Bianca Weijers Tüss
“What do you mean ‘a man’s job’? I’m forever surrounded by women”
Text: Bert Roozendaal
photography: Roozworks en Mitch Weijers
A 25.25-metre EcoCombi with a woman at the wheel. A normal enough sight in Scandinavia. And now we have at least one in the Netherlands too. One who has no time for the ‘unusual’ label attached to female truck drivers. “What do you mean ‘a man’s job’? I’m forever surrounded by women.” That’s partly because Bianca Weijers drives a truck for the Kruidvat drugstore chain on behalf of her employer, Cornelissen.
“They say that a female driver always gets helped first. But red lipstick and blonde curls aren’t much use to me when I arrive with my pallet truck,” she laughs. “After all, the store manager who signs my dockets is all curls and lipstick too!”
Bianca Weijers Tüss (34) is married to Paul, who is also a truck driver, and they have two children. “It can be pretty hectic having two drivers in the family,” says Bianca. “But I was interested in cars from a young age and was involved in the streetcar scene too. ‘The Fast and the furious’ – that’s what I lived for. I had a Honda CRX, which cost me a fortune at the time. But thanks to the car I ended up meeting Paul.”
Even though her father was a truck driver, at first Bianca had no intention of following in his footsteps. “I started with a delivery van and then thought about becoming a courier. But there was no work in that because it seemed like everyone else had decided to become a courier too. That’s when I did the test for my HGV driving licence and started transporting for the construction and cargo industries. I joined Cornelissen eight years ago and have been driving for them ever since.”
“A 5.30 start means a lie-in for me”
Today, Bianca’s son Mitch (6) has come along for the ride and is sitting in his own child’s seat in the big DAF, which is hitched to two B-double city trailers. “The tailboard got stuck and I had to push a button so that Mummy could get it working again,” he says proudly. “Mitch loves joining me for the drive. My daughter Sterre is still too young,” explains Bianca. “I work three days a week and Paul works five. We both work for the same company. Paul is free on Mondays so I get to drive his truck then. But we both work on Friday and Saturday, so my mother looks after the kids for us. Not exactly how the average family operates. I often have to get up at 2.30 in the morning because my shift usually starts at 3.30. But sometimes I don’t start until 5.30 and that means a lie-in for me!”
Bianca never finds her work too demanding. “A woman can do this work no problem. Take this DAF for example: you don’t have to shift gears manually, it steers easily and the seat is perfect even if you are not very big. And you get used to driving an EcoCombi very quickly. Of course, accessing your delivery address in the city can often be a real challenge. And sometimes I have to unload on the street. If there’s a car parked in the loading area I always take a photo of it, just in case it’s gone by the time the traffic warden arrives on the scene. And you can never be careful enough when it comes to cyclists. Some of them perform manoeuvres around your truck that would put your heart in your mouth.”
‘If you think you know it all, why don’t you do it yourself?’
Bianca gets the biggest kick out of driving the EcoCombi. “It’s an amazing feeling when such an enormous vehicle does exactly what you want it to do. Okay, you have to be careful when negotiating a roundabout or turning a corner because of the four different pivot points. And at the start I found it difficult reversing up to the loading dock. I drove a box truck with a trailer when I was doing my EcoCombi lessons. That’s a lot easier than being hitched to two city-trailers. So for the first week it was really tough going. I even seriously considered throwing in the towel. ‘I’ll never be able to do this,’ I thought. Especially because such a large truck always causes a major obstruction and there is no shortage of people who like to try and tell you how to drive it. Never mind the way your colleagues look at you. That’s when being a woman definitely doesn’t help. But I always say: ‘If you think you know it all, why don’t you do it yourself?’ After a week I had gotten the hang of it. So now I know how to do it and they don’t.
What about loading and unloading? “At Kruidvat they use pallets instead of roll containers. It makes life a lot easier because I have an electric pallet truck. That prevents you from getting worn out. I would recommended it as a career to any woman. If you are looking for a cool job, one that makes you stand out from the rest, become a truck driver. It’s a pity for me, however, that I don’t really get to stand out because there are so few male personnel at Kruidvat!”