AHEAD OF HER TIME: Laidley resident Violet Langley, 78, drove road-trains in the '70s and '80s.
AHEAD OF HER TIME: Laidley resident Violet Langley, 78, drove road-trains in the '70s and '80s. Dominic Elsome

Trailblazing outback trucker

WHEN Violet Langley divorced her husband of 20 years, she sat down and worked out what she wanted to do for a job.

"There was an article in the Woman's Weekly magazine that said it was the sort of thing to do," Ms Langley said.

"And I used to have insomnia, I couldn't sleep and I loved driving, I loved having my car.

"I sat down and worked out what sort of job I could get that would allow me to have all those things and I thought - well truck driver probably."

So in 1979 she began a seven year career driving road trains in the Kimberley and upper Northern Territory, that would see her battling blown tyres, extracting bogged trucks and recovering rolled trailers.

Her training wasn't exactly conventional either - with her then partner offering to teach her how to drive trucks and throwing her straight in at the deep end.

"We got the truck going and then he pulled up and said 'I'm getting in the bunk and I'm going to sleep, you're getting in the driver's seat'."

"And he showed me how to do the gears and he said 'Alright I'll see you in the morning at Fitzroy Crossing, if you fluff it, pull up and start again'.

"And I did it, it took me about 11 hours - should have only taken me nine - but I got it there and that was the start of it."

It wasn't long before Ms Langley was given her own truck and while it may have only had a milk crate for a driver's seat, she was hooked.

"I wanted to learn how to drive just as well as I possibly could."

"I was able to get alright at it in the end."

And "alright" she was - some of the drivers she worked with would roll a trailer six or seven times a season - in seven years of driving, she only rolled one once.

She said it was the simple things about driving road trains that she loved the most.

"Heading off down the road and looking in the rear vision mirror and seeing all these trailers following behind... and I was in charge of her."

"It just felt powerful for me... I needed something to prove to myself that I was okay."

 

Violet Langley with one of her truck's, circa 1980.  Ms Langley drove road trains in the 70's and 80's around the Northern Territory and Kimberley region.
Violet Langley with one of her trucks, circa 1980. Dominic Elsome