For the love of the truck


How a visit to Truckfest led to a life-changing career path for Louise Thomas.

Following a visit to Truckfest, Peterborough, Louise Thomas walked away with two new loves.

Who would have thought that a visit to a truck festival would have such a dramatic impact on someone’s life?  Following a visit to Truckfest, Peterborough, Louise Thomas walked away with two new loves:  one for Russell Oliver, otherwise known as the ‘Pukka Trucker' from Shipping Wars UK; the other for trucking as she embarked on a life-changing career path. 

Speaking about the passion her partner feels for his work as a haulier, Louise said: “When I met Russell, I found that his love for trucking was infectious.  He’d grown up around trucks as his father had been a haulier for over 40 years.  Haulage is so ingrained in everything he does – he eats, sleeps and breathes for the industry and I secretly wanted to feel this same passion for my own work and life in general.”

First experience behind the wheel

Russell invited Louise to take a break away from her hectic job as owner and manager at a local pub and join him just as he was finishing a job in Spain.  Out of the blue, she said she would like to have a go at driving his truck, so he drove her to an industrial estate and coached her through her first experience behind the wheel. 

“As soon as I took the wheel, I knew that my life was going to change forever.  I knew that this is what I was meant to be doing and as soon as I got home, I sold the pub and invested the money in obtaining my Class 1 licence.  From start to finish, the whole process only took me four months before I could call myself a fully qualified driver, and most of that was just waiting for the paperwork to come through.” 

Life as a newly qualified truck driver

Finding her first job as a newly-qualified driver took some guts and determination.  She was first asked if she would like to take an administrative role with occasional driving, but she wanted to be on the road, so refused the opportunity.  Impressed by her grit and strength of character, the company in question called back the next day and offered her a job as a driver.  Commenting on finding employment as a female driver, Louise said: “Sometimes it’s down to luck and being in the right place at the right time, but I found that by going into the company and getting them to meet me in person was the best way.”  

Truckfest prize winner!

Fast forward four years and Louise is now employed as a driver by R.T. Keedwell, one of the UK’s leading privately-owned transport companies, which runs a fleet of over 500 vehicles.  She is based out of its new Hensall depot, works 65 hours a week and has never been happier.  Every two years, her employer replaces her Mercedes-Benz Actros with a new one.  She takes enormous pride in her truck’s exterior, as well as the interior and has invested in having it customised to make it a true reflection of her personality.  

Louise likens the interior of her Mercedes-Benz truck to travelling first class.  The pride of Louise’s truck cab is the LED light panel Russell commissioned for Louise, bearing her name, an English rose and the word ‘Yorkshire’ underneath.  She has also adorned the cab with pelmets, cushions and leather seat covers, making it distinctive, attention grabbing and worthy of the prize she won at Truckfest.  

Work life balance

Considering how much time she spends in the cab, it makes perfect sense to make it look and feel like a home away from home.   When talking about her demanding shifts as a haulier, Louise said:  “When people hear about my work schedule as a haulier, they find it surprising that I don’t crumble, but considering that I would often work 90 hours a week at the pub, I now have far more of a work-life balance.  I could never earn this kind of salary doing what people would deem to be a ‘conventional’ office-based job.” 

Louise fully supports the She’s RHA initiative and would like to see employers more open to initiatives such as apprenticeships and job sharing to enable more women to work a career in haulage around family and home life.  With such a demand in the market for qualified drivers, she believes that more needs to be done to encourage flexible working.  Louise would love more women to be able to feel the same love for their job as she does for hers, quoting one of her favourite sayings from Chinese philosopher, Confucius: “Find a job you love and never work a day in your life.”

About She’s RHA

The aim of She’s RHA is to support, mentor and empower women in the road transport and logistics sectors.  Since its launch in February 2016, the initiative has received incredible support from both men and women, all of whom would like to see a better representation of women in road haulage.  Considering that only 8% of the front-line workforce (drivers, instructors, operators, transport managers and those working in vehicle maintenance and repairs) are women, it is essential that we highlight opportunities in haulage for women entering the workforce, for those looking to change career and for those wishing to return to work after a career break. 

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