When your school holiday memories are of travelling Victoria in the cab of your father’s truck, competing against your brother to name the model of passing trucks, it’s clear trucking is in your blood. When you turn 15 and it’s time to think about a career, everything from driving a truck to becoming a diesel mechanic or working in spare parts takes your fancy. Whilst this may sound like every boy’s dream, in this case, it was a girl’s dream – not just any girl: Truckline’s Territory Business Manager (VIC/TAS) Casey Stewart.
As International Women’s Day approaches with the 2017 theme ‘Be Bold For Change’, Casey says the secret to her success in the traditionally male-dominated trucking industry is good old fashioned hard work and determination.
From birth, Casey has been in and around trucks, and it never occurred to her to let being female stand in the way of pursuing a career in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry. From baby to wedding photos, trucks and Casey go hand-in-hand.
“My grandfather and father were both truck drivers for their entire working lives. I grew up in trucks, around trucks and learning about everything to do with trucks, so when I was 15 I knew I wanted to work in the industry, and family friends in Clyde (Victoria), Helen and Ian Castles, gave me a start in their truck and trailer parts business,” said Casey.
It was here in her first job that Casey learned about the basics of a successful career – the importance of a strong work ethic. Casey worked with Helen and Ian on and off for ten years, and credits her appointment to her current role as Territory Business Manager (VIC/TAS) for Truckline to them.
“Helen was a hard task-master but at 15 I had a lot to learn and I will always be grateful to them for giving me a start and teaching me everything I needed to know. I actually rang and thanked them when I got my current role,” said Casey.
A lot of Casey’s practical learning came from watching her dad and grandfather fixing their trucks, and then on-the-job when truck drivers came in for parts.
“A lot of the older drivers would come in and say ‘I need a part, don’t know what it’s called, come out to the truck and I’ll show you’. They would take you out to the truck and point out the problem part and explain what it did – it was the best way to learn!” said Casey.
After a stint in Mildura working for Volvo and a few years at a Kenworth dealership in Melbourne, Casey returned home to Koo Wee Rup with her two sons, now aged 13 and 15, and started at Truckline six years ago as a parts interpreter. Casey’s husband drove trucks and now manages a transport company, so it really is a family affair
In those six years she has experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks of assistant branch manager, branch manager and now territory business manager. Casey says a lot of what she learned as a 15 year old she still applies to her daily working life today.
“I never ask anyone to do something that I can’t or haven’t done myself, and I put customer service at the centre of everything – my team is very customer focused, we’re almost a little bit old-fashioned in how we approach service. Going that extra step for our customers is just what we do at Truckline,” she said.
Casey manages a large team across three Truckline branches and three resellers, with only two other women in the team.
“In the early days of my career I had to have a thick skin, customers would come in and if there was a male behind the counter with me, they’d make a bee-line for him which was frustrating. But I found that by working hard to prove myself, I overcame the stereotype – I gained respect by learning and doing. I’ve personally done all of the roles that fall within my team so I can confidently manage team-members in those roles,” said Casey.
“I still find it hard to remind myself that I’m not still ‘Casey in spare parts’ – I have had to step back from the day-to-day customer service but I still get to dabble in it occasionally when team members are away which is great.”
Going above and beyond for customers is at the heart of the Truckline business, and something Casey values highly. Her team is tasked with solving a variety of problems for customers every day, but she says their core mission is always keeping trucks on the road or getting them back on the road as quickly as possible.
“It costs a lot of money to have a truck broken down – you could break it down to the minute it’s so expensive!” said Casey.
“Most of the time our customers aren’t visiting us for a coffee and a chat – there’s a problem and they need our team, who know what they are talking about, to help get them going again or prevent a problem from occurring in the first place.
“Over Christmas one of our long-term customers blew a front diff, and one of my mechanics actually volunteered to come in from annual leave to the workshop to get him back on the road, which really highlights that desire to go above and beyond that exists within the Truckline team.”
Casey is very proud of her team and says Truckline’s success is built on its people because they really care about the industry and they underpin the company’s mission to go that bit further for its customers.
“Our philosophy is that if we focus on good old fashioned customer service, combined with our broad and diverse knowledge of European, Japanese and American trucks and trailers, 24 branches around the country, high quality products and unmatched parts availability, we’ll deliver what our customers need every time,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to her 15-year-old self, or any other young female looking to join the trucking industry, Casey says it’s important not to be put off by a hard day, because the rewards at the end are well worth it.
“This industry lets you be yourself – there are no pretences. It’s a small industry, everyone knows everyone, it really is like a family full of good, hard-working honest people. I can’t imagine working in any other industry,” said Casey.
“The line ‘without trucks Australia stops’ is absolutely true – I take my hat off to truck drivers, it’s a hard job where you don’t get to see your family much and you could even lose your life like my best friend did. I don’t think most Australians realise just how tough it is. I’m really proud to be part of it.
“I was told to find something that I love and then it would never feel like work, and that’s honestly how it is at Truckline – it’s all about working for a great company with great people.”
And where to next for Casey? She says she will aim for the top and see how she goes.
“They might need a woman at the top to shake things up.”