In the driving seat
Northern Beaches local Donna Ball is blazing the trail for female bus drivers on the Peninsula and North Shore.
It was on a bus trip to the city six years ago, that Belrose local Donna Ball first noticed the driver was female and was impressed by her no-nonsense approach to wrangling Sydney traffic in such a large and heavy vehicle.
“I remember thinking that day, ‘That’s what I want to do as a career’,” Donna says.
“This lady was doing such a great job with driving the bus and the way she interacted with the passengers. I was really impressed, and it made me motivated to take up bus driving as a career.
“A week later, I was having interviews with a couple of bus companies and not long after, I got the job with Forest Coach Lines in Terrey Hills.”
According to the NSW Government, women represent just nine per cent of the state’s total bus drivers. This is despite evidence that having women behind the wheel leads to increased safety and productivity.
Donna says that while there have been a few challenges it is a very rewarding job, and she wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
She admits in her role, she often has to wear many hats on top of the not-so-small task of driving, including carer, mediator and tour guide.
“This job definitely has its challenges. As well as my main duty of getting them to their destination safely and on schedule, the passengers sometimes need help with different things.
“There’s usually someone who’s a bit lost and is looking for directions somewhere. And if it’s an elderly person, they can get confused and a bit upset, so getting them to calm down can certainly be a challenge.
“One night, one of my passengers got on the bus and it looked like he wasn’t in great shape, like he could be sleeping rough. I remembered where I’d dropped him off, so later that night I came back with a blanket and a pillow.”
So, what’s it like working in an industry that has traditionally been very male-centric? According to Donna, there are now more women entering the transport industry than ever, and her male colleagues have always treated her as an equal.
“It’s actually getting better, in terms of the ratio of female to male drivers. I’ve worked with quite a few ladies and it’s growing all the time.
“And the men who I work with are great. They’re so supportive, and they always have my back. They’re always on the radio if I need them, and they check up on me, so it’s great to have that support.”
While the role has its ups and downs, Donna says she would like to encourage more women to join the industry.
“This job has its disadvantages, but it’s nothing to do with being female. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that gender is a barrier to entry. There is plenty of support provided, so I would encourage as many women as possible to apply for a role in transport.”
Donna’s new career move took many of her friends and family by surprise - but they are very supportive.
“To this day, my friends and family are still amazed that I drive a bus in Sydney traffic every day” she says.
“It’s a nice feeling of accomplishment that I get out of it.”