Do you think you have what it takes to work as a female lorry driver? Getting your HGV licence opens up an exciting career path that can see you travelling home and abroad, long distances and short, carrying a wide variety of goods.
Female HGV drivers have a whole lot to offer the driving industry but before you decide on a career as a HGV Driver, or any career for that matter, it is always a good idea to hear from the people already in the role and get a behind the scenes perspective. With this in mind we interviewed female lorry driver Jemma.
Where do you currently work?
I am not working very much right now as I am 6 months pregnant, but I was doing quite a bit of work previously.
How long have you been a Class 2 Driver?
I have been a Class 2 Driver for a little over 2 years.
Have you mainly been driving local or long distance?
I have done a bit of both. The most I have ever had to stay out was 3 nights. I have tried to do lots of different things, so I have lots of experience and work options, this has meant that I have been driving quite a few different routes like Sheffield, Wakefield, Doncaster and as out as far as Manchester and Sunderland.
What pushed you to become a driver?
I was a teacher before, but I really wanted a new challenge. I enjoyed driving before and felt that I wanted to up my driving game, and I knew I had a lot to offer as a female truck driver.
Did you qualify through an employer or did you fund the course yourself?
I paid for it myself. I started the process in January with the medical test and then I went on to do the theory test, I fully qualified in May. The whole thing was a little slower than I would have liked but I was qualifying while working in a teaching assistant role, so I was limited to doing the tests in the half terms.
How do you cope with other drivers being careless or dangerous around you?
It can be quite scary at first, you have to be really careful and watch everyone around you. People tend to jump in front of you when crossing the road, so you have to drive fully aware and predict what they will do. You need to be really careful when you are joining the motorway as you can't get your speed up as quickly as you can in a car.
Spending so much time alone in a cab must be challenging, how do you keep your mind occupied?
I have a good sing along to the radio, that keeps me entertained.
How do you keep a healthy diet when you drive all day?
I always make sure I take lunch with me. When you are working somewhere new you don't know if there are going to be facilities available, you could end up parked in a lay-by which is no fun if you don't have any food with you. I always make sure I have extra snacks in my bag along with lots of drink. Also, freezing a bottle of drink helps to keep everything else cold.
What do you keep in your truck drivers go bag?
Everything I need to be clean and comfortable. Wet wipes, hand gels and lip balms are essential, your skin can get really dried out with the heating or air conditioning in the cab.
How do you combat tiredness?
You need to make sure you have enough time to get home, relax, eat and sleep. I ensure there’s enough time to take care of myself. The key is to recognise this, keep in mind the shifts and any other commitments you have coming up, speak up and know what is good for your own health.
What are the best bits about being a female lorry driver?
I enjoy not having interaction with people constantly, I like my own company and being a truck driver is great for being on your own. You also get to see some interesting places.
What skills do you feel you have learned from your role as a truck driver?
There are so many things to learn as a HGV Driver. Throwing ropes, strapping items for delivery down, vehicle checks, map reading, using your intuition and problem-solving are all skills you use a lot.
Do you find there is still any stigma attached to female HGV drivers?
I don't think there is quite as much as people think, it takes a few days to settle in like any job. When you show that you are just as good as anyone else you get accepted quite quickly.
What type of work are you hoping for next?
I want to drive the shorter distances now, I also like a mix of driving and interacting with customers, not just the long haul shifts. Plus, having a new baby I think I might want to stay quite local for a while.
What would be your favourite type of truck to drive?
I prefer to drive a manual truck over an automatic one just because you have a bit more control at junctions, but the make or model doesn’t really matter to me.
What advice would you give to someone choosing to start a driving career?
When I was a new driver, I found it really helpful to have a driver’s mate for the first few months until I got used to the size of the truck. It helps to have someone with you when you are learning to reverse and manoeuvre around in the real world outside of a training environment, it’s just another set of eyes and some moral support. You won't always have a driver’s mate with you, it depends on the type of driving job you are doing but a job with lots of hand balling of goods would be the type where you might have one, so look out for those kind of jobs in the early days.
What is next in your driving career?
If I stay on as a driver after the baby is born, I am looking to do the ADR, chemical transportation qualification, I was a science teacher so I should pass.... I hope.
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