Stephanie Arpasi always loved trucks and, after wanting to get into mining as a kid, found driving long distances was her thing.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
Ms Arpasi said she was a bit of a tom-boy when she was little. Now, she loves working in the male-dominated industry of heavy haulage but says there is room for more women.
The 22-year-old driver-operator has been awarded National Road Transport Association's Youth Employee of the Year and she is hoping the exposure will inspire other young women to join the truck driving industry.
Ms Arpasi is employed by Fardell's Heavy Haulage in Dubbo to drive roadtrains. When the Daily Liberal spoke with her, she was mid-way through a journey across the desert to WA with mining machines in the back.
"I always wanted to be in the mining industry so when I left school, I did go to the mines for a year," Ms Arpasi said.
"Then I left the mines and joined Fardell group which I joined in the civil side - all the earthmoving gear, I was operating all that.
"And then from there, I ventured over into the truck, like the tilt trailer, rigid truck, and then into the prime movers."
When driving a long route like the Nullarbor, which can take around three days, the drivers go tandem, and Ms Arpasi was driving in the company of two other drivers with their own trucks.
She'd kill the time by listening to podcasts - mostly comedians - and singing along to country music. Sometimes, she'd call her mates - other truck drivers - to keep her mind in the game.
"You just kind of call each other up and have a bit of a yarn, tell each other where you're going and what you're doing," she said.
They'd drive sun up until sun down and they'd try to stop in a town with a pub for a good meal. They would sleep in their truck, where they had a full bed and fridge set up.
For Ms Arpasi, one of the biggest challenges driving a truck is the wind - which can really make your truck shake on a gusty day - and getting the load secured.
"The easy part is if your truck is empty and then you're not stressed, but your brain kind of kicks in when you have to load and especially if it's something you haven't done before. You're like, ok, how do I do this?" she said.
"A lot of times obviously you can't damage your things, you can't scratch them, and you can only tie down on certain points. But then, those points don't always line up with your trailer points where you need it tied down to, and then you've got to obviously have enough force for one way and the other way and a lot of things like that.
"So I suppose that'd be the biggest challenge is working out new loads that you haven't carted before and then it'd be the drive home when you're loaded, obviously pulling up, checking, making sure everything's good."
Ms Arpasi won her award at a dinner event at RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast on Saturday, September 30.
Her colleagues said her skills in safely securing heavy equipment for long haulage was meticulous and she applied the same approach to driving.
IN OTHER NEWS
"You definitely make sure everything's good and even if you have to pull up five times within 10 kilometres, you do it to make sure that that load is properly restrained - because you're not just carting a pallet, and a pallet does enough damage, so imagine a 50-tonne machine or something falling off."
NatRoad chair Paul Fellows said Ms Arpasi was an outstanding example to other young women in a profession dominated by men.
Ms Arpasi said she wanted to be an example for other young women who wanted to get into the industry.
" ... there is young women [in the industry], like you don't have to be like, 40 to do the job or [don't think] you can't do a male dominant job - you can do it," she said.
Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app here. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.