“It’s a man’s world”. Or so they used to say, because before you know it that mentality will well and truly be a thing of the past. This rings particularly true in the world of trucking and event transport, and here at Pieter Smit we’re pleased to say that the amount of women joining our team only grows and grows. We’re very proud of all the women who drive all across Europe for us, often spending a long time away from home at a time. To mark how proud we are of our female drivers, we’ve spoken to a few of them to gain a better insight into who they are, being a woman on the road and why they enjoy working for Pieter Smit. Today we talk to Bettina (54) from Ulm.
How did you end up in the world of touring?
I used to work as a sales assistant at a butcher’s when I needed to have an operation. I could not do my work anymore due to the heavy lifting. The unemployment station told me that I would not receive full pay if I didn’t work full time, so that’s when they asked me what I wanted to do I told them; something with cars. When I told them I had never driven 7,5 tons before, they suggested that I should try it as I would need a CE license for that.
It took me 5 days of classes and then they told me I should aim for a big truck license. If you’re scared of big vehicles you shouldn’t do it, but I gave it a try and did quite a good job. This was in 2013.
Just like an artist, you spend a lot of time on the road and away from home. What are some of the ups and downs of doing this work?
One of the main positive points is that, before this work, I had never been anywhere in Europe. I never went on holiday, and my first trip outside of Germany was in 2007. Now I get to see places which people have to pay a lot of money for – Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm and Bologna, for example. The downside is that I have to miss my children who are both grown up, my son is 31 and my daughter is 25, and my friends a lot.
Touring is often seen as a largely male-dominated world, but that view is changing slowly. Why do you think that is?
I don’t see any negative sides to being a woman on the road. People sometimes tell me that I should be at home looking after my family, but I don’t care what they say. I’m six feet tall, big and I have short hair; people don’t recognize me as a woman. For me this is a regular job just like everything else.
What is it about working for Pieter Smit that you like?
We have a great team here at Pieter Smit. Our boss in Pieter Smit Germany – a woman – is great. She is very social and nice, and if you’re doing something wrong she won’t hesitate to tell you. She can also be a tough lady if she has to be. The people at Pieter Smit treat me very well. I can call anyone at any time and they will always be there for me if I need help. For example, when I started at Pieter Smit I did not have any experience using a trailer, but they told me exactly what I had to do. At the end of the day, though, you have to find a way to do it which works for you personally. Pieter Smit’s pay-cheque are always on time, and the vacation or rest periods are also good. You can have a proper break between trips. It’s a great company, and I’m not just saying that – it’s the truth. I feel good, and I enjoy working here. If I have a problem I can contact the office and it will be taken care of.
What are some interesting stories you have from the road?
In Turkey, they’re not used to seeing women driving a 40 tons truck. When driving there, you have to blow your horn if you want to change lanes, and men always look shocked when they see me – a woman – driving. They will think, “Oh, yes of course! You’re beautiful and pretty!” If I ask for help, I always get it; I’ve never had a bad experience on the road being a woman.
What advice would you give to a (young) woman who wants to go into this field but is unsure?
Live your life to the fullest, drive the truck, see the world and enjoy it! It’s a beautiful job, there is freedom everywhere. I would do it all over again if I could. If you’re a young woman, go for it! When you start to have your own family when you are touring you’ll miss them a lot, but there is a job that you need to live, make good money and that gives you the opportunity to see the world. I love this job, I really do.