A recent keynote speaker at the Transport Women Association Limited event in Goulburn, NSW, where he is based, Troy Cook is renown as a champion of initiatives to attract new workers to the industry, a project he has more recently taken up himself.
Prime Mover: What was the catalyst for Divall’s ‘Women Behind the Wheel’ program where you provide training and licencing to introduce females into the Divall’s team?
Troy Cook: In 2018 we looked at how we could attract drivers generally to the industry. We already had a couple of female drivers. They were good operators with good fuel numbers. They were also sympathetic to the equipment and had great relationships with customers and with management. Our question was: Why can’t we attract more women to do these jobs, especially now it’s a lot easier physically with equipment such as electric tarps on tippers?
PM: What did you do?
TC: We decided to put an ad in the local paper and see if there were any women out there who wanted to get a truck licence. We got ten responses which was great, and out of that we had six who signed up and were ready to go. We did it with a local trainer and at the end of the four weeks’ initial training five of those ladies could handle a RoadRanger transmission and had their HR licences. We employed three of them straight away and would have employed all five, but the other two ladies were doing different things and didn’t want to go to a fulltime gig. They were just keen to get a licence, perhaps for the future.
PM: You made a comment recently that even if they went to work for someone else you would have still regarded it as a win.
TC: Absolutely! That’s the way we looked at it because our aim was to generate more people into the industry to make the talent pool bigger. Drivers often change employers. One may leave us go to work for someone else and another may start with us here. Basically, they’re only swapping shirts and at the end of the day we need to make that pool bigger and attract additional people to the industry.
PM: Are there any limits on the industries to be considered as a source of drivers?
TC: We’ve got a chef working for us. COVID brought us a chef because he couldn’t earn a living and he looked around and realised truck drivers were still working. He did the training, obtained his licence and now he’s driving one of our 10-wheelers around and he loves the industry, loves his job and he would not go back to being a chef in a million years. He’s actually pulled in another guy who was also a chef, and he’s been with us a couple of months now and he’s working out really well.
PM: Can this initial encouraging success in attracting people be sustained into the future or has it peaked early?
TC: We need to keep pursuing it to keep making this whole industry, not just our Divall’s business, more attractive. I can recall being at a function with Andy Divall and there was a young man serving us drinks and Andy asked him what he did. He said he’d just left school and had yet to decide to go on to university. Andy suggested he should be a truck driver and the guy’s comment was “Oh, drive all night and take drugs.” If we can change that perception in young people and, instead, have them thinking this could be pretty cool way to see a lot of this country from the driver’s seat… As an industry we need to make ourselves look like a genuine career option. We make Divall’s as attractive as we can, and we don’t miss the opportunities for someone to come along who might want to work for us.
PM: Is the female gender an untapped resource?
TC: The mining industry were probably onto this a lot earlier than us and they’ve had ladies in dump trucks and underground vehicles for a long time. One of our young ladies here has a friend and she keeps saying to her, “come and get your truck licence”, but her boyfriend says “what do you want a truck licence for?” That’s what we’ve got to change.
PM: Have you been able to leverage your recognition as an Australian Trucking Association Inclusion Champion in 2020?
TC: There were 12 of us involved in that program and putting people together from different facets of our industry was great because we all brought something different to the table.
PM: Do negative stories in general media work against the industry?
TC: The mainstream media to a certain extent don’t help our cause a lot of the time and transport related stories are often reported in ways which can be a little misleading. When you find out the facts of a situation it’s often not the way it came across on TV. If they’re going to interview someone you can bet they will pick a driver who doesn’t present quite as well as the others who might have been available.
PM: Can having more women boost the industry’s image?
TC: Ladies generally present much better, they care about the way they look, and they care about the way they dress. They present very well, whereas some guys maybe don’t find that as important as women do. We’ve found that females will usually think a little more before they act. If they are in a situation on a site where it’s a little bit more tricky than usual, they are more likely to have a second look at it or even make a phone call to get some advice as a backup.
PM: In what areas can women improve?
TC: When they first start it’s not their abilities that are a challenge, it’s their confidence. Ability and confidence should grow together and once you tap in and make them confident in themselves they do a great job. It’s vital to give them the facility that if they want a bit of back-up they can just ring a supervisor.
PM: How do you see the recruitment program heading into the future?
TC: We’ve got two in-house trainers now and that comes at a cost to this business obviously, but it’s definitely a ‘must have’. If you want to be a truck driver we’ll take you on with no experience, no licence and you come here with us and we’ll give you the training and experience. Just as we do with our mechanics, we put an apprentice on and hope they stay to become a tradesperson. That’s what we want to do with truck drivers as well by having the person come on here as an ‘apprentice’, learn the trade, become a great truck driver and then stay with us. That’s our aim whether you’re male or female. We’ve been fortunate and we’ve got some great ladies within our business and we really appreciate that they are here and hold them in high esteem because they’ve got the mental fortitude and the ability and the confidence to be a success in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Honestly, the ‘them and us’ days are well and truly gone.