Five years ago Steph Butler was working in a typical office job in Manchester…now her office is the cab of a lorry as she delivers goods across the country.
Steph, 40, from Alderley Edge, became tired of working behind a desk and decided to train as a lorry driver, with help from Trafford Park based logistics specialists AKW Group, where she has been a full-time driver ever since.
"I guess it isn’t an obvious career change but I was just sick of working in an office and wanted a job where I had more freedom and driving seemed the perfect choice. When I heard about a job opportunity with AKW Group and leapt at the chance," said Steph.
"It was extremely daunting at first and a real challenge getting used to not working normal office hours, it’s also quite physical work, but AKW were really supportive and started me with an experienced driver to give me time to find my feet."
Many of Steph’s deliveries are in West Midlands and she can cover well over 200 miles on an average shift.
One of her regular journey is the 140-mile round trip to the Palletforce hub in Burton-on-Trent, as AKW is part of the Palletforce network – a network of some of the country’s leading hauliers who work together to make efficient palletised deliveries across the UK, Ireland and Europe.
Steph got the job with help from another woman driver at AKW Group, Kelly Ratican, who also lives in Alderley Edge.
"I had already been with AKW Group for about a year and it was also my first driving job so my circumstances were quite similar to Steph’s," said Kelly, 36, who covers deliveries in the Stockport area.
"We didn’t know each other that well at the time, we were more friends of friends, but when I heard Steph was looking for a driving job I suggested her to AKW Group and she got the job."
The two women have now become close friends and even car share to work in the mornings.
Together with colleague Alison Carr, 46, they make up a trio of successful women drivers at AKW Group. Alison has worked for the company for three years and has been a driver for five years.
"The best part of the job is that no two days are the same, every day brings new challenges and you get to meet new people and see new things all the time," said Alison, who makes deliveries as far and wide as Glasgow and London.
"Some people still think lorry driving isn’t a job for women but I think all three of us have proven we can do the job just as well as the men and we’ve always felt like we’re a respected and valued part of the team at AKW Group."
All three women would like to progress their careers and train to become Class 1 drivers, enabling them to drive the largest vehicles.
AKW Group, which also has over 500,000 square-feet of warehousing and a dedicated contract packing operation, is keen to take on more women drivers as part of its plans to expand the business to a £25million turnover within the next five years.
"AKW Group is very fortunate to have a skilled team of drivers. Alison, Kelly and Steph are a really important part in this team helping to deliver a quality service to our customers," said Jason Bradley Operations Manager of AKW Group.
"Our company aims to encourage ambitious and motivated people and I hope their success will encourage other women to pursue a career in the logistics industry."