Ipswich City Council’s only female waste truck driver has been driving trucks her whole life.
Some of Belinda Janson’s earliest memories are of her sitting beside her grandfather high up in the cab of his truck.
“I grew up in far north Queensland and if I wasn’t at school I was out in the trucks with him,” Ms Janson said.
Ms Janson is not expected to be the only female waste truck driver for long as council has been granted an exemption by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) under the Anti-Discrimination Act to advertise for females only to be recruited for a training program to obtain a Heavy Rigid licence needed to drive a waste truck.
The submission stated that there are often socio-economic barriers faced by women seeking to meet the heavy rigid (HR) licence prerequisite as there are significant costs involved in obtaining the licence including specialised lessons, the cost of the licence itself and the time involved for the lessons.
Women are recognised as being under represented across the transport industry and these measures aim to reverse the inequality by assisting women to enter the industry.
Further planning will now be undertaken to form a driver training program that will involve free training provided to trainees to achieve a HR licence.
Ms Janson said it was an interesting field to work in and offered job security.
“Girls can do it just as good as guys so it will be great to get some more girls in,” she said.
“It is harder for females to get into the industry as lot of people are under the assumption that females can’t drive trucks or big rigs or whatever the case may be, so it is a little bit harder for women but we are slowly seeing more out there which is good.
“Just get in and give it a crack, its good fun.”
Being the only female driver is not something Ms Janson notices often as it has been the case throughout her entire career.
“Here at council the team leaders and the guys I work with have been really good,” Ms Janson said.
“They are happy to teach me, show me a trick or two and give me some tips, they have been really good.
“I’m there to do my job, same as they are, so I just want to get in and do my part.”
Ms Janson said her favourite part of the job is getting to know the Ipswich community.
“I enjoy seeing all the different people and getting to know them,” she said.
“You see the same people each week who will wave or want to say hello.
“Then you drive around the corner and a group of kids are waving and doing the air pump.
“It’s really fun and I like to be part of it.”
Chief Executive Officer David Farmer said Ipswich’s population was growing quickly and council regularly needed to recruit new drivers to service the need.
“At the moment, half the potential workforce don’t have access to these opportunities,” Mr Farmer said.
“Our workforce should reflect the wider Ipswich community, and that creating pathways for more women to become drivers in the waste truck fleet will support this.
“Now that QIRC has granted the exemption we can get started on designing a program that will remove some of those barriers faced by women.
“Most importantly, the program will be open to any woman with a driver’s licence and an aptitude for the work. They will not be expected to already have truck driving experience.
“We hope this exemption will pave the way for other councils and companies to participate.”
In the council submission to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, it is stated that it has been demonstrated female drivers tend to have less driving related incidents and less serious WH&S matters related to driving incidents.
Similar initiatives previously taken by some large scale mining and construction companies have found great success with female driver programs that show female truck drivers could help create a more inclusive and safer culture.