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Celebrating Barbara ‘Babs’ Cheetham’s 40 year Yodel HGV driver career

By Chris Dawson March 6, 2019 - 10:19 am

Celebrating women’s achievements is especially apt with International Women’s day taking place this Friday, the 8th of March. The England Ladies won the SheBelieves cup overnight (to a stadium which was half empty demonstrating that interest in Ladies football is sadly still no where near the level of mens football) but as we look at the achievements of woman and none are more deserving of recognition than Barbara ‘Babs’ Cheetham, who has retired from her role as a Yodel HGV driver after 40 years with the company.

Babs, from Dudley, has been collecting trailers of parcels from retail clients all over the country and bringing them back to Yodel’s Willenhall site for sorting, before they go out to the carrier’s nationwide network of depots for onward delivery to customers.

Having started as one of just three female HGV drivers at Securicor – which later became Yodel – in 1979, Barbara has seen first-hand the progress in the industry in terms of technology, safety and diversity. Prior to working in logistics, Barbara was in the Army and used the teamwork and perseverance skills that she learned there to help her as a driver.

Let’s be honest there aren’t that many people around who have held down a job for 40 years, in today’s employment market 10 years is getting to be exceptional in the private sector so, especially in a male dominated area such as being a long distance lorryist, it’s an extraordinary achievement.

Britain hadn’t even had a female Prime Minister back then, but 1979 was a vintage year for women and as Babs started out her four decade driving career, Maggie Thatcher become Britain’s first female Prime Minister. Maggie left the stage in 1990 and after another 26 years and four men in charge it took until 2016 for another lady to become Prime Minister, but all through those years Babs was pounding up and down Britain’s motorways.

“I’m quite petite for a HGV driver, but it didn’t take long for colleagues to see that I could do the job, although I think people are still surprised when they see me jump down from the cab of a 44 tonner!
 
“I’ve loved working for Yodel, everyone pulls together, especially during busy periods like Christmas, and we’re out on the roads in all sorts of weather. The people are what makes the work great and I’ve particularly enjoyed our charity fundraising activities.
 
Driving a HGV is a lot easier now than it used to be as there are a number of devices to increase your safety on the road. The loading has improved too thanks to many of the parcels being on pallets. I’ll miss driving my lorry because you can see the whole road ahead of you, but my little Hyundai car is definitely more practical”

– Barbara ‘Babs’ Cheetham, Yodel HGV Driver

Babs colleagues at Willenhall presented her with a watch, bouquets of flowers and US dollars for her planned trip to Florida, while Barbara shared a buffet to celebrate her last day.

“Barbara has been a fantastic colleague and we wish her all the best in her retirement. It’s testament to the company and her colleagues that Barbara has worked with us for forty years. She’s been heavily involved in the community work that we do and has helped raise thousands of pounds for local charities.”
– Ryan Kelly, transport operations manager, Yodel

Towards the end of her career Babs moved away from driving long-distance routes to work in the sort operation and has been both a fire marshal and first aid recorder. Babs plans to spend her retirement playing golf, gardening and spending time with her family.

To find out more about working for Yodel, and the roles and training available, visit yodelopportunities.co.uk or text ‘Deliver’ to 84433. Women are especially welcome at Yodel.

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