The awards announced in the Australia Day Honours this year have brought women to the fore from the road transport industry. In an industry dominated by the male of the species, two women have persevered through the years to represent the trucking industry and its best interests.
Sharon Middleton has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her service to the road transport industry. She is a director of Whiteline Transport in Adelaide which she runs with her husband Bob.
In the same announcement, Phyllis Jones from Hay in NSW has been awarded the Order of Australia. She has run the NJ and NP Jones operation in Hay with her husband Neville, now sadly passed away, for many years.
The trucking industry is one which abounds with strong women who have had to fight to survive in an industry dominated by the blokes. However, neither of them have succeeded by matching the guys. Instead, they have gone about the task in their own way and managed to make a difference for the trucking industry.
Sharon has become well-known around trucking, involved first with the South Australian Road Transport Association and later also with the Australian Trucking Association. She has been a strong advocate for getting the industry to do the right thing, as well as fighting our corner with the politicians.
Regularly seen singing the national anthem at the opening of conferences, Sharon can also be seen, more importantly, as a bundle of energy taking people to task about the issues affecting the whole industry. When the media do occasionally concentrate on the women in trucking, Sharon is invariably one of those interviewed and speaking out on the major issues.
Phyllis’ style is altogether more laid back, with an underlying relentlessness about it. She too has been engaged in the politics of the industry for a long time, very active in the Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers of NSW and NatRoad since their inception. She was inducted in the Road Transport Hall of Fame back in 2005.
Both of these two women are able to play the long game. Asking pertinent questions at the right time to get their point across. Their’s is not a confrontational approach, but more one of pushing hard in the same direction consistently to get a positive outcome for trucking.
Both are tenacious and unwilling to let an issue go. Both are also able to get stuck in and help with the heavy lifting in their respective operations. Both Sharon and Phyllis can be seen behind the wheel of truck when the occasion calls for it and know every aspect of the trucking game.
Let’s hope there is another generation coming through with the same insistent drive to improve the lot of trucking. Phyllis has stepped back from her roles in various associations in recent years, while Sharon continues to remain at the forefront of industry bodies.
This is clearly what the trucking industry needs, tenacious leaders pushing the industry forward. If those representatives are also women, it serves to further the cause of getting more females working in the trucking industry and improving the culture for those working in it.