To help address the chronic shortage of heavy vehicle drivers in Australia, Volvo Group has announced it is formally supporting a ground breaking heavy vehicle driving academy, The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girlsbased in Karatha in WA

Australia has an enormous and increasing demand for road based transport but with an ageing heavy vehicle driver population and fewer young drivers entering the industry, meeting the demand for experienced driving professionals is becoming a major national issue.

The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls have been trying to raise awareness of this issue for some time now, taking innovative approaches to the issue, such as targeting female drivers.

“Women make up a tiny proportion of Australian heavy vehicle drivers,” said co-founder of the

company, Heather Jones, “but they’re just as capable of driving a big rig as a man. We know that the road freight task is increasing, but fewer people are entering the industry, and a big part of this is an image problem. We want to change that. For a lot of people, driving a truck is all about machismo but to us it’s about getting the job done safely and efficiently.”

Heather first came to the attention of Volvo Group Australia’s President, Peter Voorhoeve, when Peter awarded her the ATA’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Trucking Industry’ award in 2015. Since that time, Peter had been planning ways to support her crusade. The outcome; two prime movers, a 700hp Volvo FH16 and 685hp Mack SuperLiner, and access to Volvo Group’s extensive driver training and competence development assets.

“Australia is facing a big problem when it comes to driver availability, and its only getting worse.

We’ve been looking for ways to address the issue for some time now,” said Peter, “and what Heather is doing is exactly what we need more of.

The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls has a waiting list of licenced people who want to be drivers but can’t get a job because they’re lacking experience – Heather provides that much needed experience and stepping stone to the industry!”

“I’m still in shock to be honest,” said Heather, “it’s a fantastically generous offer from Volvo Group Australia, and it vindicates our decision to think differently. With their support, we’re now able to train more people, and train them to the world class standard of the Volvo Group.

“Heather, in her own business, spent many years extolling the virtues of female drivers. Now under the t banner of Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls, training female drivers is at the core of their business strategy. As the organisation grew, Heather also found she had qualified drivers of both genders applying who couldn’t get a job, so they quickly adapted and now offer comprehensive training regardless of gender.

Heather makes it very clear that the Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls don’t provide licences. “We focus on giving our students the necessary experience to get a job in the real world, with an emphasis on safety and efficiency,” she said.

Heather’s approach is to give qualified drivers intensive training to address their experience gap, with a focus on safety and fuel efficiency as the fundamental driver skills. Driver coaching is of course, a key aspect of Volvo Group Australia’s commitment to safety and environmental responsibility.

“The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls have the same attitude to driving trucks as our driver trainers,” said Peter, “they understand that taking your foot off the accelerator now and then not only saves fuel but makes you a safer driver.” Heather also plans to use the trucks in her school education program, which aims to introduce young people to the career of a professional driver.

“We regularly visit schools across the country to talk about working in this industry,” said Heather, “and it’s amazing how enthusiastic the kids are, especially when they get into the cab of the truck.

Unfortunately, that enthusiasm fades somewhere between then and when they leave school. We’re keen to find ways to make the transport industry an attractive proposition for school leavers, and the impressive Volvo and Mack trucks will be a big help.”

Peter said “Australiahas a long history of pioneers and Heather is a true pioneer in the Australian transport industry. She has a vision of the future and committed to make it happen. Volvo Group is

incredibly proud to be a partner of The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls