Trailer Magazine


Leading with strength: Melissa Strong

  • Posted on Friday 20th, September 2019.

Having started out in road transport almost by default, Melissa Strong quickly found her feet and has subsequently grown with the industry over the last two decades. Her current role is Safety, People and Culture Manager at Lindsay Australia, where she has worked since 2008.

At the point in her life when Melissa Strong left school, it’s fair to say that working in the trucking industry was definitely not on the radar in any shape or form. In fact, she had her heart set on a career in the travel industry.

However, as fate would have it, an opportunity became available at a Sydney-based family-owned trucking company as a manifester and Melissa grabbed hold of it with both hands and dived into what has become the journey of a lifetime.

“After initially wanting to pursue a career in the travel industry, a job opportunity as a manifester became available so I decided to give it a try,” Melissa says. “And the rest, you could say, is history.

“Not long after I started the job I recognised there was a world of opportunity within the industry and I could see a great career path ahead of me. The people, diversity and opportunities have kept me in the industry for my career.”

As a high achiever, two of the key things Melissa likes about the trucking industry is that each day is different and full of new challenges.

“In my current role with Lindsay Australia, on any given day work can include visiting our sites and developing new initiatives to support managers and employees,” she says.

“I firmly believe that encouraging individual progress and positive change in our employees is the best way to prepare for our future. I liaise with all divisions, helping to clarify and communicate business activities and initiatives. 
“I lead a dedicated team, with each member relentless in the pursuit of the three pillars of our vision: Safety, People and Culture. I’m very proud of them.”

As the conversation turns to highlights in her career thus far, Melissa says the growing gender diversity of the industry that has led to an increased prevalence of women working across all areas has given rise to a number of achievements for her.

“In over 20 years of my career in the industry I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities, it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one,” she says. “I feel very fortunate to have found an industry I love and one within which I have been able to establish a rewarding career.”

In 2007, Melissa was recognised by her peers and industry when she was awarded the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) Transport Women of the Year.

“I was surprised and humbled by this announcement,” she says. “Then 10 years later I was presented with the Queensland Trucking Association’s (QTA) Trucking Woman of the Year award.

“It was then I really knew my efforts could produce positive change and I realised I was finally in a position to influence and instigate changes that will hopefully create lasting benefits and opportunities for others.”
Being recognised in these ways has helped Melissa redouble her efforts to strive for continual improvement in the transport industry.

“For me the special thing about the industry is that it is such a necessary part of the everyday lives of every person in this country,” she remarks. “The Transport Industry services our nation and plays a vital part in our economy; so being able to play a part and contribute to help this cause is very rewarding.

Melissa is keen to elaborate on what she perceives to be the areas of the industry most in need of improvement.

“All industries, not only transport, evolve and mature meaning there will always be opportunities for improvement. In order to stay relevant, competitive and viable, change must occur.

“I believe that in the Safety and Compliance space we have made big inroads and come a long way. But there is still a way to go.

“We need to continue to focus on practical changes and strive for consistency and transparency in compliance and enforcement industry-wide.”

She proceeds to state her belief that inconsistencies and unnecessary duplication within industry accreditation schemes and auditing processes are a huge cost to business.

“These processes can be quite labour intensive and the results, I believe, don’t always reflect the outcome end users are hoping to achieve. I think there is scope for streamlining and maximising efficiencies in these areas.”

Melissa also has an interesting take on the aging workforce and globalisation, both of which she sees as serious challenges to attracting the required quality and quantity of personnel needed for the transport task.

“There definitely needs to be more work done towards recognising Heavy Vehicle Driving as a professional career,” she says. “We are also at risk of not capturing the knowledge base of our older drivers before they retire,” she contends.

Speaking about the importance of female-driven events in commercial road transport, Melissa says having had the opportunity to attend events like these earlier in her career, along with starting in a medium-sized family business, assisted her with networking and helped her to see the merit in transport as a lifelong career.

She contends that these events are crucial in introducing new talents and skills to the industry that can only be realised through improved diversity in many shapes and forms, not only gender.

“Businesses and individuals all have a part to play and I believe it is much more than just promoting opportunities for women; it’s about being open to diversity by accepting people from all walks of life and backgrounds.

“We must remember that once someone took a chance on us, so it is now up to us to take a chance on others and support and encourage them.”

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