OWEN resident and retired truckie, Jenny Colman, has been named Trailblazer Driver of the Year, in the inaugural Women in Trucking Australia’s International Women’s Day Awards.
The awards shine a light on women who have contributed significantly to the trucking industry, with the Trailblazer award recognising women who’ve hung up their truck keys for the last time.
Tomboy Jenny grew up in a small town on Central Eyre Peninsula, the daughter of sheep and wheat farmers.
The neighbours ran a small transport business and Jenny said seeing these big trucks awakened her interest in the industry.
As a newlywed 20-year-old, Jenny joined her husband at their new home, Argadargada Station – 500kms north east of Alice Springs.
Jenny quickly settled into station life, and it wasn’t long before she attained her pilot’s licence and began bore runs across the station in the family Cessna, also flying into Alice Springs for station necessities.
Jenny’s first husband was reluctant to allow her to become involved in station work, but eventually in the late 1980s, taught her to drive their road-train and she managed a few trips around the station and to town towing a triple of single deck cattle trailers.
Eventually the marriage folded and in 1992 Jenny moved to Alice Springs, settling into a government job.
In 2002, she met her current husband, Leon – an experienced livestock carrier and fuel tanker operator.
“I went for a drive with him that week, and he made me drive!” Jenny laughed.
She accompanied Leon on the road at every opportunity.
The couple married in 2004 and the following year, set off on a 10-year working trip around Australia, funded by two-up road-train work the length and breadth of the country.
At age 50, Jenny achieved her MC Licence, and said she saw just a handful of women driving trucks in those days and was constantly frustrated by the backward thinking around female heavy-vehicle driving capability.
From Gin Gin in WA to Gunnedah in NSW and Dampier WA across the Nullabor, to Mackay QLD, Jenny drove many makes and models of prime movers and towed many trailer configurations transporting everything from McDonalds food cartons, hay, grain, cotton and livestock, to fuel tankers and machinery, and loved every minute of it.
“It’s a lifestyle, not so much a job,” she said.
While Jenny and Leon were carting rubble near Lock, Jenny had a crash course in roller driving!
“There’s not much I won’t have a go at,” Jenny said.
She was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008 but managed the condition while still driving.
However in late 2015, Jenny made the decision to hop out of the truck for the last time.
“I did my best in the truck but the diabetes made it difficult,” she said.
On receiving the Trailblazer award, Jenny said she was honoured but wanted to recognise the host of other female truck drivers.
“I’m happy to accept it as a representative of all those before me,” she said.
“When we started, there were very few women drivers, but in the last five to eight years women have started having a go.”
Jenny, who has been driving the local roadside mail delivery run since mid-2017, said those 10 years on the road were some of the best in her life.
“It was awesome,” Jenny said.
“We’ve seen most of Australia…country most people would never see.”
Now having a bit more time on her hands, she is currently writing her memoirs for us all to enjoy.