MASSTOWN, N.S. - When Amanda Loomer climbs behind the wheel of her massive 18-wheeler, the first thing she feels is power.
Not simply the physical power of such a big vehicle, but also the empowering feeling of being a woman breaking the gender barrier in a male-dominated trucking industry.
Loomer kept breaking barriers at the Atlantic Driving Championships in Masstown Saturday, steering her semi around tight bends and through a path lined with obstacle posts as her team mates cheered her on. The competition was organized by the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.
“You have to be a strong-willed person and not take things to heart, because otherwise you will not succeed. You have to prove that you can do things that other people can’t – so be strong,” said Loomer to any female considering a trucking career. “Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you can’t.”
As a driver for Armour Transportation Services, Loomer and her female colleagues feel they can do the job more safely and efficiently than some male drivers. They also say women drivers are easier on the vehicles and other equipment they use while hauling goods.
Loomer, from Dartmouth, does pickups and deliveries in Atlantic Canada, typically within New Brunswick. Her company is based in Moncton.
Her colleague Amy Herring, from Prince Edward Island, first took up her job in trucking five years ago to prove a point to the naysayers – and the championships were her first ever competition.
“I was told I would never be able to do it,” she said. “I’ve driven all over the United States and Canada.”
As a highway driver, Herring roamed as far afield as California, Florida and British Columbia in her previous trucking.
She later joined Armour Transportation Services as it allowed her to work closer to home.
While maintaining a big truck is not always easy, the drivers are helped by company mechanics who inspect the vehicles and make repairs as needed.
Drivers themselves must check over their vehicles every day in accordance with safety regulations.
“You learn your own truck and what feels different and should be checked,” said Herring.
The Atlantic Driving Championships tested competitive teams from different trucking companies in three areas. These included a timed practical skill driving exam that tests drivers’ ability to safely manoeuvre their vehicle in everyday driving scenarios, a pre-trip inspection that tests equipment knowledge and a written exam.
The 50-question exam tests drivers’ general knowledge of the trucking industry, safe driving habits and how to transport dangerous goods.
“It showcases what these drivers do every day on a stage; they’re the best of the professional drivers that choose to compete here today,” said competition track master Kenny MacDonald.