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Strong and powerful: Making the haulage sector more female-friendly — Christina Demetriou, Heavy Haulage Driver for Vaughan’s Plant Haulage

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Christina Demetriou is a heavy haulage driver for Vaughan’s Plant Haulage. She holds an HGV (heavy goods vehicle) Class 1/2 licence and is also licenced for Hiab (a type of truck-mounted crane), as well as holding her C+E Licence, the most comprehensive HGV licence it is possible to hold. She started out as a driving instructor, before driving buses and then progressing on to trucks.

Christina Demetriou
Christina Demetriou

The gender balance in the industry is absolutely shocking! I think women make up about 1% of the drivers in haulage, and even lower for the construction industry. The good news is that I do see a lot of companies trying to improve on diversity and inclusion.”

In the driving seat

I am educated to GCSE level. I had a baby at 19 and focused on being a mother for a few years, and then when I turned 21, I trained to be a driving instructor and worked with RED for a year, but I quickly realised I didn’t enjoy being in the passenger seat much! So, I then applied to become a bus driver out of the Stamford Hill depot driving a 73/253 bus route for just over a year but the working hours were very unsociable at the time with me having a small child.

I then worked for Islington Council as a bus driver for the disabled taking them to schools/day centres and I stayed there for about three years, but then I wanted more challenge so I decided to go and apply to work with Lawsons, a local builders’ merchants, to become an HGV Hiab operator. They sent me off to do my training and once passed I worked there for two years.

I then went off to do my C+E Licence independently. I have worked at multiple companies since as a truck driver working through agencies but I recently took up a permanent position with Vaughan Plant Haulage as a Class 1 driver which I love, and so I hope to stay here.

A day in the life of an HGV driver

Christina DemetriouMy role as an HGV driver goes a little like this: I wake up super early usually (about 5am!).

I then drive to work and once there I will do my vehicle check to make sure it’s roadworthy and upload it to the POD (proof of delivery) device. I’ll then check my load is secure or attach a different trailer if needed. Once ready I then look at my route to make sure there are no live accident updates on it, and off I go.

I’ll do my deliveries, keeping to my legal driving hours and rest periods and then once done I head back to the yard, I’ll refill the fuel and top up the AdBlue to be ready for the next day. (AdBlue is a solution of urea in demineralised water used as a fluid in the latest generation of diesel-powered Euro4 and Euro5 trucks.)

(COVID-19 didn’t affect me because I work within the construction industry and we worked throughout.)

Licensed to drive

The different classes of licences are:

  • PCV category D — allows you to drive buses. (You also have to do a theory test, a practical and a CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence).
  • Class 2 is category C – allows you to drive a rigid truck. (Again, you have to do a theory test, a practical and a CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence).
  • Class 1 is category C+E allows you to drive an articulated truck. (You have to do practical, but no theory or CPC as they were done with Class 2.)

Better gender balance needed!

The gender balance in the industry is absolutely shocking! I think women make up about 1% of the drivers in haulage, and even lower for the construction industry. The good news is that I do see a lot of companies trying to improve on diversity and inclusion.

Personally, I think we need to make changes on working hours and start/finish times to accommodate for single parents who want to do these roles but struggle with childcare, and to allow for part time or school hour shifts. We need to accommodate better working hours for the single parents who can’t start at 5am too.

The construction industry could become more appealing to women if we improve in these areas.

  • On-site attitudes towards women — knowing the line not to cross with so-called ‘banter’
  • On-site facilities for women — we need clean spacious facilities, not storage cupboards
  • We need a much better range in PPE for women — some women have curves, so add some stretch!
  • And finally, are perhaps most importantly, we need to support women through their journey.

Broadening my horizons

Christina DemetriouI used to want to open a tipper company but now I’ve decided I just want a haulage company within the construction industry so I don’t limit myself to tippers. I want to employ female drivers and provide a safe and supportive environment for them to thrive.

My goal was to get my first truck this year, but there are so many important things I didn’t know about in terms of courses and operating licences, so I’m holding fire until next year. I want everything to be perfect because I know it’s not going to be easy.

I’m excited to learn more this year. I hope to get promoted to working on a low loader trailer so I can haul excavators and diggers etc. The bigger, the better!

Most of all I’m excited to continue to be an advocate to women who want to do male-dominated roles but don’t have the confidence. I’ve met some amazing women in the last four years through construction and I hope to meet more.

Strong and powerful

Quick motivational message to the women: Women we are strong and powerful! Let’s help each other be comfortable doing the uncomfortable. Dig deep and manifest your dreams, set targets and work towards them: Young or old, it’s never too late!

Readers can follow my days on the road on Instagram @Truckerbabeuk.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/%F0%9F%9A%9Bchristina-demetriou-648a641b0

https://www.instagram.com/truckerbabeuk/