realise that this is accessible, but they shouldn’t put it aside because they think it’s a man’s world or a man’s job.

The only thing I would say that women can’t do as well as men is if there’s something really heavy to lift – in which case, you just ask for help! I have found it really great. The guys I’ve worked with are fantastic – you talk to them, respect them and they respect you.

The furthest I’ve driven is from Auckland to Palmerston North. I’ve done midnight runs, that was cool. You’re fully loaded, you’re on the road by yourself and you’re your own boss.

I’ve taught all my life in various forms – computers, piano, dancing and now driving. The opportunity came up to teach last year.

I was looking for a change but I wanted to stay in the transport industry. It’s a great job and there are three women in the company who are training instructors.

In truck driving, you work long hours, which has meant I’ve had to take a break from my other passion, ballroom dancing.

I used to compete for New Zealand for about seven years doing everything from ballroom, Latin American and new vogue. Working from 6am until 6pm, then doing two hours of dancing began to get too much.

Hopefully, I will get to dance again!”

Quick fire:

My favourite thing about my job… Making a difference by upskilling drivers so they have the knowledge to be safer on the road – and working with an amazing team.

Best advice I’ve been given… There is so much time. Don’t just focus on the destination – enjoy the journey, take all the opportunities that are available to you along the way.

Favourite driving song… Where My Heart Will Take Me by Russell Watson.

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