One of the country’s pioneering female truck drivers and one of only a few women in the National Road Transport Hall of Fame turns 99 this week.

Mavis Jarred, born in western Victoria in 1922, started driving trucks as a 19-year-old and went on to have a five-decade career in the male-dominated industry.

These days Mavis has traded driving trucks for tending her garden with her husband Neville in the Wimmera town of Nhill.

She still has vivid memories of her trucking days, and was kind enough to share some of those recollections with the ABC.

Man and woman in their garden

These days, Mavis and husband Neville are retired in Nhill where gardening has taken the place of trucking. (

ABC Rural: Angus Verley

)

‘I did what had to be done’

Mavis grew up on a farm and it was not long before she was taking on all the roles typically done by men.

Soon, Mavis went from driving horses to driving trucks.

“We had an old Inter truck and it was the time when they built the silo here and I was the only woman to cart 60 open bags of wheat and, you know, what the roads were like, they were just slush,” she said.

“I got married at 18 and we had a farm at Broughton and my first husband Ivan’s two brothers, they went to war, and I had to take over driving the tractor and feeding the sheep and all the rest of it.”

It was a busy time behind the wheel and on the farm, and that meant it took Mavis a while to get around to getting her truck licence.

Eventually, she found a moment to head down to the local police station to brave the constabulary.

For more than 20 years, Mavis and Ivan carted sheep all over the country until his death in 1970.

In 1974, Mavis married Neville Jarred and started a light truck business carting fruit, brush, and furniture.

More than 50 years after getting behind the wheel for the first time, Mavis retired in 1993 at the age of 71.

Her truck licence has only just expired.

A man’s world

The truck driving industry is dominated by men even now and was much more so back then, but Mavis never felt out of place.

“They always treated me as a lady, that’s one thing I can always say,” she said.

“I used to feed them along the road, I’d take enough food to feed all of us.”

Woman with old truck.

A decade ago, Mavis was reunited with the first truck she and her husband owned, a 1946 Ford. (

Supplied: Mavis Jarred

)

Mavis has enough incredible stories from on the road to fill volumes, but a couple stuck out for her.

“Going down to just this side of Beaufort one time, I was going around this bendy old lake and I went to switch my headlights down and my wedding ring came in contact with the switch and put my lights out,” she said.

“I had to drive around this bendy old road with no lights whatsoever.

“Well that scared the very life out of me.

“Another time we went up way up the other side of Mildura, way out in the bush, and as we got out there it started to rain and of course we couldn’t get back, so we were stuck at the shed where we’d pulled up to get the sheep.

“We were stuck there for a week.

“When we ran out of food we shot galahs because my oldest son Terry was with us and he took his gun with him.

“We cooked galahs just on hot bricks, and that’s the way we lived for a week.

“That’s one thing that has stuck in my mind because in those days things were tough.”

Joining the Hall of Fame

There is no greater honour for a truck driver than being added to the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.

For Mavis that happened in 2010, posthumously fulfilling her son’s dying wish.

“My youngest son was suffering from a brain tumour and he was the one that wanted me to go into the Hall of Fame,” she said.

“He passed away in March and the Hall of Fame was in August and I had to go through with it.

“But I cried all the time that I was being inducted because he wasn’t there with me, he’d passed away.

“When I went up there, the woman that was running the show said she’d been all over Australia and she’d never seen another woman back then that held a semi licence, so apparently I’m the first woman in Australia to have a semi licence.”

It has been a tough life on the road at the same time as running the family home and raising four sons, but for Mavis she would not have had it any other way.

Happy 99th to Mavis Jarred, a pioneer and a trucking legend
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