Earlier this year we joined forces with the RHA (Road Haulage Association) and TRS Training Ltd to launch a pioneering programme to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) secure the skills they need for future growth by recruiting young drivers into the transport sector.
Kerlina Wright is a transport planner employed on the 20/20 apprenticeship programme and TRS Training caught up with her to get a female perspective on working in the male-dominated road haulage industry.
Kerlina has worked in her family’s Norfolk-based haulage business W’s Transport since she was 17. At the age of 19 she qualified with a Certificate of Professional Competence for Transport Managers (Road Haulage). Thanks to TRS Training, Close Brothers and the RHA she’s on track to fulfil her childhood dream of driving an articulated lorry.
She enrolled on our apprenticeship programme after being told about it by her sister, Helena who sits on the RHA (Road Haulage Association) board for the Eastern Region Council. She is aiming to qualify as a C license holder, a step towards getting fully qualified.
Filling The Skills Gap
The haulage industry is actively looking for new ways to boost the number of qualified drivers. Less than 8% of drivers are female, and worryingly, less than 1% of all drivers are aged 25 or below. Encouraging women and young people to start on the apprenticeship route is one way the skills gap can be filled.
Alongside her sister Helena, Kerlina already takes a lot of responsibility within the family firm. This includes the planning of hauling thousands of tonnes of produce for household name McCains Foods. On a daily basis she can be planning the truck movements for 15 vehicles and has to ensure delivery drivers stay within the driving law rules. We asked Kerlina to tell us why she thinks the transport industry is a great career choice.
Forget the Sugar Coating
The answers Kerlina gave us aren’t sugar coated but are honest so give a great insight. This is what she has to say:
“It’s not a job for the faint-hearted female; you have to be tough and able to stand on your own two feet! When trying to achieve something new and it doesn’t go right first time, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, just try again until you succeed.
“There is a big demand for drivers. Companies will up the stakes to get drivers - from paying high wages, to new trucks and company bonuses and pensions. This helps to compensate for having to spend time away from family or working unsociable hours. Lorry driving is a lifestyle choice not a 9-5 job. However, at the end of the day there is nothing more satisfying than knowing you have contributed to helping put food on someone’s table.
“Most people haven’t thought about how important the job of a driver is. Home furniture, cars and machinery used on building sites are carried using road freight. The UK & Europe simply wouldn’t function without us. Females are entirely capable of doing the job. My sister, Helena is a Class 1 driver and when doing an odd job that requires some strength, many men will spot she’s female and instantly think she’s struggling or isn’t capable. Her response to this would simply be it doesn’t matter who sits in the seat, as long as the job gets done correctly anyone is capable.
“Even working in the office talking to customers on the phone I’ll sometimes have to prove that I do know what I am talking about.Staying calm and carrying on with the correct and professional approach to demonstrate my knowledge quickly shows them not to stereotype me. Along the way I’m certain I am making some kind of a positive impact.
“More than anything, I want to be out on the road getting involved on the other side of the business. Already having an understanding of how our customers like to work, I hope to use my planning skills when I am behind wheel. Having a good working relationship with customers is key. Helena is a great role model for me, and together we intend to eventually take over the family business. Our family firm W’s Transport is classed as a medium sized fleet and we’re looking at ways to grow alongside our present and new customers.”
A Way of Life
Kerlina admits that trucks are central to her life and passion. Kerlina’s partner runs his own livestock haulage business and Helena’s partner works as a Class 1 driver for the family business. W’s Transport currently also has a male workshop assistant, Matt who is on the apprenticeship too.