The lack of drivers
worries even IRU. One of the solutions is to draw ladies to the profession and
increase its prestige. For the time being, out of the total number of employees
who drive trucks in the transport sector only 22% are women. However, transport
companies in the CIS countries are adopting the experience of their European
colleagues in providing equal opportunities for males and females. Women
demonstrate that they are skillful not only at running a large company, but
also at masterfully driving a vehicle.
There is one bold, warm-hearted, cheerful female truck driver working at R Group, and her name is Elizaveta Khlebodar. This is a new, positive experience for the company. After all, the lady driver is very competent and shows high results of work. Our Lisa is able to excel a male driver with her diligence, calmness on the road, and good time organization. She has more than 2 years of experience in cargo transportation.
What does a female truck driver like about the job? Why a trip is a vacation and how is she perceived on the road? The most honest answers to the most important questions.
VETERINARY DREAM AND DRIVING A TAXI
Elizaveta wanted to become a veterinarian. Her dream was gone together with her childhood, but she never ceased to take care of animals. She volunteers at an animal shelter. And she manages to communicate with animals even on the road.
“During a working trip, a kitten fell out of a car in front of mine. In winter, animals often get into cars to warm up, but when the vehicle drives off, they can’t hold on and fall out. I stopped to help it. I found another kitten in Kazakhstan, near the border. He was lying there frozen – I took it with me. I cannot pass by a defenseless animal. In Minsk I find new owners for them and do sterilization of animals.”
Before coming to cargo transportation, Elizaveta worked as a music instructor at a kindergarten. And then she became a taxi driver.
“At the age of 14, I saw Luc Besson’s movie Taxi and got keen on becoming a taxi driver. While working there I realized that it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. So, the time had come for transportation.”
SOMETHING TO PROVE TO THE OTHERS
Why truck driving? Long distances, constant communication with new people, freedom – no clear and fixed schedule.
“Probably I even try to prove something to myself or to others. Sometimes drivers would say unpleasant things only because I am a girl. A girl supposedly cannot drive a car like a man. I never argued, just smiled and said, ‘Whatever floats your boat.’ I understand that there are different situations: a person can be tired, he could have been offended by other drivers on the road. So they lash out at others. But you get used to it. With time, you become tolerant to what they may say about you.”
In Europe, there are more girl drivers, but Elizaveta has seen only around ten over two years of her work. We were interested in how the female truck driver finds common language with colleagues from R Group.
“I communicate with the company’s drivers: there are a lot of good people. Sometimes they are skeptical about me at first, but when we communicate more we find common topics for conversation, and the opinion changes. If there is such a stereotype about female drivers, I’m ruining it. Not on purpose, of course. I joined the profession only because I like everything about it. And if you work in such a sphere, you have to share all its ‘severities’ with men. You cannot just say, ‘Could you dismantle my trailer for me please? I can’t do it, I’m a lady.’ If you know that you can do it yourself, you must do it. Asking for help is normal, but only when it’s necessary.”
GOING TO WORK FEELS LIKE GOING ON VACATION
A driver who transports goods for long distances is not a romantic kind of profession. One may think that a truck driver gets to see many countries, stay alone with him- or herself, or, on the contrary, communicate with locals in roadside cafes that look like the ones shown in American movies. There might be some truth in this, but for most drivers cargo transportation is the safety of cargo, filling out of documents, and adaptation to weather conditions.
Elizaveta says that she takes her work as a vacation. Why?
“When I come home and get occupied with animals, their sterilization, it is quite stressful. It takes a lot of nerves and strength, because I’m very emotional over it. Whereas on a trip I am on vacation. This is a sort of work for those who are fond of driving, roads, cars. Don’t give it up only because someone says that you will fail in it. In the matters of choosing a profession public opinion shouldn’t play any role. Such traits of character as patience, determination, courage will come handy here as well. You won’t last long here if you come here for money only. You have to love this profession. You have to fall for all its pros and cons.”
One of the cons Elizaveta mentions is vehicle breakdowns. But with the new R Group fleet, there are hardly any stops for repairs on the road. Bad roads and winter frosts are much more disturbing. In general, if you organize your leisure and arrange your time properly, you will always have a desire to go on, in spite of all the weather conditions and the quality of roads, Lisa believes.
MORE RESPONSIBILITY – FEWER FINES
Filling out of documents seems to be the least favorite duty for drivers. Some don’t want to learn how to fill them out, some are overconfident and never double check them. This causes mistakes to happen. Thus, a document filled out incorrectly falls on the shoulders of such a driver.
“Even minor errors may bring a lot of fines. This applies mostly to Polish permits. They have fines starting from 2,000 € for any box left unfilled. It seems like a trifle, but errors happen. When it comes to documents, you can call the manager, double check everything, and only then set on your way. I’d rather spend a few hours and review the documents to leave all my worries behind.”
FATALISM AND SIGNS
“I must have books in my car: when I travel around Europe, I have time to read. There’s nothing else special that I feel obliged to take with me on the road. And I don’t believe in talismans or signs at all. I can say: ‘My last trip,’ when other drivers would say ‘latest trip’ in contrary to the logic. But if I have 1532 km left to go, I would say the distance completely, not 1530. It’s not a superstition, but rather a habit. I’m a fatalist: if something is meant to happen, it will. I’m not afraid of any roads or weather conditions. While, on the road I often nod to trucks. Not to drivers, but to vehicles. I greet them: I treat them as living beings.”
Our drivers are part of a large family.
And let the R Group be the start of a great journey for new professionals: both men and women.