Community and development first for Tracie
WHEN searching for an inspirational woman in the transport industry, you don't need to look far.
Despite their limited numbers they today can be found in the driver's seat, in the offices and in the boardrooms and workshops.
Guided by the men and women who came before them all eager to share their skills, knowledge and their passion for transport.
Tracie Dickenson of Daryl Dickenson transport is no different.
The 2017 Australian Trucking Association's Trucking Industry Woman of the Year, Tracie dedicates a large amount of her time to the betterment of the sector and the next generation.
Her busy office floor at the Daryl Dickenson depot, which is scattered sparingly with children's toys, is testament to her commitment to a flexible workplace and training.
But Tracie didn't come from a transport family, instead she spent her formative years on a dairy farm.
"I hated it,” she laughed.
"Hindsight is everything, but it did feel bad when you were out shifting the cows around.”
Her love for the transport industry instead took its time, not developing until she met her husband, and namesake of the business, Daryl Dickenson in 1990.
"We met and I travelled with Daryl for 14 months, just the two of us together. It blossomed and I went travelling with him. You know it is hard for interstate drivers to see their loved ones while on the road, so that was a really good foundation for me to understand the industry,” she said.
"When drivers say we had to sit in line for four hours or there are no rest areas, I know - and as a woman, you know, I had to be flexible,” she laughed.
It all changed when in 2001 a contract landed on their doorstep and served as the beginning for the steel, break bulk and container transport company it is today.
"We are a pretty typical transport company in that way. You start off as an owner-driver, then you progress and then you find yourself with 30 trucks and you go what happened?”
By 2008, the company had 40 trucks with more than 60trailers.
But the whirlwind didn't come without some serious learnings.
"Of course the GFC came and we looked at our process and safety records, that is probably when the company matured,” she said.
"You stopped and stepped out of the business and thought this is as big as we get, it's a point I think every company gets to and I think you need to decide where it is manageable.
"We made mistakes, I think everyone does and it was a hard discussion.
"Daryl saw opportunity, we built it together, but I have been described as the Jiminy Cricket in the management.”
Today, Tracie has turned her focus towards the development of their employees and the changes that can be made to the industry itself.
"I am trying to get that focus on the industry and how we as an industry can go out and make change,” she said.
A member of the QTA board, Tracie is part of the Women Taking the Wheel program, a movement to encourage women into the industry.
The company also visits schools to encourage the next generation.
"We are all complaining about staff and driver shortages, but a lot of us aren't giving people the training they need,” Tracie said.
"We need to reinvest with programs like this, there is no way around it.”
Tracie has 'home grown' a few of the drivers already, getting them out of warehouse work and into the driver's seat.
"Just yesterday we had two successful candidates,” she said, smile beaming.
"One had been working for us for six years in the warehouse and he said he wanted a change, so we thought 'what can we do about it?'
"Now he was walking around with the biggest smile yesterday when he got his licence.”
In all, the company has promoted close to a dozen drivers from car licences who have slowly worked through the process.
"It is a journey, we make sure they drive body trucks local first, then semis local and then we introduce them on B-double local and then changeovers,” she said.
"We are finding when you do that, you get loyalty at the end of the day.”
Maintenance manager Erin Duff was brought from working in the warehouse to her current position and hasn't looked back.
"The manager at the time had moved on and I was asked if I wanted to step up, I thought 'great I'll give it a shot',” Erin said.
While it hasn't always been easy, Erin said some standouts had helped her on her way.
"There are some gentlemen that are an exception, like Brian Taylor, Chris Lawler, Stephen Lumley, Robert Adams, Nathan Stelzer and Colin Crisp to name a few,” she said.
"I give these guys some of the strangest, weirdest and most complicated matters to solve and they have all gone above and beyond what is expected.
"The effort these gentlemen put in makes the job more enjoyable and lessens the sexism that comes up every now and then. It is guys like these that make me want to stick around.”