“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 tour 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 crew, 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 with Pieter Smit. Today we talk to Lianne Meijer (53) from Amsterdam.
Hi Lianne! How are you?
I am good, thank you!
How did you end up in the world of touring?
I started a really long time ago. I always played in bands, and we toured all over Europe so I bought myself a truck for all the equipment and people. It was 83 kilos too heavy for a normal license, so I had to go back and get a truck license. In 1996 I became unemployed after my band finished, so I decided to get a Code 95. I got a job as a catering distributor at Schiphol Airport, and after that I moved to flower transport. I worked there until 2017, but my soul was in music so I quit and became self-employed. Now, I work for Pieter Smit as a freelancer. I also do some work for bands, and for a company who specializes in lighting and rigging.
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?
I have no children, but I’ve got a boyfriend who plays in a touring band. Most of what affects me is missing my friends. “Do you have to go away again?” they ask, and it hurts because I have to tell them that I’ll be gone for a while. I love being on the road, and I have a lot of friends who also do this work. Apart from missing my friends, it’s not negative at all.
Truck driving is often seen as a largely male-dominated world, but that view is changing. Why do you think that is?
It’s definitely very male-dominated, but I see more and more women doing it these days. You didn’t see that in the 1980s, but so often I have seen it that you have to prove yourself. There are far more women now, but in a country like Italy, there are no female drivers at all. Not one. The men look at you like you’re an alien, but you have that all over Europe. Men look at you very fast and then they try to help you when it’s not necessary. I don’t like that very much. Men will see a woman behind the wheel and think, “Oh no, it’s going to go wrong”, which is also not very nice. If you’re in a man’s world the men will also try and approach you. If you reject them, they don’t want to know. This is quite worrying. Sometimes you hear that it’s scary to be a female inspiciënt, but I’ve never had any bad experiences. My experiences were worse when I worked with normal companies, but in events, a female driver is more accepted. I don’t know exactly how many women drive and build for Pieter Smit, but it’s definitely a more alternative scene. Women are always working on location and doing heavy work, so it’s much more accepted.
What is it about working for Pieter Smit that you enjoy the most?
The people there! It’s quite relaxed. Last year when I was on tour in Italy for another company it was really stressful. When I started with Pieter Smit I was confused because I hadn’t done this kind of work before, but I learn a lot from them and you can always ask questions. The atmosphere is very nice, and I’ve always received good help from them. The planners are really nice. As a freelancer, I can also make my own schedules, as I play in a band. There are so many colleagues, and the ones that I’ve met are very nice.
What are some interesting stories you have from the road?
One story I can think of happened in Italy. There was something wrong with the truck, and I was going to reverse. Some men saw me behind the wheel, and they all looked confused because a weird noise came from the truck. They all thought, “Oh my god, what did she do wrong?!” and started shouting at me. They thought the problem was caused by me. I reversed the truck and they all came running to me, so I told them to repair the problem. Instead, though, they just pointed at me. I laughed at them, and they laughed at me, so I turned the engine off and the sound disappeared. They put their heads down and walked away.
What advice would you give to a (young) woman who wants to go into this field but is unsure?
Be strong! It’s a man’s world, but you have to go for it. I’ve heard that companies would rather have women work for them – they don’t have heavy feet, they’re more careful and they cause less damage. Mainly, though, you have to stay relaxed. If there are a lot of men around you, like in Italy, you have to be a hard woman and tell them to go away. I definitely recommend that you go for it, because it’s a nice job. You just have to be strong and make sure people know what you want. Be independent!