AYR — Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, professional driver of big rigs for 17 years, is hardly short on experience behind the wheel.
But, leaning against her tall truck, she looks a little, well, short.
"I'm under five feet tall," Uvanile-Hesch said. "When people
see me standing beside that beast, they're like, 'Do you drive that?'
Yeah. I do."
And the view from the cab is just lovely, thanks for asking. The 49-year-old Baden resident can see for miles and miles.
"I can see more up there than you can in your car," she tells
those who ask when she visits career fairs as the chief executive
officer and a founder member of the Women's Trucking Federation of
"A lot of women just don't think they can do it because they
look at the size of the vehicle and they're scared. We're trying to
tell them about her 27-year transportation industry journey. She drove a
school bus when her kids were young. She steered a coach for a few
years. Then, a six-wheeler. Finally, a big truck followed.
These days, the truck and trailer she drives for
Cambridge-based Sharp Transportation stretches 75 feet. With her husband
Chris, they are usually a driving team, hauling pharmaceutical products
across North America.
Teaming with a spouse, with one driving while the other is snoozing, isn't for everyone, she concedes.
"But it works well for us," she said. "Trust is a big issue with team drivers and there isn't anyone I trust more than Chris."
And the sites and sights they've seen on the road, some gorgeous and others treacherous, resonate in her white-line memories.
"I love Virginia," Uvanile-Hesch said. "Virginia has got to
be my favourite place to go through, especially in the spring. The
colour. The trees. The beauty, the natural beauty."
She adores driving. She wants to encourage more women to
pursue a career in trucking — be it in the office, under the hood or in
the driver's seat.
After all, based on the 2016 census, women make up 48.4 per
cent of the Canadian workforce. Yet, only 3.4 per cent of professional
drivers are female, Statistics Canada says. Less than two per cent of
diesel technicians are women. In trucking, 11 per cent of managers are
"We are starting to see more women drive," Uvanile-Hesch said.
But there are pylons and potholes to swerve around. The
profession is not yet recognized as a skilled trade, she lamented. The
Ontario Student Assistance Program only applies to programs at least a
dozen weeks long. Most truck driving schools run six or eight weeks.
"So people can't get OSAP," she said, naming funding as a key
roadblock. "If you're looking for a career change, you don't have that
$10,000 to go to truck driving school. If you're on minimum wage, the
bank doesn't really want to give you a loan."
But the nonprofit federation she leads is working to change
all that. It began with just 10 members two years ago. Now, it has 300.
Challenger Motor Freight of Cambridge recently purchased
memberships for all its female drivers. The federation has 19 corporate
members and five partners that offer discounted products to members.
The federation has a Cambridge mailing address, a website and social media accounts with thousands of followers and a mentorship program.
As of this week, the federation also has Miss Destiny Staron the highways encouraging women to get into trucking as it rolls along.
It's a tractor, a 2019 Western Star 5700XE, that belongs to
Sharp. But it's Uvanile-Hesch's to drive. And it's got a decorative
"wrap" — the graphics on a truck that can cost $3,000 to $6,000 — paid
for by Western Star. The whole package was unveiled Thursday in Ayr,
where the graphics company that designed the wrap is located.
Female faces adorn the truck, including Uvanile-Hesch's.
"The women that are featured on this vehicle are actual, real women in the industry," she said.
"Three are from Ontario. Three are from the east coast. We
have a diesel technician on there. We have a lady in a management
position. We have public relations and sales. We have a driver."
Uvanile-Hesch named the truck she plans to take to trucking shows all summer long. After all, it is her drive. Miss Destiny Starwill promote women in trucking wherever she hauls in North America.
The Star part of the name stands for Star Car, which is trucker lingo for a Western Star vehicle.
"Destiny is meant to encourage women," Uvanile-Hesch explained. "This too could be your destiny."
Source of article click here : The Record