After a near-miss with a 4WD in the Pilbara region of WA, Outback jillaroo Jess Edwards uploaded a Facebook video telling car drivers why they need to be careful around trucks. Jess talks to Tamara Whitsed about the safety message which has gone viral
Jess Edwards’ adrenaline was pumping when she parked a 2012 Kenworth T659 near a farm gateway to collect her thoughts after narrowly avoiding an accident.
She was about 30km north of Roebourne on the North West Coastal Highway in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. An impatient driver in a 4WD had attempted to overtake Jess on her left hand side as she was turning left.
Jess avoided the collision by inches. Luckily she was only towing one empty stock crate. She usually pulls three trailers with about 150 head of cattle.
Before her heart rate returned to normal Jess pressed record on her mobile phone to make a video of what she would have liked to tell the 4WD driver if he or she hadn’t raced off towards the horizon without so much as an apologetic wave.
To Jess’s amazement, support from her Facebook followers and the trucking community helped the two-minute video go viral – it had been viewed more than a million times when
Deals On Wheels went to print.
A self-confessed ‘rev-head’, Jess grew up in suburban Brisbane and Gympie, Queensland and is forging a career and social media identity as an Outback jillaroo.
After working at cattle stations in Queensland she headed to WA in 2014 with a dream of one day carting cattle in road trains.
She already had experience carting cattle and
So if a truck’s turning, don’t try and scoot up the side of it.
horses with a rigid truck, and wanted to get into bigger trucks. With help from Keen Brothers
Truck Driving School she obtained her heavy combination (HC) licence in 2014.
Friends helped her clock up kilometres in a road train while she prepared for her multicombination (MC) licence, but she found it difficult to land a paid truck-driving job.
“I went down to Hopetoun in Western Australia and went harvesting. I drove a chaser bin for a season,” she says.
This experience helped her secure a job driving a semi for Veolia Environmental Services at Karratha. Last year Jess passed her MC licence and began a dream job as assistant manager at a cattle station in the Pilbara.
Her day-to-day duties include monitoring cattle, fixing windmills, fencing, general maintenance and mustering.
And, best of all, she regularly drove a threetrailer road train during the mustering season from June to September, often with about 150 head of cattle in the crates.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so
I’m really lucky that I can cart cattle now,” Jess says. “It’s definitely more interesting than carting general freight around town.
“The cattle move around in the truck so you have to stay in the middle of the lane. You can’t go off to the side of the road because then all of the cattle are going to lean left, and that puts all the weight off. And you can’t slam your brakes on because all the cattle move. They can fall over and break legs.”
Jess generally stays fairly close to the North West Coastal Highway, moving cattle from one station to another. “It’s not a super busy highway but there are a few cars on it,” she says.
Unfortunately, she encounters plenty of impatient drivers who are not content to sit behind the T659 – like the driver of the 4WD who tried to overtake Jess while she was turning.
“I just want people to know a bit of impatience can get you in a lot of trouble,” Jess says, explaining what motivated her to make the video. “It’s better to be late than dead on arrival.”
Jess enjoys the freedom of driving a big rig. And she loves the Outback scenery she sees from the driver’s seat. But she is conscious of how dangerous truck driving is. “I guess it’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the world,” she says. Mustering was over when Deals On Wheels spoke to Jess, so she was spending less time in the truck and more at the station. She worries
It’s better to be late than dead on arrival.
about full-time truckies because they encounter impatient drivers all year round.
‘FLESH AND BLOOD’
Jess adopted a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ tone of voice for the video. After telling the camera that the truck is driven by a “flesh and blood” person “just like you” she introduces viewers to the “bloody big whoppin’ tyre” and “bloody big whoppin’ bull bar” and tells them they don’t want to be hit by either of them.
“If you lose against that,” she says, pointing to the bull bar, “then I’m going to lose too, because I’d have to deal with knowing that I was involved in killing someone.”
Then she kneels down at the back of the trailer. “I don’t know how they do it but these things – indicators – magically show you where we’re going to go,” she says in a Play School voice. “So if a truck’s turning, don’t try and scoot up the side of it. No! That would just be silly.”
Jess uploaded the video to her Jillaroo Jess Facebook page on September 24 while she was watching car races at the Nickol Bay Speedway. By the end of the night she was surprised to see how quickly the video was liked and shared. “I woke up to a kind of chaos,” she tells Deals On
Wheels. “Overnight there were hundreds and hundreds of messages, and already there were a couple of thousand shares.
“Most of the comments were support from truckies and truck drivers’ families.
“They loved it. I think they were happy to hear someone standing up for them.”
There were also comments from car drivers who thanked Jess for explaining why they shouldn’t overtake a turning truck.
As Deals On Wheels goes to print, the video has over 14,000 likes and 14,000 shares. And it has almost one million views.
The Jillaroo Jess Facebook Page has attracted an additional 10,000 likes since Jess posted the video. “It’s still jumping up. It’ll get to 30,000 pretty soon,” Jess says.
Advertising agencies with large budgets would be happy to achieve those kind of numbers with professional campaigns.
“I honestly just enjoy sharing my photos and stories. It’s really quite an honour that so many people have decided that they enjoy listening to me,” she says.
Loading and unloading three trailers of cattle is part of the job
Luckily Jess only had one empty stock crate behind the 2012 Kenworth T659 when a 4WD tried to overtake her while she was turning Jess is jumping for joy because she gets to drive a road train in the Pilbara
Snapshots from Jillaroo Jess’s Facebook video