Ontario Construction Report staff writer
Amanda Gravelle started out in an interior design program, but decided that career wasn’t for her. However, when her grandfather gave her the opportunity to handle heavy vehicles, she found she was both good at it, and enjoyed the work. She is now a truck and excavator operator and health and safety co-ordinator for Schumacher (near Timmins) based John Delost Construction Ltd.
Gravelle says she needed to obtain her DZ licence through a local transport training centre. Once she had the license, however, she found she still lacked the experience to actually get work. “John (Delost) was my neighbour and he gave me the opportunity to get a foot in the door and to show him what I could do.”
Now Gravelle works on projects ranging from basements, driveways and landscaping to projects for the city of Timmins, and major utility projects ranging from sewer and watermain excavation, to line breaks and running initial services. “We do a little bit of everything and every day provides a new opportunity to learn.”
Gravelle recently obtained her AZ license, which allows her more job flexibility. (Both licences permit driving heavy trucks with air brakes, but the AZ licence reflects the highest level – driving large tractor-trailer rigs.)
She says most people see no issue with her work. “I work with a great group of people and for a great employer. We are all part of a team and as long as I am able to contribute to the work of that team, gender has no bearing.”
While she loves what she does – particularly finishing projects such as landscaping where she gets to see a project’s completion – Gravelle says the hours can be challenging, especially with her other role as a mother. “I start my day by 7 a.m. and there are some days that I’m still at the jobsite at 7 p.m.. If I didn’t have a supportive partner and help from my mother, I’m not sure how I’d make it work.”
A firm believer in making the best of whatever situation you find yourself in, she says everyone has to accept that they must ask for help to be able to juggle their multiple roles but adds that it is worth it in the end if you love what you do. “I find time to look after my daughter, to share special time with her, and I look forward to going to work. I couldn’t do it without help but I’m glad I do it.”
“If you like being outside, moving around, tasks that can be mentally challenging and are different every day, then absolutely you should consider a truck driving career,” she says.
Based on her own situation of having no experience at the start, her advice to young people starting out is to keep an open mind, to be patient and, once you get an opportunity, to do the best job you can.