My name is Becky Gibson, I’m 31, and I’m one of the one per cent of female HGV drivers in the UK.
I have been a lorry driver for three years, and I deliver and collect goods around Birmingham and surrounding areas. I always wanted a driving job and when I searched for them on the jobs website, a “pay later” training scheme came up for the HGV licence so I took it.
My husband has been driving trucks for years, but he was actually set against me becoming a lorry driver at first. He quickly realised he wasn’t going to change my mind.
My dad is a bank manager and my mum is a barmaid, and they were both a bit shocked when I told them what I was doing. A few friends just nodded and said, “Yeah, that seems about right for you!”
I get asked questions on a weekly basis about being a female lorry driver – people are always so curious when a woman pulls up in a HGV. I get asked a lot, “how have you driven that in there?” and I reply, “well, nobody else is going to do it for me so I just have to!”
There are downsides to being a woman doing this job. I’ve been asked for my phone number plenty of times when I really don’t want the attention, and I’ve also had negative reactions from people who don’t think a woman should be doing the job.
Men are more likely to kick off at a woman driver as they think they won’t bite back. I’ve been physically touched against my will by a man who was asking me for my number.
When I told my bosses, one dealt with it, and the other simply asked why I didn’t knee him “in the you-know-where”.
I am always more nervous to go to the seedier areas, especially in the winter when it gets dark early. I think one thing that all female drivers are always aware of is that the road isn’t the only danger to us.
“If I have a funny feeling or I feel uncomfortable anywhere I either phone my husband or my best friend, so someone is with me, so to speak, just in case.
I think there is only a small percentage of female drivers because the stereotypical truck driver isn’t a woman.
And it is a physical job – it takes a lot of strength sometimes and I am lucky that people have been there to help should I need it. I think the idea of the physicality alone can put people off.
The biggest negative to being a female on the road, though, is the lack of basic facilities. And actually that’s for all drivers, not just women.
A lot of “drivers’ toilets” I wouldn’t even let my dog use – they are horrendous. Most companies used to let you use their office loos, but when the pandemic hit, I was refused at a lot of places. I don’t know how people can justify refusing a basic necessity like that, but they did.
The issue following on from that is that not all service stations have toilets so that was a big issue during the pandemic (it’s slightly relaxed now but not completely).
I think a lot more could be done to make the job better for both women and men. I am quite lucky where I work because I start at 7.30am or 8am and finish anytime between 4.30pm and 6pm, but there is a lot of work involved on the job.
Some days it can be all forklift jobs and some days I have to use the tail lift to complete the deliveries. The best part is no two days are ever the same.
The hardest part of the job is definitely the driving itself. People have no respect for HGVs on the road, they have no clue how hard it is to drive them and no clue that every time they do something stupid across a truck, they are genuinely endangering their lives – and ours.
Yes the money is OK, but it could be a lot better for the job we do. We could use more appreciation as we worked all through the pandemic and barely got any recognition.
What would really make a difference would be more, and better, facilities on the road for basic stuff. For example, not charging £2 for a bottle of water at some places.
It would also improve the job if we had more safe and secure places for drivers to park if they are on an overnight stay.
My favourite part of the job is that I get to share a part of my husband’s life that I couldn’t before. I understand exactly what he’s talking about when he talks about his work now, which is nice.
I’ve also made a lot of friends through the job with other drivers, and there are a lot of guys I see on a daily basis who I have got chatting to.
While they were curious at first, now they just accept me as one of them. The conversations I’ve been a part of would make a sailor blush.
As told to Kasia Delgado