If the north wind doth blow Gemma will swap her office for a gritter cab!

Gemma Allard is training to qualify as a gritter driver. Picture: SUFFOLK HIGHWAYS

Gemma Allard is training to qualify as a gritter driver. Picture: SUFFOLK HIGHWAYS - Credit: Archant

Her day-job is telling the world what Suffolk Highways is up to – keeping the county’s roads moving.

But Gemma Allard couldn’t resist the opportunity to drive something other than her desk – and now she’s hoping to be the only female gritter driver on the county’s roads this winter.

The 26-year-old from Felixstowe has just passed her HGV test but still needs to complete specialist training before she can get behind the wheel of a gritter on her own.

Taking one of these vehicles out requires special skills – by the sheer nature of the job it has to be driven over untreated snow and ice before any other vehicles take advantage of the grit on the road.

And the job will require some early starts – to ensure roads are clear for rush-hour traffic the gritters have to be out during the early hours of the morning.

That’s not a prospect that worries Gemma: “I like early starts. Getting up in the small hours doesn’t worry me. I love being in the lorries.

“I’ve been a navigator before, but the new lorries have full sat-nav so you don’t need a second person in the cab – so I decided to train as a driver.

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“I’ve got the HGV licence, but I still need to do a winter maintenance course. There will be another experienced driver out with me as I learn what I’m doing – but I hope to be able to go out on my own before the end of the winter season.”

Gemma will be the only female driver in the team this year although there have been other women drivers behind the wheel of the gritter lorries in Suffolk in the past.

Mary Evans, cabinet member responsible for highways, said: “It’s fantastic that such a young, female colleague within Suffolk Highways is supporting our gritting season this year by becoming a driver.

“Gemma is a key member of Suffolk Highways’ communications team and has previously supported the winter season in a back office capacity through communications and navigation of drivers.

“This year she has taken that support to the next level and passed her HGV test with the intention of driving a gritting lorry and gritting the roads to keep the county moving.

“I am very proud of Gemma and her achievement and I hope this encourages other women to consider how they could support highways maintenance in future, despite this historically being a very male-dominated profession.”

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