Delisha Davis from Kerala makes headlines as she drives a tanker lorry that transports fuel

Delisha Davis from Kerala makes headlines as she drives a tanker lorry that transports fuel

Delisha, a 23-year-old post graduate student, transports fuel from Kochi to Malappuram in her tanker lorry

“I can’t believe that no one saw me driving a tanker lorry, in the last three years!” laughs Delisha Davis. The 23-year-old from Kandassankadavu in Thrissur district of Kerala made headlines a few weeks ago for driving the tanker transporting fuel from Hindustan Petroleum’s LPG Plant at Irumpanam in Ernakulam to a petrol pump in Thirur, Malappuram district.

She says, “Usually vehicles carrying petrol or diesel are not stopped by motor vehicle inspectors as they are essential commodities. However, a few weeks ago, one official was surprised to see a woman behind the wheels and he immediately alerted officials at the next checking point, assuming that I didn’t have a licence. But the official who stopped me was taken aback when I showed him my licence, the pass issued by the company and other documents. He wondered why the department didn’t know about me all these years and took the initiative to promote it on social media.”

A postgraduate student in commerce, Delisha took driving lessons from her father, Davis PV. She has licenses for a two-wheeler, four-wheeler and six-wheeler. “I don’t know if there is any other woman in Kerala who has the licence to drive a hazardous vehicle at present. I have been crazy about vehicles and driving since childhood. I have two sisters and they have no interest it. But I jumped at the opportunity when my father asked me if I would go with him on his daily trips. Gradually, I got interested in driving the tanker lorry,” she says.

Delisha Davis from Thrissur district in Kerala drives a tanker lorry that transports fuel Delisha Davis from Thrissur in Kerala who drives tanker lorry that transports fuel

Although she took the licence to drive the lorry three years ago, she went for trips only on Saturdays as she had classes on other days. But when the lockdown began in March 2020, she had online classes at night. That is when she started her daily trips. Since it is mandatory to have a helper, her father took up that role.

Delisha covers around 300 kilometres per trip. She starts from her home at 2.30 am to avoid traffic and reach Irumpanam (around 75 kilometres) in two hours. “Then I wait for the company to open at 8 am and by 9.30 am, I am ready to travel to Thirur, which is a four-hour drive (nearly 145 kilometres), provided I don’t stop anywhere. Once I deliver the fuel, I start my return journey (around 78 kilometres) by 2.30 pm. I am back home by 4-4.30 pm,” she says.

She affirms that it was not difficult to balance her trips and studies. “Although I drove five or six days a week, I never felt tired because I love to be behind the wheel. My classes are over now and I am waiting for my results. At present, I have to go twice or thrice a week because the sale is less at the pump owing to the lockdown,” she adds.

Delisha points out that it is risky to drive a tanker lorry. “The vehicle has two compartments for petrol and one for diesel and the total capacity is 12,000 litres. The driver has to be careful because of the dangers posed by the fuel. An accident can wipe out an entire region. Speed should be controlled; handling curves is tricky, so too overtaking. A vehicle plying behind can also cause problems, especially if it hits the tanker and there is a spark,” she explains.

It took nearly a year for her to pick up the basics. She learnt to drive the empty tanker before moving to a fully-loaded one. “Completely different skills are needed. My father taught me at night on straight, four-lane roads with no humps,” she says.

Delisha adds that driving for three to four hours at a stretch was not easy in the beginning. “It is very hot as well. However, I never thought of giving up since I learnt it with much difficulty.”

She drives a 2012-model Ashok Leyland lorry, owned by the pump where she supplies the fuel. “They have no issue with a woman driver as long as they get the supply on time. Gender doesn’t come into play here because your driving skill, experience and presence of mind are all that matters. Women drivers are often made fun of when we are on the road. It is better to ignore such people. It is dangerous when one of them overtakes the lorry and brakes suddenly,” she avers.

Her dream is to drive the Volvo bus someday. However, since the training is available only in Bengaluru, she hopes to clear the PSC (Public Service Commission) examination and get into government service. She wants to get a job as a driver in Kerala State Road Transport Corporation. “There are enough vacancies but women are not coming forward for the job due to several reasons. But I want to take it forward,” she says. She wants to set an example for women and adds that she had heard about Yogita Raghuvanshi, India’s first woman truck driver.

With her story splashed all over social media, Delisha is happy, as is her father. “Even though I had told my friends about this they never believed me. My teachers are also pleasantly surprised about it. On the whole, it feels good to be recognised and appreciated. The officials of the Motor Vehicles Department called up to appreciate me. My mother wasn’t too enthused about this job but now she is over the moon,” she says.

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