Less than 1 in 5 truck drivers in Australia are under 30. Only 3% are female. Blayze Williams, part glamour model, part horse-riding-and-showing competition winner, stands out among the minority with blonde hair, blue eyes, and an immutable ambition for pushing her limits. As Williams says, “Anytime I do something, I just go flat-out in it.”
Whether it be bouncers who don't believe her trucking license is real, or pushing for female uniforms, the tattooed 26-year-old, 22-wheel driver is making changes in the Australian trucking industry. Awarded UK’s first Miss Inked Beauty Australia in 2019, Williams will be running a pageant to crown the next Australia’s Miss Inked Beauty in 2020.
How did you get into the trucking business?
No one in my family's in trucking or anything, so I kind of randomly got into it. A friend of mine got me a job washing semi trailers and prime movers in a wash bay when I was 18. We got to move them around the yard, but to move into a different yard, they needed us to get our license to be covered under insurance. Everyone was pretty shocked because it was so random, but also in the same sort of shock that everyone has now with just me being a girl and girly as well. Everyone sort of more thought I'd get into horses or something like that, maybe become a horse trainer or something and then, yeah, just randomly jumped into this thing.
What was your first drive like versus now being able to breeze through a drive from South Australia to New South Wales?
I sort of “bunny hopped” the prime mover around, because I’m short, I can’t always reach everything properly. I was pretty useless at first. I couldn’t reverse in tight spaces. The first day I ever went out on the road by myself with a trailer I absolutely crapped myself. I thought it was the stupidest thing I'd ever done. My hands were like steel around the steering wheel. I thought the road wasn't big enough for a truck to drive next to me. I was just terrified. Now I drive it more comfortably than my car and can drive up to everything except for road trains and B-doubles.
Did you feel any pressure to “be as good as the boys”?
I mean obviously there are things that I can't do because it's just a general physical thing, but I do just as fine as the guys can, even better than even some of them. And then it sort of works in my favor as well with them underestimating, because then if I do stuff up, they kind of are expecting you to not be able to do it anyway. Whereas when the guys stuff up, they'll cop the banter for ages after. At first I was like, what if I have to reverse in front of someone, and I thought everyone would like pay me out, but everyone actually helped me a lot. Another guy that I met, he started probably about maybe six months after me and when he started, no one really gave him a hand too much. And when I started, anywhere I'd pull up, everyone went straight to the door like, ‘How are you, what's your name? My name's this, you need a hand with this?’ Like it was just over the top and it was just the whole just being a girl in a truck kind of thing.
What kind of sexism do you experience as a female trucker?
A lot of places won’t actually have a female toilets site in the areas that I'll have to go, in loading areas or in certain workshops, because they’re used to only having guys in there. A lot of companies don’t have women's uniforms as well.
And then there was even one place I worked at, I started at like four in the morning and I was the first person to the yard and because I was only 19 or 20, they ended up saying that they didn't want me to start that early because I was the girl at the yard by myself. So little things like that, but creepy, like sleaze-wise, everyone's been not too bad. But even though I look really girly, I've always been one of the boys and pretty blokey. So I guess for a lot of women there are things probably that have been inappropriate jokes, but things which I would think are fine. So if you were a soft-skinned woman that was easily offended and couldn't hang out with boys, then it just wouldn't really be the industry for you. But I've never had anyone come up and grab me or be really weird. Truck drivers are weird anyways.
What changes would you like to see in the industry?
Some places wanted you to wear the proper uniform pants, but they don't actually have women's pants, so there is still massive bits of the industry where they're not actually prepared for women to have and to come and work there. They're still just set up, frankly, for only men.
But for women in the industry, I'd like to see more women just take that plunge and just do it. I want to see more women actually give it a go. The industry does need more women to lighten it up in some ways. And then I feel the industry is good for a lot of women because I feel like a lot of women need to toughen up in some ways and get their hands dirty and do things like this. It's fulfilling and going to help you grow.
What kinds of tattoos do you see on the other truckers?
I see a lot of old-school tattoos that they got years and years ago. Sometimes you still see awesome ones, but you know, I find that they sort of just get what they like and then just put it wherever, whereas for me, I try and plan mine and feed them together better.
My first one I got on the back of my neck when I was 18, I've got my last name. In the dots of the “i’s” for Williams it's got a little S and a C. So that was for my dad, Steven Charles.
I got my hand before my sleeve, but I always loved hand tattoos and I just went on. But that’s the thing with truck driving and the freedom, I could tattoo my face if I wanted to, and they’re not going to really care.
If I worked in an office I would never be able to have some of my tattoos. The guys have neck tattoos and ink all over their bodies.
Do you have any tattoos for either horses, trucking, or modeling?
I've been showing horses since I was two so I got a little crown on my finger, but I always said to myself when I won some crowns, I would get a bigger one. But now I've actually won some, so I've got to get that done. I've always wanted a truck tattoo, but I always thought that it would probably be too masculine for me. So I think I want to get a Kenworth T909 either on my back or maybe on my leg somewhere, because they’re my favorite.
When the female trucker population gets bigger, would you want to organize a competition?
That's what I was thinking. I always wanted to start a pageant for tradie ladies because there's nothing like it. That could be a thing and could help even more like-minded women get into the industry. And that's the other thing too — I've found even with a lot of competitions and pageants, they still don't let tattoos out, or women with tattoos. So even in some of the competitions I was still restricted in what I can actually go in.
That's why I think both crossovers are great. Like I said, it softens up one and hardens up the other. We need more of that these days.