‘I still believe what I wrote

IN 1993 a little girl was so offended at what was said at a party that she went ahead and wrote a powerful letter championing truckies like her dad.

We tracked Melissa and her dad, Peter Schostakowski, down 19 years later to see if anything changed about what she thought of truckies now.

"I still strongly believe what I wrote when I was 11. I think that the trucking industry needs an overhaul, it really does," she told Big Rigs.

"It's not about the drivers, it is about the companies and how they treat their drivers, how they pay their drivers. I hear so many stories with regards to that and it really annoys me.

"It is a decent job and that's what I want to incorporate with my children. You can be a garbage truck driver, you can be anything, it's a job, be proud of it."

She believes truckies are underpaid.

"There needs to be better working conditions. Since when Dad was first truck driving a lot has changed and it is a bit better, but it is not what it should be," she said.

Melissa is now a woman with a husband and three children, the eldest being close to the age she was when she wrote the letter.

Melissa has started her own business called Find Me A Quote to fit into school hours but also works nights at a BP service station where she sees many truckies struggle with the high costs.

"I see a lot of my customers coming in and I can see they struggle when they present their key card to pay because it hurts them so much. It annoys me because I still believe people need to get their goods to places, why is their pay rate so low and why are their expenses so high? It is so unfair."

It was only a few weeks ago Melissa said she had brought up the letter with her family. It was a lesson for her son, Liam, that if you feel strongly about something speak up, because someone is listening.

She said she has tried to teach her kids it doesn't matter what you do and that trucking is a great profession. She said as long as you do it well and are honest and don't let other people judge you it's all good. She says it is still a big problem, people judging children by what their parents do.

"Don't ever judge people and never judge a book by its cover, and that's why I was explaining the letter and that's why I pulled it out because I felt so strongly about something, because Liam had a problem. I said, you know Liam, if you have a problem in life you have to know that your opinion is valued. If you feel for something so strongly you just say it, you write it, you do whatever you want and then I said, for example ... this letter I wrote when I was about your age."

Melissa still feels strongly about truckies and she said she would like to become a truck driver. Her grandfather and father are truckies and the standing joke, which she'll no doubt turn to reality with her determination, is her having a job behind the wheel and possibly in the mines.

Some things don't change and she is still proud of her dad.

"He has had a hard run but he is with his second wife now and he has two more boys and two more stepchildren and they are very family orientated. I love going up to Hervey Bay to see them all the time.

"I'm in a good place, I'm celebrating my 10th anniversary - I just love life," she said.

Her dad Peter is still driving and is happy that he has found a great company to work for. It hasn't been an easy road at all for Peter but he is happier about life and being in the industry than ever before.

"I have a great wife, Shileen, and seven kids between us and six beautiful grandchildren.

"We have a great lifestyle up in Hervey Bay and I have a great job with a great company, Carters.

"What I enjoy 20 years on is the bloke I work with, Ray, and the customers I get to work with," he said.

He said he has seen a lot of change in the industry in 20 years.

"I can definitely see a difference, it is a cleaner and more professional industry," he said.

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