Monday, 10 January 2022

Big wheels turning

A little bit of history. I started the Lady truckers Club in 1986. I wanted to meet other women like me who drove trucks. I met one woman on Rownhams Services on the M27 near Southampton. We got chatting and exchanged details so we could keep in touch.
I had an idea to start a club so I wrote to the trucking magazines to tell them about what I was going to do. They printed my letters. I got enquiries and signed a few ladies up to it, putting a £5 a year subscription on it to cover photocopying and postage.
The idea behind it was to support each other, because we were all having difficulty finding jobs, and being accepted into a male dominated industry. Each member had a contact list so they could communicate with each other by phone or letter. I started to go to Truckshows, the organisers gave me free space to set up a stand. I wanted people to come and meet us and see that we were just a bunch of women who drive trucks, and no threat to the men. 
Shell Diesel Drivers Club were supportive and invited us onto their stand. The white sweat shirts were sponsored by Keltruck of the West Midlands. 
Inside the Shell marquee. 
Wheels magazine was the publication of the United Road Transport Union, of which I was a member. They were very supportive. 
You can see all the photo's stuck on the wall from group meetings. People were interested to look at them and see if there was anyone they knew. 

You can see there are some yellow sweatshirts creeping in. I put money into the club and designed the logo. I got a local printer to make these up. I started off with all yellow, and later on mixed some other colours in with them. I still have mine after all this time. You may have seen me wearing it when I made the Trucking videos. 
This picture was when we met at a Truck Racing event at Brands Hatch. 

Here we are at Truckfest at Peterborough Showground. The lone male in the photo is Steven Rodwell. His dad owned the company I was working for, and loaned us a van to travel to the event. Three of us slept in it. 
This was another time we were at Peterborough. The weather was good so we set up the stall outside. Notice the home made banner pinned to the wooden door behind us. I drew that on a piece of sheet with felt tip pens. Also made the little sign on the front of the table.

I can't remember where this was, Truckfest at Shepton Mallet I think. The Centre for Road Transport Studies invited me to set up our table outside their bus. I studied with them to get my Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) I got a local sign maker to make the yellow banner on the front of the table. 

I often wonder where all these ladies are now. I did keep in touch with some of them for a while. They are all special to me, we bonded as a group as we shared the same love of lorry driving. After running it single handed for seven years, I handed it over to a committee. There were over 300 members in it, and it was taking up all my time. It was before computers so envelopes were written by hand, I typed out the monthly newsletter and got it photocopied, and posted it out. I worked all week and went to Truckshows at the weekend. It was very time consuming but so worth it. 

Thanks for popping in. We'll catch up soon.  Toodle pip. 

21 comments:

  1. I was a member of the Lady Truckers club. We never met as I had other commitments as well as working full time driving, I did a lot of continental work to Spain, France, Italy, I also did 4 years on nights, Preston to Stranraer, I had my PSV as well and did some Christmas trips to Spain and also school trips to France. I had to Finish at 55 to be a carer for my Mother after Dad died. She lived with me for 16 years dying at the age of 98. I look back with fond memories of those years driving and I also took my CPC both National and International. I did manage some truck fests here in the North West. Pleased to be able to be a member of your club.

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    1. Hello Tilly, how nice to hear from you. I did very little continental work so our paths never crossed. I didn't mind night driving, I did some for B & Q, depot to depot work, easier with less traffic.

      I remember going to Stranraer with a low loader for Leicester Heavy Haulage. There were two of us. I lost two wheels from the trailer en route. Eventually made it to the docks to get on a boat for Ireland. Piggy backed my trailer on top of the other one, I came back solo. Such fun.

      I remember going to Amsterdam several times with an empty trailer to pick up a load. There was a company from Preston stripping out a newspaper printing factory. They dismantled the machines and we brought it all back to Preston.

      My PSV driving was with a local company. Stevensons of Uttoxeter. School buses, stage carriage work, shoppers buses, pensioners days out, and private hire. I preferred lorry driving so I went back to it.

