Whilst you would expect this to be a man’s game, a surprising number of women truck drivers work for Engen, whose driver programme has – since 2006 – seen females compete successfully with males in this exacting environment.
Engen’s National Transport Manager, Llewelyn Snyman explains that there’s nothing stopping women in an environment previously dominated by men. “We recruit drivers from around the country and they arrive with an EC Code Licence: if they are selected, we put them through our Professional Driver Learnership Programme to equip them with the necessary skills and mindsets to transport Diesel, Petrol or Paraffin. Thanks to our Bulk Truck Operator (BTO) Instructors who provide the dangerous goods training as well as mentoring and coaching, they emerge with a Professional Drivers Permit and are ready to join our team.”
Working out of Engen’s Langlaagte Depot, Palesa Modiselle began driving large rigs for Fast and Fresh before joining Engen in 2006. With Engen, she has been given the opportunity to study Business and Transport Management. Now 37-years-old, Palesa, describes herself as ‘very single’ and finds driving fun. “I like the fact that the job is challenging: while it is a big responsibility, it’s great for someone who likes her own company and being in control,” she says. Palesa would not miss night shifts though, and has ambitions of becoming a transport analyst in the future.
Also from Langlaagte is Tebogo Sekowe who completed her learnership in 2009. She was employed on a permanent basis in 2010. The 38-year-old is married without children. “I enjoy competing within a predominantly male team, whilst also enjoying the solitude of life on the road,” says Tebogo.
Her colleague Nomagugu Dhlamini, who joined Engen in 2009, commends the company for its employee benefits such as medical aid, pension and school, car and housing support. “Also, the amazing quality of Engen’s Professional Driver Learnership meant I quickly got a Code 14 and opportunity to drive dangerous goods, which is very challenging and rewarding,” says Nomagugu
Now 42-years-old, Nomagugu recognises that this kind of tough work is a man-sized job and that it takes a lot out of a driver. She says she would welcome moving into an office position, once she gets to the end of her road. “Ultimately, working in Dispatch would be my first choice and Engen would really benefit from the fact my trucking experience mans that I know every customer, every driver, and every route,” she says.
Engen’s Pretoria Terminal Manager, Kebone Dlamini appreciates the commitment she sees in Engen’s women drivers. “You get a sense that they are working for their families and that they are proud of what they do. These women are certainly on the same level, professionally as their male counterparts.”
Professionalism and excellence go hand-in-hand in an environment that has zero tolerance for error. Twice annually all drivers undergo assessments. Continuous improvement is fostered through on-going training. Excellence is tested and recognised through Engen’s Driver of the Year Programme, where the top drivers are selected and put through their paces.
Highly experienced and skilled, Rebecca Mangwane began driving trucks in 1981 and has been selected twice for Engen’s Driver of the Year Competition, winning the ‘best firefighter’ section in 2010. With four children and six grandchildren, Rebecca remains passionate about her job.
“I love my job and being on the road,” she explains. “I also appreciate that Engen gives us enough time off to rest and charge our batteries. I always have peace of mind as a result of the company’s constant focus on safety. There is no margin for error in our game.”
Looking ahead, Llewelyn Snyman believes that as traditional family roles become redefined, many more women will take up the challenge of transporting dangerous goods. “Soon we will see more female faces behind the wheels as they drive day and night between depots and service stations. After all, our women drivers have proven themselves and shown that they can compete well with the guys. They embrace our company values and are dedicated to Engen.”