With Keychange, the new initiative Musequality and other great projects, there are already a variety of organisations, that focus on creating a wider visibility for female artists and the banning of structural discrimination in the industry. But there are just as many amazing women working behind the stage as there are performing on it.
text Isabel Roudsarabi
photos Katie Frost
reading time 5 minutes
Women are production managers. Women are bookers. Women are music technicians, they are tour managers, they are journalists. Women are just as much a vital part of the industry as anyone else. But unfortunately, still in 2020, they are the ones who are quoted less, who are respected less and who are seen less.
Swedish Jessica Bengs is a truck driver. She has been working as one for 6 years now and went on tour with the likes of Sabaton or Fever Ray. On her blog and social media, she talks about the tour life with different artists, festivals and TV-productions and in 2018, she won the Women in Live Music Award for best truck driver. Jessica is an inspiration. She found her dream job, that fulfils her and she doesn't let herself be intimidated by anyone.
We talked to Jess about her daily routine, her favourite things about her job and special moments in her career.
Hey Jess! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Jessica Bengs, I’m 30 years old. I’ve been a truck driver since 2014, working on tours since 2016, being a freelance tour truck driver since 2018. I have worked with bands like Sabaton, Meshuggah, Fever Ray but also for theatre and TV-productions.
What's your daily routine and what's the atmosphere like, when you're on tour with a band or working for a festival?
I really enjoy driving to different festivals all over Europe. People in different countries are often surprised when they see I'm a female truck driver. I got a lot of positive reactions though, people are very helpful - sometimes too helpful. *laughs*
My daily routine on festivals is hard to describe, because it's so different depending on where I work. Generally, I arrive in the early morning or the day before load in. I can normally park at the loading bay and stay until load out. If the stage is smaller i need to move to a parking area for trucks. After load-in I go to sleep during the day, if I have an overnight drive after the show. I wake up in the evening for some dinner and maybe see some other bands playing at the festival before I load the truck again.
It’s hard to say how long my days are, because it depends on where the next stop is. But 10-15 hours is not unusal, counting driving hours and load-in/out time.
I love the atmosphere, and meeting and working with tons of different people.
Is truck driving your dream job? What do you enjoy most about it?
Yes absolutely! My job isn’t only a job, it’s a lifestyle.
Spending so much time in my truck - it’s like a second home.
The things i enjoy the most are seeing all these different places and meeting different people. But also the alone-time I get while driving is important to me.
Are there things you dislike about your job?
Putting snowchains on in bad weather is not fun. Otherwise it’s mostly fun. Of course it can be stressful sometimes, when it’s a long drive or a lot of traffic and a minimum of time.
What was the most special moment of your career so far?
I think the most special moment was this year when I was a lead driver for Sabaton for the first time, leading over 7 trucks, including my own. It was a great experience for me.
Do you remember any funny or sad moments of the past couple of years?
One funny moment was at Download Festival in the UK, when driving for Meshuggah. I suddenly had a lot of guys helping me with a light wagon (that i could handle myself) and no guys helping on the stage, that was quite funny!
Or the time I almost crashed into Ozzy Osbourne when walking around a corner at the Metal Hammer Award in London - that scared the hell out of me.
A sad moment was, when I really tried to help a girl that was new to touring. I'm always very active in encouraging others to start in this business. But she broke the tour safety policy so she couldn't continue the tour. The decision was not made by me, but this girl told her 134k followers on YouTube that it was my fault. The whole story ended with me getting threats and a lot of people hating me for it. That was a horrible experience. The sad part also is that no one seemed to realise that there are always two sides of a story. But i try to also see it as an experience, even though it is a less nice one.
How did you come to do be a truck driver?
It was one of my best friends Julia, that inspired me to get the driving licenses, and as soon that I got them, I started my career with her, driving concrete trucks for two years. And then I stumbled into tour logistics and that changed my life a lot.
Becoming a truck driver is one of the best decisions i made in my life. I have never been this happy at any job before.
I saw your first Festival was the Sweden Rock Festival in 2017. What was your exact role there and how did you experience the event?
I was helping out with backline for the festival. I was there the whole week driving a smaller truck between the stages with backline for different bands. It was a really fun experience. Saw tons of great bands, when I had time off and all the people I met, taught me a lot about the industry.
What was the biggest production you’ve ever been a part of?
I think, besides the Europe tour with Sabaton with 7 trucks, it was the Swedish version of Eurovision Song Contest with 11 trucks, last year.
And your favorite?
Working with Sabaton and Meshuggah! Great people! Everyone is very down to earth and it’s like a big family.
On your blog you say, that before being a truck driver, you only ever visited one festival. Have you become a festival-fan through your work and have maybe even visited some as a guest?
I have only, since starting with this, been on festivals while working. I think I have been a little bit spoiled with the fact that I can always sleep in my truck and have access to toilets and showers. It’s like having the whole festival experience but less muddy and no sleeping in tents. But I’m usually not that picky. I could easily go on festivals outside of work, but since the most work is during summer time, I don’t really have the freetime and I visit them anyway, while working.
You mentioned some guys being surprised by you being a female driver. Does that happen to you a lot? Have you ever felt discriminated against or not taken seriously at your work?
Yes, almost at every place I go, both venues and festivals, they are surprised. Even asking me where the truck driver is.
It happens so much, I considered to print my own t-shirt with the text: Yes, I am the truck driver.
Because even if I introduce myself as the truck driver, they ask again if it’s really true. Sometimes it’s annoying - sometimes I think it’s funny.
I’m not sure if i ever felt discriminated, because i have a good skin on my nose, as we say in sweden, and so I rarely bother. Altough often people underestimate how strong I am compared to how I look. They don’t always think I can handle some of the heavy cases, and they get the ”let the big guys take this honey”- attitude. Well, if they want to help I don’t mind. Of course I’m always grateful for the help I get. But it’s funny to see some guys get a little more ”macho” when there is a female driver.