Tassie’s best driver wants a

Kerri says it’s time her peers got more re­spect

Big Rigs - - NEWS - Brent Dav­i­son

IT MAY be a lit­tle dif­fi­cult for many of us to draw a line be­tween scoot­ing around in an old farm truck and win­ning the Tas­ma­nian Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion’s 2018 NTI Pro­fes­sional Driver of the Year award but for Kerri Con­nors the con­nec­tion is an easy one.

Kerri, a bulk fuel tanker driver for Cal­tas for the last 10 years, de­cided that af­ter driv­ing an old farm truck in her teens, that driv­ing pro­fes­sion­ally was what she wanted to do.

“When I was a bit younger, about 14, I started driv­ing Pop’s old farm lorry in hay-cart­ing sea­son and that’s when the bug got me. I was bit­ten, got ex­cited by it. Then I joined the Army and drove trucks for them,” Kerri re­called.

When she left the mil­i­tary Kerri ported her love of trucks to civil­ian life, driv­ing first for Toll then Lin­fox be­fore mov­ing to Chas Kelly Trans­port, one of Tas­ma­nia’s big­gest trans­port com­pa­nies be­fore switch­ing, a decade ago, to Devon­port-based Cal­tas.

Last year she won Volvo’s Aus­tralian FuelWatch Chal­lenge, gain­ing a spot in the world fi­nal in Gothen­burg, Swe­den. The only woman in the event, Kerri fin­ished an im­pres­sive third over­all.

De­spite long hours at the wheel Kerri has been an ac­tive cam­paigner pro­mot­ing the pro­fes­sional sta­tus of truck driv­ers and also cham­pi­oning the cause of fe­male driv­ers.

Asked if the in­dus­try needs more women be­hind the wheel, Kerri is res­o­lute: “of course we do!”, adding there are sta­tis­tics to back the need for a higher fe­male driver ra­tio.

“Com­pa­nies can’t get good, re­li­able driv­ers and yet there’s a whole work­force of women out there who, if they only knew, (could find out) what an amaz­ing job this is.

“I think the bar­rier is in the hours. If you’ve got kids that’s prob­a­bly not very good (but) there are so­lu­tions to that and that’s where com­pa­nies need to start think­ing out­side the square,” she said.

With truck driv­ers work­ing an av­er­age 70-hour week, she rea­sons, two women could share driv­ing du­ties and still take home a rea­son­able pay packet each.

Kerri also has strong praise for the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of her fel­low driv­ers and the sup­port they have for each other as they per­form what she de­scribes

❝ Com­pa­nies can’t get good, re­li­able driv­ers and yet there’s a whole work­force of women out there.

— Kerri Con­nors

as “one of Aus­tralia’s most dan­ger­ous oc­cu­pa­tions”.

Driv­ers, she says, are deal­ing with con­stantly chang­ing sit­u­a­tions some­times caused by fel­low road users who don’t re­alise trucks need more time to pull up, more time to get go­ing and lack over­all ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity.

“I’d like to see a shift in at­ti­tude (to­wards truck driv­ers) be­cause it’s all about how many ac­ci­dents trucks are in and how much of it was caused by the truck driver and how much of it was caused by the car driver but what is not talked about is how many ac­ci­dents truck driv­ers ei­ther avoid or are even the rea­son an ac­ci­dent didn’t hap­pen.

“When I started-out, if there was an ac­ci­dent you, as a truck driver, al­ways had to prove your­self to be in the clear be­cause you were (con­sid­ered) guilty be­fore any­one was even charged.

“Whether we’re the cause of the ac­ci­dent or not we’ve got to deal with the au­thor­i­ties, we have to make sure the pa­per­work is cor­rect, the load was cor­rect, the log­book’s cor­rect. “That can be stress­ful.” She be­lieves, how­ever, that so­cial me­dia is turn­ing that tide just a lit­tle bit.

“I think there’s been a re­ally good shift be­cause (more and more) peo­ple are sup­port­ing truck driv­ers now.”

How would Kerri like to see the road trans­port in­dus­try de­velop?

“They (trans­port com­pa­nies, gov­ern­ment bod­ies and reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties) just need to ask the peo­ple who are do­ing the job. Peo­ple who have been in the in­dus­try for a while – ask them.

“If they don’t ask, no­body is go­ing to say any­thing be­cause we’re all so busy.

“Com­pa­nies need to think out­side the square.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

AL SMILES: Kerri Con­nors cel­e­brates her big win at the re­cent TTA gala din­ner.

PROUDLY MAN­U­FAC­TURED AND BUILT IN SOUTH AUS­TRALIA SINCE 1986

PHOTO: JOHN WAL­LIS

BIG FIN­ISH: Kerri won last year’s Volvo’s Aus­tralian FuelWatch Chal­lenge, and went on to fin­ish third in the world fi­nal in Swe­den.

PHOTO: GAVIN BLUE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Kerri has been an ac­tive cam­paigner pro­mot­ing the pro­fes­sional sta­tus of truck driv­ers.

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