Bias still seems entrenched in some sectors of the HR world, according to a new survey...read more
Jade Foxx talks to workingmums.co.uk about her move into HGV driving, which has earned her an Apprentice of the Year award at Amazon everywoman’s Transport & Logistics awards.
The number of women HGV drivers is extremely small – they make up just 1% of HGV drivers. everywoman recognised the challenges for women in this field in its recent Amazon everywoman Transport & Logistics awards where driver Jade Foxx won its Apprentice of the Year award. Here she speaks to workingmums.co.uk about how she got into driving, the challenges and the benefits.
Jade Foxx had worked in Asda’s warehouse in Didcot, Oxfordshire, on and off for 16 years when she realised that she was getting a bit too old for the heavy lifting involved. She had wanted to become an HGV driver for some years, but the hours and lifestyle were a challenge when her children were very young. “Warehouse work is not really for women over 40. It’s like going to the gym with all the heavy lifting involved and running around all the time like a headless chicken,” she laughs.
She needed a new job which she could do until her retirement and the prospect of training to be an HGV driver offered what she wanted. She was willing to pay for the training herself – at a cost of around £2K – but an opportunity came up to do an apprenticeship, with Asda paying for the training. Jade thought it was also a good chance to keep her brain ticking over. For the apprenticeship she also had to retake her maths and English GCSE. While she could use her downtime at work to catch up on her studies, every evening she would come home from the warehouse and study, all while looking after her children, now aged 13 and 16. It was hard work, but she knows that ‘if you want something you need to go out and get it’ and says that it has certainly paid off – her salary has gone up significantly.
She didn’t think she would pass all the exams, including written and practical HGV tests, but she passed first time. For the first six months she drove with an experienced buddy who showed her where all the stores she needed to deliver to were and how to get in and out of them. When he was happy with her she was observed by an examiner and after that was able to drive alone. For the past three years she has been driving Asda’s 44-tonne lorries around southern England.
Jade, who lives in Oxfordshire, delivers as far afield as the Isle of Wight, but most of her deliveries are no more than two and a half hours away. Initially she did the afternoon shift – more experienced drivers are first in the line when shifts are allocated. She was told that she could apply for night shifts after a year as the afternoon shifts meant she couldn’t be around for her children when they came out of school. Nevertheless, after nine months an opportunity to do the night shift came up and she took it and has been on the night shift ever since. Her partner works early shifts at Asda and Jade starts at 8pm and normally works until around 5am. However, she can work until 11am, depending on traffic or if she has to wait for a delivery. If she works longer than that, for instance, if there are diversions on the roads, she has to take a rest break for nine hours.
Jade hasn’t had to do that yet and says she finds the night shift more pleasant as there is less traffic. However, she can feel vulnerable at night as a woman on her own. She says she avoids track stops and lay-bys and either waits to go to the toilet when she reaches her destination or goes to a service station toilet. When she parks her truck at night she is very cautious about who is around and stays alert. She used to draw the curtains when she stopped when she was on the day shift to avoid comments, given women HGV drivers are a rarity. She says that the novelty has worn off now and she is more relaxed.
Jade is in a whatsapp group with other drivers and has shared her number with colleagues at her depot so she can find out about road closures and other information that might help her. She acknowledges that the culture is very male-dominated, but says she is used to that from working in the warehouse for so many years.
Jade would like to encourage more women into HGV driving, particularly younger ones. Most of the women drivers she has seen have been over 50. She says that could be for many different reasons – younger women may have families, for instance, but a major reason is likely to be the male culture. Yet, she says it is a relatively easy job and the pay is good, especially as there is such a shortage of drivers at the moment. She got a £500 bonus at the start of Covid and then another £500 six months later. Drivers’ hourly rate has also recently been increased.
The hours depend on business needs, but Jade says she has a degree of flexibility. For instance, she has been able to swap days and flex her starting time so she can be around for her children if she gives due notice. She hopes eventually to move back to day shifts when her children are older.
Jade has recently won everywoman’s Apprentice of the Year title at its Amazon everywoman Transport & Logistics Awards. She is really proud of her achievement and says Asda has promoted her win throughout the business. She hopes it will encourage more women to consider HGV driving as a career. “I should have done this years ago,” she says.