Iron Women breaking down barriers

A career in transport has led Caitlin Barlow down a path she never expected to go down – earning her heavy rigid licence.
Iron Women

Caitlin Barlow currently works at JATEC Transport, based in Dean Park, Sydney, as a business development manager. Caitlin first joined the transport industry in 2018 without even the slightest thought of ending up behind the wheel of a truck.

But when the Volvo Iron Women Program came calling, Caitlin answered the phone.

JATEC has been involved with Volvo as a long-time customer, which led to Volvo Group Australia public relations and media manager Matt Wood reaching out personally to gauge if Caitlin had any interest.

“Even though I already had my job, and I didn’t need to get my licence to drive trucks, being involved in the program was from an ambassador point of view,” she explains.

What attracted Caitlin to the program was the relevance to her advocacy work within the transport industry. She earned the 2023 Emerging Leader Award with Road Freight NSW after being nominated by Transport Women Australia Limited, as well as the 2023 Driving Diversity Champion from the Australian Trucking Association.

Caitlin believes that the program is breaking down barriers stopping more women getting involved in the transport industry.

“I’m a huge advocate for women joining transport, especially in driving roles,” she says.

“We’ve got a massive driver shortage at the moment, and we have had it for a long time, and there’s a huge demographic of untapped potential drivers in females.

“I think traditionally, there were some barriers to entry for females driving. It used to be a lot of physical stress and heavy lifting.

“Now a lot of those barriers have been removed, but we’re not advocating for females in driving as much as we could do. So I think that putting programs like this out there really draws in females.

“Giving people the chance to come and do it, and it’s all covered by Volvo, or some people are doing it through their companies, it gives women that wouldn’t necessarily be able to have this opportunity the chance to really pivot their lifestyle.

“I just loved the fact that they’re taking women from vulnerable communities and giving them a second chance and a chance to add an income for their family and their community.”

Image: Volvo Group Australia/Supplied

Despite only having had her licence for a handful of months, Caitlin has already had her eyes opened to the opportunities it can offer. While she’s more than happy sticking to the world of sales and business, if push comes to shove, she can jump behind the wheel.

“Working in a transport company, everyone assumed that I had a bit of a drive around the yard and whatnot,” Caitlin says.

“But I’d never driven a truck before I got my licence, I’ve only been a passenger. And I’ve never even had a desire really to get in a truck and drive it myself.

“So having the opportunity to get behind the wheel, I was so pleasantly surprised. It’s quite empowering, getting behind the wheel of like a big Mack truck and being out on the road and driving it yourself.

“It definitely changed my whole perspective on truck driving. I always joked that if I get my licence, I’m not going to learn how to throw straps, because I don’t want them sending me out in the truck.

“But now after getting behind the wheel, I actually want to learn how to throw straps and do a few deliveries myself.”

The opportunity to help train other women to get more involved in driving roles also appeals to Caitlin. But while she admits she’ll still need more experience before she’s teaching anyone else how to drive, it will be a handy skill to have in the future.

“I like having that skill and I feel like I will be able to use it in my company as we grow,” Caitlin says.

“And it means I can, once I get a bit better at it, I’ll be able to train females as well to come on board in our business.

“It might not be doing deliveries but I’ll be able to train other people on doing deliveries and I think that’ll also help with our driver shortage.

“It opens up another pathway to bring people in, and I just like having another tool in my toolkit.”

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