Truckline celebrates women driving resilience and knowledge in the industry
Australia’s transport industry may have a statistical reputation for being male dominated but amongst the female minority there is a common theme of resilience, knowledge and hard work. Thursday 8 March was International Women’s Day and for many females in trucking it’s a chance to stand up and be heard, and also to say thank you to an industry that is becoming more and more accepting of diversity.
Kristel Lee and Yasmin Forster from Truckline, Australia’s largest retailer and distributor of aftermarket truck and trailer parts, are two such individuals. As branch managers of Truckline’s Newcastle and Brooklyn branches respectively, the two women boast a collective thirty years in the industry and agree that nothing rivals experience when it comes to proving themselves.
Like many in the industry – women and men – Kristel followed in the footsteps of her father, who is a truck driver with 50 years experience under his belt.
“Trucking put food on our table and a roof over our heads so I understand the importance of keeping customers moving and getting vehicles back on the road, because that’s people’s livelihoods,” said Kristel.
A qualified parts interpreter, Kristel admits that females have to work harder than males to prove themselves in the industry. She has done her time as a spare parts delivery driver, in warehousing and sales, as a parts interpreter and now Truckline branch manager, where she is responsible for a team of 13 across the retail branch and workshop.
“Females do have to step up and prove themselves in this industry. But I know I can demonstrate my knowledge and form a relationship with a customer. We always aim to build a partnership with our customers at Truckline and that creates a lot of loyalty on both sides,” she said.
“We know that improving gender equality in business provides many economic and social benefits. Managers can make a difference by upholding trust and respect for diversity, and there’s plenty of that in Truckline,” said Mick. “We pride ourselves on having the best skilled and trained staff in the industry and it’s hard to go past the level of knowledge of the likes of Kristel and Yasmin.”
“Truckline’s success and ability to provide outstanding customer service comes down to our commitment to hiring and training great people, such as Kristel and Yasmin. They know the business and the industry and they genuinely care,” added Mick.
Like Kristel, Yasmin has worked her way up, starting from the floor – literally.
“I was 18 and wanted a fulltime job so I started on the factory floor at Vawdrey’s, a trailer manufacturer. I was on the tools and I worked my way up from there,” said Yasmin, who went on to work at Detroit Diesel and Paccar Trucks, during which time she got her heavy rigid licence.
“I’ve been very lucky to have the experience I’ve had across the industry. It gives you good stead if you know what goes where, why it goes there and how things work. It makes it a lot easier to be able to converse with a customer having overcome any stereotypes,” she said, adding that the attitudes of the industry are definitely shifting. “The industry’s evolved to be a lot more accepting. People are aware that many females do know what they’re talking about and they do know how to service customer’s needs. Discrimination is a lot rarer these days and it’s certainly not an issue amongst workmates at Truckline, nor has it ever been.”
“Generally the people in this industry are lovely. Willing to share knowledge and easily accept knowledge shared with them. There’s a nice camaraderie and it flows across into family life,” said Yasmin, who tries to include her daughters, aged four and 14 years, in her work life.
“They’ve had a lot of exposure to truck parts and my eldest has a good work ethic, she’s well and truly part of the industry. It’s lovely to include your kids in what you do and what your passion is.”
For young women, like her daughters, looking to enter the industry, Yasmin suggests knowledge is power, but she also advises them to service it up with a side or resilience.
“You have to have a certain grit and determination about you. Have a hard shell when you begin and learn everything you can. Get people to explain how things work, get them to show you. The hands-on approach was an amazing way to learn. If you can touch and feel and see how things operate, it’s a fantastic way to start,” said Yasmin.
Kristel certainly agrees.
“Women need to be resilient to ensure the small industry percentage that’s negative doesn’t get to them. The industry is changing as more young people come on board. Older truck drivers are stand-off-ish but don’t let that get you down. Just focus on the goal and keep pushing forward for what you want to achieve,” she advises.
“It’s a great industry to be part of. I find it very rewarding. It keeps wheels turning and customers and their families fed. It’s a very tight knit industry."