HaulTech are proud to be celebrating women in the transport industry in honour of Women’s History Month and International Women’s day. HaulTech are delighted to be honouring Lesley O’Brien OBE for Women’s History Month.
Lesley O’Brien OBE is a prominent woman in haulage and her work for equality in the industry is renowned. Lesley began her career in transport as a personal assistant and has prominently rose to own her own businesses Freightlink Europe, Freight Train and Freight People. The culmination of Lesley’s hard work came in 2020 when she was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her dedication to creating diverse and inclusive workforces in the transport industry.
Lesley began her career chasing her passion, languages. She originally worked for a holiday company abroad and later returned home finding work as a personal assistant for a haulier, for what was intended to be a winter break only. However, Lesley never returned abroad as she very quickly become involved in the company’s French and Swiss departments, where she could put her main languages to good use. This subsequently led to her being head hunted to set up a UK base for a French haulage company.
During her first week the OBE awardee was told that she would not last 6 weeks managing a transport company. However, her hard work persevered. Having built the business from 10 to 100 vehicles, and subsequently selling to one of the largest hauliers in France, Lesley became the UK Director of the international operator’s companies in Sterling, Leeds and Birmingham, in addition to establishing a company offering a storage facility in Bridgend. Reporting to divisional headquarters in Belgium and a Head Office in Paris, Lesley was putting her passion for languages to good use.
At the same time, in 1995, Lesley set up Freightlink Europe with now husband Kevin O’Brien and in 2008 left the world of international transport to join the family business and to set up Freight Train.
Having run international transport companies and a family business, Lesley knows better than most the challenges that both face. The support and array of skills available to large businesses are not available to the smaller operator. To provide her industry support network Lesley became more involved in the Road Haulage Association (RHA), firstly as a Regional Council Member and subsequently as a Director of the main board. It was here, as the only woman on the Board, that Lesley sought to be a voice for not only women in transport but the smaller operators who, in Lesley’s words, ‘are the undervalued backbone of the UK haulage sector’.
It was at the RHA that Lesley lobbied the Board to create a platform for women to network and support one another, to become role models promoting transport as a career of choice. Thus, She’s RHA was born, to be ‘the voice of diversity and inclusion in transport’. It was for this work that Lesley received her OBE in 2020. Lesley said receiving her OBE was a “tremendous moment, but the best part for me was seeing the joy and pride it gave my parents – nothing can replace that”.
Lesley’s advice to anyone uncertain about a career choice is “follow your passion. Passion and enthusiasm always attracts, and you will in all likelihood end up successful in a career doing what you love. Stick to your values and don’t be dissuaded from what you believe to be right.” Lesley practiced what she preached hence her fast growth in the industry. Lesley spoke about how times could often be difficult as a woman in the industry, “Sometimes I would be the only woman in a room of 50 plus men, which could be daunting. However, this has only made me stronger and wiser. I am now able to share my experiences, top tips, and explain how to conquer imposter syndrome, to the benefit of other men and women.”
Lesley started her career being told she would not last 6 weeks, she is now one of the most successful women in haulage and is highly regarded as a prominent figure in haulage. HaulTech are proud to be honouring Lesley during Women’s History Month.
If you are wanting to join a community of hauliers and be able to discuss your encounters in the industry, Lesley hosts Freight People meetings on the third Tuesday of every month, currently via zoom, from 0800 – 1000 hours. Lesley encourages people of every skill set, age and job role to be part of her all-inclusive transport community. You can learn more by clicking here.