Here come the Mothertruckers! A transexual, a ballet dancer and a single mum: How DO these female lorry drivers survive in a man's world
Truck driving is undoubtedly a male domain. The average lorry driver is a 51-year-old male while just two per cent of drivers are female.
But recent figures suggest the UK truck
will soon be reaching crisis point. With many of the older men who dominate the industry nearing retirement
age, there is a growing shortage of experienced drivers.
Meanwhile, many jobs traditionally held by women – office based jobs, jobs in retail, the travel industry and catering – are feeling the economic pinch. Now, a growing number of women have spotted the gap in the market.
They are helping to boost the minority of female drivers – the so-called MotherTruckers – by forging their own path in this man's world.
The Mothertruckers: A growing number of women are choosing to make their way in the male-dominated truckdriving world, including transsexual Vikki-Marie, far right
It is a tough career at the best of times – and as a woman it can be
Female truck drivers suffer a greater
risk of robberies and truck stop facilities that lag way behind those in
Europe – especially for woman truckers. But for the women who take up
the gauntlet, the lifestyle and exclusive club that comes with the job
becomes almost addictive.
A new Channel 4 documentary, MotherTruckers, follows the lives of such women, examining how they manage to get by in this cut-throat world.
Here we introduce a handful of the most surprising characters…
The women who star in the Channel 4 documentary are part of a two per cent minority of women working in a man's world
VIKKI–MARIE GAYNOR: THE TRANSEXUAL TRUCKER
Transexual lorry driver Vikki-Marie began life as Mike, a dashing action hero of a man who worked in the army as a successful LGV and HGV
Then living a heterosexual life, Mike became a father to a baby girl. Soon though, long-held gender issues led him to separate from his wife, and made army life too difficult to continue.
After leaving the army, Mike sought work
as a lorry driver with a leading UK lorry firm. He was already living a female life at weekends, and telltale signs – nail varnish not
completely removed; female mannerisms – started to give him away at work.
Realising he needed to be true to his calling to be a woman, Mike finally made the decision to undergo gender realignment, and Vikki-Marie emerged.
Vikki-Marie was immediately rejected by close friends and family, including her erstwhile best friend, brother and father – none of whom have spoken to Vikki-Marie since.
Her employers were initially sympathetic, but within six weeks she was viciously
bullied at work and lost her job. She took her employers to court for
sexual discrimination, a case which she won.
Three serious further
assaults ensued, in which she lost two teeth and needed six
stitches in the middle of her forehead.
After Vikki-Marie (then a man known as Mike) left the army and underwent gender-realignment
surgery, she found she faced prejudice in the lorry firm where she
worked – and was even attacked
After Vikki-Marie left the army and underwent gender-realignment surgery, she found she faced prejudice in the lorry firm where she worked; right, Vikki-Marie was once a man called Mike, and pursued an army career
But Vikki-Marie has fought back. Today she is continuing her transition. She has had breast implants to give her a more feminine figure, and now feels more confident.
She runs a business as a mobile beautician around work as an agency truck driver for the few lorry firms who accept that
she chooses to present herself as a female trucker.
On tonight's programme, Vikki is shown finally starting full-time work for a
probationary period for a sympathetic employer who delivers skips.
is anxious to make a mark as a perfect employee, but her new employers dismiss her, claiming that she is 'too keen.'
Her closest supporters are her now teenage daughter and her mother, but
she has never, until agreeing to take part in the show, met another women trucker.
It is her
dearest wish to be one of the girls, but her desperation to impress can
be off-putting. Now, Vikki-Marie says all she wants is to be accepted.
LYNDSEY GRAHAM: THE SINGLE MOTHER TRUCKER
Single mother Lyndsey Graham from Ormskirk, juggles helping to
run the family haulage business with caring for two year old baby Dylan.
Her hectic life sees her balance roles as mother, trucker and
office manager – something she has managed to do by taking Dylan on the road with her.
After picking her toddler up from babycare, she straps him into her lorry wearing his very own high visibility vest with 'Mummy’s
Little Trucker' stamped on the back – and they head off to work
Fridays find them both in the lorry hard at work on the run from
Ormskirk to Bradford delivering fresh fruit from local farms to
But whereas most hardworking truckers can come home to a hot meal and
look forward to putting their feet up for the night, Lyndsey has to roll
up her sleeves, cook tea and do the bath and bedtime book routine with
Single mother Lyndsey Graham takes her two-year-old son Dylan out on the road when she goes driving – he even has his own little high visibility vest
EMMA SAYERS: BALLET DANCER TURNED TRUCKER
Twenty four year old Emma became a
tipper truck driver when her promising career as a classical ballet
dancer was halted due to a sudden knee injury.
Unexpectedly she fell
totally in love with truck driving and has adored the camaraderie and
unique status that she has held as the only women truck driver in
Ambitious to move on from tippers to the 'big trucks' Artics, she has
secretly been taking lessons and has recently
passed her HGV1 test, enabling her to travel across the UK
and Europe carrying major loads.
Upping sticks from everything that had been familiar and dear to her –
workmates, friends and ballet, Emma recently moved away from Blackpool
and set off on her new adventure as a national Artic truck driver – but
unfortunately her dream was not to be.
Emma Sayers was a classically trained ballet dancer before an injury forced her to stop dancing. Instead, she found a passion in lorry driving
Loving the big trucks, but desperately homesick, Emma moved back to
Blackpool, becoming an agency truck driver in between driving lorries
that pick up and drop off trash, for her friend’s skip hire business.
For Emma, is has been a move in the wrong direction. Memories of her lost ballet career are a constant presence, and the confidence she once possessed in spades is shattered.
With agency work thin on the ground for new drivers, Emma makes
ends meet between trucking jobs by doing cleaning work in a local hotel
catering for disabled guests.
A moment in the spotlight on the hotel’s
stage set her spirits soaring and sends her to audition for a
professional show in Blackpool.
Show impresario Antony Jons explains that
Emma has got potential to become a full time dancer, but that she has
to make a choice – dancing or trucking.
It’s a tough one and Emma is
keen to keep up her ballet training. But the experience leads her to
make a surprising career decision: a career as a truck driver, instead
of centre stage, is where her true passion lies.
ELLA TONGE – TRUCKER IN TRAINING
For glamorous 24-year-old trucker Ella, driving a lorry is 'addictive'.
She works with friend Lucy Stubbs within small family business Bliss Horse Bedding, an organic horse bedding company based on an idyllic farm in the Derbyshire countryside.
Her main job was once sales, with the occasional need to drive a caravan or horsebox.
Trainee trucker: 24-year-old Ella Tonge says truck driving is 'addictive'
But when her company fell short of
truck drivers, Ella was able to realise her longheld ambition to drive a
Taking a job where there were guaranted vacancies allowed Ella to secure
her job within the company – but more than that, Ella says she couldn't imagine working anywhere else.
to advance, Ella has passed her HGV 2 Truck Test, and is currently in training for the practical tests to enable her to drive HGV1 and HGV2 lorries.
Against all odds, she manages to stay feminine, saying she uses her 'womanly charms' to woo customers with her catchprase, 'Do you want bedding'.
Watch MotherTruckers tonight (9 February) at 10pm on Channel 4.