Even as a little girl Annaline April wanted to be a truck driver. “I remember seeing a small man getting out of a big truck and thinking if such a little man can drive such an enormous thing so can I.”
It would be decades before her dream would be fulfilled but today the 44-year-old mom from Blanco drives a high-tech refuse compactor truck for the George Municipality and has a Code 10 Driver’s License she paid for herself.
Annaline taught herself to drive. During school holidays working on the farms outside Great Brak River where she grew up, she would ‘steal with her eyes’, figuring out for herself how the gears and pedals worked. “One day, the farmer jumped out of the moving bakkie to run after an animal and shouted ‘Annaline take over’, assuming I knew how to drive - so I scooted over and drove in first and second gear all the way,” she laughs.
After matric she followed a boyfriend to George and got a security job at the municipal rubbish tip in 2004. “If any type of vehicle stood idle, I would jump in and practice driving in secret. I eventually got my Code 8 and 10 drivers’ licenses like that – I saved a bit of my salalry each month to pay for the licence and eventually a car of my own."
The Code 10 turned out to be the ticket to advancement as her convenient situation at the dumpsite meant she could help move large vehicles on site, pick up and drop off trucks for other drivers, and do many a menial task for which a decent size truck is the logical answer.
Her job at the tip connected her with the municipality’s only two women refuse truck drivers, who not only became as close as sisters, but also told her of a post becoming available for a tipper truck driver in their department.
“My husband Abraham is a long-distance truck driver, so when I applied for the tipper driver job, my daughters, Shannen, 25, and Samantha, 19, wanted to know if I wanted to be like their father. I said it was not about that: this was my opportunity to better myself and I was going to take it.
“I never really considered driving a truck a man’s job, just one in which there were few women. Some men see women doing jobs that were traditionally men’s and think we are a threat. I say to them: ‘I am not standing in your way, but I am also not standing back for an opportunity we deserve equally.’
“When people hear I am a truck driver, they are interested and amazed. It feels great when other women say ‘wow, it shows you, we (women) can do this also.”
Annaline considers her regular route in Wilderness, Kleinkrantz and The Dunes the best, with friendly people everywhere who wave and smile when they recognise her. “We have stolen each other’s hearts.”
There isn’t really anything she doesn’t like about her job, maybe just waiting for another truck to finish its rounds when hers is broken, which may be after 4pm. On nights like those she will most likely get home after 11pm. “Your mind must be strong to deal with frustrations, harsh weather and long hours. I arrive home tired to the bone, but happy because I have served today.”