TORONTO, Ont. – She may not be well known to a lot of people outside of the industry, but there was no mistaking that Lisa Kelly is much beloved by those attending Truck World in Toronto April 15.
Kelly has been featured on the History Channel’s reality show Ice Road Truckers, as well as the show’s spinoff, IRT: Deadliest Roads.
And although Kelly was not always sure if she wanted to be a truck driver, she certainly knew what she didn’t want to do.
“I didn’t want to sit in an office, and I didn’t want to rotate food or be in any kind of medical field,” she said. “It just made sense.”
Kelly said she believes the best way to entice more women into the trucking industry has more to do with the nature of the job itself rather than a recruitment problem.
“It is a different kind of life,” she said, “so it’s kind of hard to get women into it if they want to stay home and raise families, you can’t do that and be in a truck because you’re gone for weeks at a time and come home for two days then you’re out again.”
So how could the industry remedy this issue and attract more women?
“I think I’d like to see shorter runs,” Kelly suggested. “A lot of the runs they do, you have to work six days on and you get one day off. That was my problem when I was applying for jobs; I don’t want to be gone that long, I want to work maybe part time or have a set run and that I think would make it a lot easier, because I want to be home. I love driving, but I’m not going to be gone for three weeks.”
Kelly said she would love to have her own dedicated local run where she could perform more physical labour and do it for three days a week.
“There are long haul truckers because you need to get stuff from here to there, but I don’t know why it can’t be more dedicated,” she said, “why you have to go so far and why you can’t pass it on to the next person who can take it, then you can be home.”
Kelly said she had never answered the question on how to attract more women to the trucking industry, but a recent experience, where she witnessed a driver suffer a heart attack and die in front of her at a fuel station while filming, had got her thinking about the subject, as she herself is looking to get out of long haul driving.
“You sit on your butt, you get fat, you eat unhealthy at truck stops…it’s not healthy,” Kelly said, adding that she tries to stay active while on the road by walking more and making better food choices, but it isn’t easy.
“You have to keep stuff in your truck and if you don’t have a refrigerator you have to just have stuff that doesn’t go bad or you need a microwave,” Kelly said. “So you’re just eating chips and nuts…you really just have to grab and go.”
Though she pointed out that driving a truck was a male-dominated profession, Kelly said women should not be intimidated by the idea of getting behind the wheel, as there is nothing a man possesses that a woman does not that would make them better at performing the job.
But with women only making up around 2%-3% of the industry, if the taxing lifestyle of a driver does not change, the situation may not change.
“Some people can do this lifestyle and other people can’t,” Kelly said. “I love trucking and I don’t know what else I’d do, but I’d really have to get out of it because of that.”
Brought to Truck World by Chevron Delo and Husky Energy, it was Kelly’s first time at the event and inaugural visit to Toronto.
“It’s really fun to meet people who you read their comments on Facebook,” Kelly said, “and it’s good to have that appreciation.”
She said the most common questions she was asked during her visit to Truck World was, ‘Is it (the show) really real, and is it really that scary?’
“I just don’t know how to answer that,” Kelly said. “It’s what I do, it’s my job and you can’t record it if it didn’t really happen.”
Kelly visited the Chevron Delo/Husky booth at Truck World on two occasions April 15, and will return April 16 to take photos and sign autographs for fans.
Lisa Kelly from the show Ice Road Truckers takes a picture with a fan at Truck World in Toronto April 15.
A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media industry as an editor, reporter and now as editor of Truck West. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.
@DerekClouthier All posts by Derek Clouthier