      I finished at 59 when I had to have an operation. I wanted to go back to my job but they said they were closing the depot so my job was gone.

      They were brilliant times weren't they. Hard work but the buzz was fantastic. I hope you are keeping well now. I miss the old days, but we have to move on. Retirement is pretty darn good. Thanks for getting in touch.

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  2. Ilona 💞 HaPpy memories they we're the good day's! The government want to ruin that it seems..
    Great photographs by the way

    Best Wishes Levi x

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    1. The photo's are about 35 years old. I laid them on the table and photographed the photographs if you see what I mean.

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  3. That is so amazing that you got the truckers club going. What a great chance to socialize and share experiences.

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    1. It was the icing on the cake. I loved driving a lorry, and to meet other women who had similar aspirations made it more fun.

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  4. Wow!!! You have always been a go g
    after it personality!!! I am sure you encouragement meant at great deal to those women. I just love you attitude about life!!! 👏🏻👏🏻♥️😊😊

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    1. It gave me the platform to encourage other women to follow their dreams. I allowed those without a licence to join, if they showed an interest in transport, and were keen to get into it. A young lady called Laura joined. Her family had a haulage company. Her mum had a licence and Laura learnt to drive a truck off road when she was 13 years old. When she left school she got a job working nights in a factory, saved up all her money and passed her class 1 test six days after her 21st birthday. I have all the newspaper cuttings in my collection. fantastic achievement.

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  5. These are the stories I love on your blog, I love driving and I'm more than confident in a car, but I'm not sure I could drive anything bigger than a van. I'm in awe of all the truckers.

    My friends dad was loaned a van from his employer many years ago, we decided we were going to go to the seaside, but there was only seating for three in the front. Seven of us including the driver wanted to go, so we took the sofa and chair out of the living room, put it in the back of the van and off we went.
    Not something we would get away with now, but we had a great time.

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    1. If you are confident in driving a car it is all about getting used to a bigger vehicle. I was as nervous as heck in the beginning. I took it steady, did 18 months on a class 3 four wheeler, and went bigger from there.

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  6. Wow, what an interesting story. I am sure you had great fun at your meetings, as well as providing support and advice. The ladies all look so nice.
    Ever since I learnt from your blog that you have been a trucker, I try to look into the driver´s cab of trucks to see whether there is a lady trucker. But they are really very rare. In several years, I have seen only one.
    Hilde in Germany

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    1. I don't see many lady truckers about now. A lot of the work, especially the long distance, long hours, and nights out are going to be difficult for a woman with a family, unless she has their support. Class 3 local work would be more suitable.

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  7. Thats amazing, very thoughtful and inovative.

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    1. Thank you. One has the choice of plodding on forever in the same job, and not enjoying it. Or one can move about changing jobs, and meeting new people. If there are no opportunities, you have to make them for yourself.

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  8. You have had an interesting life and it was nice to read about how you started the Truckers club and I do hope you find out that a lot of ladies will remember and get in touch.
    Hazel 🌈🌈

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    1. There are a handful of members that I could contact tomorrow.

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  9. Such an interesting story, thank you.

    And great to give encouragement to women who wanted to do the same.

    Amanda, Sussex

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  10. Hi Ilona, I love your stories especially when they involve you. I think you have lead a purposeful life; getting involved or taking the first step, when no one else would.
    I hope 2022 is one of your best years yet! Nancy from Northern California

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  11. I'd not really thought about it before, but I'm a big fan of lorries. When my wife and I used to travel on the M180/A180, we each used to pick a company name, and see who spotted the most lorries with that name. One year my wife bought me a membership of the Eddie Stobart Fan Club for my birthday. Sometimes we saw a camper van in one of the lay-bys on the A180, painted in the same colours as the Eddie Stobart lorries. My main mantra for life, I saw on the back of a tractor unit going eastbound on the A180. I'm gonna live forever (as in the theme song from Fame). So far, so good... And so far, it has been good.

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