What is it about the long, straight, seemingly endless roads that criss-cross Australia that capture our hearts and imaginations? With rail freight in steady decline, trucks have become the main means of moving everything from fresh food to furniture on the tarmac arteries of our country and cities. Driving these great behemoths was once the monopoly of blokes in stubbies and blue singlets, but that is changing. There are more women in trucks – in coal mines, quarries and cities – than you think, and they love their jobs.
“When you stop in the middle of the desert at night and look up at the stars, there’s nothing like it. It’s wonderful. I just love it.” – Maralyn Bierwith
Maralyn Bierwith has seen more of the open road than most of us. The 71-year-old has only just retired from driving her big Kenworth 909 triple trailer road train the 2,834 km-long Stuart Highway from Adelaide to Darwin twice a week, delivering freight to supermarkets in Darwin. “Oh, I hate not being able to drive my truck but my doctor’s warned me, so I better take his advice.”
The independent Maralyn had a fall in 2015 while she was hooking the trailers onto her beloved truck, fracturing her vertebrae. She may not be able to drive anymore, but the friends she made while truck driving continue to drop in for a cuppa and a chat. “I love to have a chat. The other drivers always knew when it was my turn to drive because I was always on the two-way having a chat. It gets lonely on that road in the middle of the night.”
Until her retirement Maralyn used to drive ‘two-up’ with her husband John. Husband and wife driving teams are becoming increasingly popular with long haul freight companies. According to Maralyn this is because they work better as a team than two men. “Husband and wife two-ups don’t fight about who’s the boss that day. I know a number of women in their late forties and fifties who have been married to truck drivers and then when the kids leave home, get their licences and start driving as two-up partners.”
Continue reading this article about Maralyn, Lisa Lloyd and Lyn Haysom in Issue 2 of Honestly Woman magazine.