Gender imbalance and issues of diversity and inclusion in the commercial transport industry are gradually being addressed as more women get behind the wheel.

Leading transport company, Barloworld Transport, is doing pioneering work in the field of training and development for women in a once traditionally male-dominated sector.

Statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) earlier this year revealed that South Africa has startlingly low rates of employed women at 50.9% of the female population aged 25 to 54. Alongside this, reports that South Africa needs at least 15 000 new professional truck drivers every year only points to the importance for women in trucking to be prioritised as a growing requirement.

The Barloworld Transport Academy

The Barloworld Transport Training Academy is a fully-accredited training centre, registered with the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA) and Department of Higher Education, and was established to address key skills requirements and development needs in the transport sector.

Numerous learnership and apprenticeship programmes are available through the Academy for both employed and unemployed learners throughout Southern Africa, one of them being the Professional Driver Learnership Programme (PDLP). The objective of the PDLP is to equip learners with theoretical and practical work experience that will enable them to develop tangible skills that are employable and income-generating.

Learnerships for women

The Academy has spearheaded a first-of- its-kind PDLP for women drivers and is currently progressing through the final stages of the immensely successful programme for 43 women. Enrolment is underway for a further 40 women to be incorporated into the programme at the end of August 2016.

Three female learner drivers who embarked on the 2015/2016 learnership programme spoke positively of their experiences. Nonhlanhla Ngubane, 35, said: “I heard about the learnership from my mother and decided to pursue it. I already have my Code 14 driving license and although nervous at first, I am now determined and motivated to take on challenges.

“There were certain driving rules that I was previously ignoring and which the learnership programme has helped me rectify. I am now more observant, mindful, patient and accountable. Most rewarding is the fact that my children, aged 12 and 17, look up to me as a role model.”

Patricia Mbambo, 36, said: “The learnership programme has equipped me with a wealth of knowledge and I have been taught the ropes of truck driving well.

“I am proudly the first female truck driver in Mpendle, a small town west of Pietermaritzburg, and previously worked as a chef. My passion for the transport industry is deep and trucks are always a topic of conversation.”

Lindiwe Myakayaka, 37, said: “With my Code 10 license, I sought experience as a professional driver. I now comfortably drive a superlink, thanks to the learnership programme. Prior to being a truck driver, I was a fire fighter for two years.

“The programme has taught me the ‘ABC’s’ of trucking – Attitude, Behaviour and Clear Space. When applying these principles on the road, I am able to quickly identify hazards; predict threats; ignore negative behavior and keep a safe following distance.”

To qualify for the learnership programme, a compulsory grade 12 certificate is required and applicants are subjected to reference checks and medicals.