Tassie’s best driver wants a
Kerri says it’s time her peers got more respect
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.”
AL SMILES: Kerri Connors celebrates her big win at the recent TTA gala dinner.
PROUDLY MANUFACTURED AND BUILT IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA SINCE 1986
BIG FINISH: Kerri won last year’s Volvo’s Australian FuelWatch Challenge, and went on to finish third in the world final in Sweden.
Kerri has been an active campaigner promoting the professional status of truck drivers.