Horror moment that left truckie ‘in tears’

 

Veteran truckie Heather Jones was driving on a highway recently when she spotted a trailer "stopped dead" in the middle of the road ahead.

The campervan was being driven by a "grey nomad" who had stopped to look at some Sturt's desert pea by the side of the road - a decision that could easily have proven fatal.

It was a heart-stopping moment for Ms Jones - but one that's becoming all too common.

"I can't tell you how close I came to writing off the caravan," a rattled Ms Jones told news.com.au.

"There was so much adrenaline my legs were shaking, and I thought, 'How could you be so stupid?' And it happens all the time."

Unfortunately, Ms Jones, who lives in Western Australia, said poor behaviour from drivers - including international drivers and older drivers - had led to several near misses on the road.

She said some older Australians took to the highways in large campervans without necessarily having the adequate experience to handle the vehicles, while overseas drivers could become confused by the road rules.

"I've taken my truck bush three times in my life to save other people's lives, and two of those were international drivers travelling on the wrong side of the road," Ms Jones said.

"The percentage of overseas drivers involved in accidents in Australia is huge because they forget where they are and drive on the wrong side of the road when they are tired or under stress, which is pretty serious."

She said there were several occasions when she thought her life was in danger.

"You've got a split second to make sure that where you are heading off the road doesn't have any culverts or trees - you have to work out where you are going to go," Ms Jones said.

"There's no time to do anything, so you just hold the steering wheel and pray.

"There's a huge percentage of truckies who have gone off the road to save other people. It's a gut reaction, then when you stop you say, 'Oh my god' and you burst into tears because you came that close.

"Your whole body is shaking, your knees are shaking, and you sit for a while before you get back on the road."

Heather Jones has had a number of near misses involving international drivers and ‘grey nomads’. Picture: Supplied
Heather Jones has had a number of near misses involving international drivers and ‘grey nomads’. Picture: Supplied

Because of the nature of her job, Ms Jones has also been the first on the scene of serious accidents on several occasions, a situation many truckies find traumatising.

The mother-of-two, who has been driving trucks for more than 30 years, said truckies also had to contend with unhealthy food options on the road, isolation and a lack of bathroom, shower and rest stop facilities.

She's also faced some sexism within the male-dominated industry.

"I had a guy in his 60s have a go at me for working and taking men's jobs off them," she said. "And in the early days you'd go into the yard and the guys would stand back and say, 'If you want to work with us, prove you can change your own tyre' - which was up to 80kg.

"But I've probably only had three guys in my entire life give me a hard time."

Ms Jones' comments comes hot on the heels of a new report into women in transport by fleet management company Teletrac Navman, which found female workers made up just 26.4 per cent of the overall industry, and 16.9 per cent of the workforce in road transport.

It also found men are paid on average 19.5 per cent more than women, making the average difference in renumeration $21,923, representing one of the largest pay gaps in any industry.

And it also revealed 72.1 per cent of female transport workers have faced discrimination, although 67.3 per cent of women in the industry believe there are plenty of opportunities in the sector.

But Ms Jones told news.com.au despite the challenges facing the industry, she loved her job and encouraged more women to join her.

"It's like a massive family - everyone looks out for each other … and if there's an accident in the industry you can get up to 20 calls from people asking if you're OK," she said.

"You get to travel around Australia, see the sights and get paid to see them, and I've made lifelong friends I've met in the trucking industry, but we really need new blood - young people and women."

Have you witnessed a horror near-miss on our roads? Continue the conversation @carey - alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au


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