Women driving change

The first graduates of Melbourne bus operator Transdev’s all-female driving school have hit the road.

Transdev established the school to help it reach its goal to have 40 per cent of female bus drivers by 2030. 

Brianna Vickers was part of the program’s first intake, which helps women with car licences become bus drivers in a safe and supportive environment.

The 26-year-old joined the workforce when she was 15, working in the hospitality industry, qualifying as a chef and pastry chef.

She always wanted to work in transport, saying she has had a fascination with big vehicles since her childhood.

Having grown up on the Mornington Peninsula, the Stony Point train was her only means of getting to Frankston and beyond.

There was also an influential train conductor who inspired a teenage Brianna to consider working in the transport industry.

“Pete was very charismatic and caring and would often check in with at-risk teenagers and people who’d been through some hard stuff. He was always that happy face when you were catching a train, which is a big part of life on the Mornington Peninsula,” Brianna said.

“He made everyone feel welcome and his approach to customer service was inspiring. You felt he always enjoyed what he was doing and it inspired me from a young age and kept my interest in transport throughout the years.”

Brianna applied to be become a Transdev driver early last year when she was working as a casual cashier at a South Melbourne fuel station. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and her shifts at the station gradually evaporated.

Not being one to let the grass grow under her feet, Brianna enrolled in a horticulture course to explore her interest in plants and the natural world.

“Transdev called me last November, when I was finishing the first semester of my course, and asked if I was still interested in bus driving,” she said.

In March, Brianna and three female colleagues started their intensive eight weeks of training, which involved gaining their heavy vehicle licences, and some of the finer points of driving a bus.

“In the program, we learned how to be a true bus driver in terms of stopping at stops and brushing up on our customer service skills,” Brianna said.

“We also had two weeks with a mentor who showed you the routes you’d be driving and providing tips around what to look out for.

“After that I was on my own – but not feeling alone – driving the buses, picking up the passengers.

“I was a bit nervous, which is normal, but once I hit the road and started picking up passengers it felt natural and normal and that was a really good feeling.”

Transdev Melbourne’s Head of Customer Experience and Communication, Jane Murray, said the company believed it should reflect the communities it served. 

“Our experience tells us women don’t consider careers in the transport industry because they may not be aware of the opportunities that exist,” she said. 

“However, many women have experience in customer service and the community, which makes them the ideal candidate to become a bus driver. 

“At a time when COVID-19 has seen many people lose their employment, the transport industry offers secure, ongoing employment opportunities and competitive salaries.”

Brianna said she felt well supported by Transdev and her colleagues since joining the company.

“The bus drivers are some of the most generous people. They’re always happy to have a chat and share a tip and some advice. It feels good to have that camaraderie,” she said.

“I’d say to anyone, give it a go. I don’t think being female is a barrier to becoming a bus driver whatsoever. 

“My experience at Transdev has been great and the program they’ve provided for us has been fantastic, so I say go for it and give it a try.”