By Rebecca Drew
THIS BLONDE bombshell isn’t the stereotypical lorry driver but has been in the job for a DECADE after previously being turned down because she was a RISK to hire and even had one interviewer offer a DATE instead of a job – and now she wants to inspire other women into the industry.
Lorry driver, Jemma Warren (33) from Bridgwater, Somerset, UK, grew up with a keen interest in big vehicles after watching her grandad drive lorries and excavators and always knew that she wanted to follow in his footsteps and couldn’t wait until she turned 21 to take her lorry licence test. Jemma also watched her dad put the first lorry on the Bridgwater carnival circuit in 1999 which inspired her to one day do the same.
Jemma worked hard as a factory worker and circus aerialist to save up the £3,000 to get the qualifications she needed despite her boyfriend at the time trying to discourage her because he felt embarrassed telling his friends that his girlfriend was a lorry driver. Their relationship ended and Jemma went on to pass her test first time at 23.
Ecstatic, Jemma looked forward to finding her dream job but went from interview to interview only to be turned away because employers couldn’t take the risk on a petite blonde woman with little experience. She had men working there talk behind her back whilst she was in interviews and one interviewer even rang Jemma back to ask her on a date instead of offering her the job she so desperately wanted.
These setbacks only made Jemma more determined and she landed a job driving an 11-ton truck delivering milk and now she drives a 44-ton arctic Scania 440 Topline hauling grain and aggregate, which she loves. Jemma says she receives stares when she pulls up in her lorry as a lot of people deem women to be bad drivers or physically weak, but this makes her work harder to prove the doubter wrong.
Jemma is now in a relationship with Ryan who works in the building trade and takes a keen interest in her career and supports her in everything she does. But for Jemma, it’s important to break society’s perception of stereotypical job roles for men and women and wants to show females that they can work in more male-oriented industries if they want to and no one can stop them.
“I had a boyfriend at the time I turned 21 who didn’t want me to get my licence and become a lorry driver as he would feel embarrassed going in to work and telling his colleagues that his girlfriend was a lorry driver,” said Jemma.
“I thought how very dare he, I was never brought up to judge people on the job they did. To be honest I was surprised and I thought well I’m going to do it anyway. It wasn’t too long after that it ended we were different people, had different views and we wanted different things.
“The test was about £1,500 for my class two so that I could go out and start work then a further £1,500 to do my class one. Back when I started the CPC was not in place but now you have to have the four parts of the CPC before you can work commercially. It took me around a year and a half to save and I guess I felt happy yet a little bit nervous because just because I had the money it didn’t mean I was going to do well.
“I lost count of how many knockbacks I received, I was applying to everything I could find on job sites and went to every agency I could find. I went from interview to interview to get a job but with no experience and being a small blonde girl, I found it extremely difficult.
“I could hear other blokes that worked there talking about me as I was walking in and out of the interviews. One interviewer even rang after the interview and said I interviewed the best and they really liked me but they were sorry but they couldn’t take the risk on me.
“Another interviewer on a different occasion phoned me after to ask me on a date but wasn’t willing to give me a job. I just ignored him and put the phone down, it did upset me a bit to be honest. Eventually I got offered a job and I was so thankful that someone was willing to give me a chance.”
As well as her day job, Jemma drives a decorative truck in the Bridgwater carnival procession that takes place every November. Jemma is proud of everything she has achieved and loves the freedom she has in her job and gets on well with her colleagues.
“Day to day I find it quite normal in the truck I drive daily. I feel I have a responsibility with the size and weight to keep everyone safe around me although that can be very difficult sometimes as everyone hates being stuck behind a lorry and people will cut you up on a daily basis just to avoid it which can be extremely frustrating,” said Jemma.
“It’s when I drive the carnival cart that the adrenaline kicks in about the size. It is such a big vehicle I have a lot of my friends dancing on the cart and massive crowds to get though with limited visibility and loud music, you really do rely on the road crew to get you round and I must say we have a very competent one that takes safety very seriously.
“I feel proud to have got where I have and I’m so glad that I still have the love and the passion. I know I will always be judged on how I look and everyone will be watching for me to make mistakes but I think it actually makes me try harder.”
Jemma shares her life as a lorry driver on Instagram and shared a message to other people wanting to pursue the same career.
“It’s important that men and women do not get put off by the amount of steps it takes to get there or the time it takes as it is a long winded process. As someone who is great with practical skills but no so much with academic skills, I found it quite daunting,” said Jemma.
“Once you’ve passed it is still not over, you must convince someone to take you on and give you a chance with no experience. It is important to take this seriously, someone is giving you a vehicle with their name on the side that could potentially cause a lot of damage.
“As a woman it will be harder because society perceives women as bad drivers and physically weak. This is not the case, so we need to change that perception and the only way to do that is by proving it. It is important not to give up. I believe things will change but all change takes time.
“I am a strong believer in you should do what makes you happy in life and we spend a lot of our life working so to be happy in your job is important. Why shouldn’t women be things like truck drivers, electricians, plumbers or builders and why shouldn’t men be nurses, mid wives, hairdressers or beauticians.
“If someone has a passion for something they will be good at that job. I think we as a society need to change our ingrained stereotypical way of thinking when it comes to work. A happy worker is a productive worker.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/jemwarren