The way I am perceived and received as a female trucker goes from one extreme to the other. Some people rave over a lady in a dress driving a truck, but others look me up and down and side to side as though they are considering throwing a sack over my head and hauling me to the nearest insane asylum. I find it rather comical to see people’s reactions. I never lose sleep over other people’s opinions or perceptions. I enjoy what I do, and I dress to please myself.
Recently I drove to a large manufacturer in Texas to unload. I spent a few minutes jumping in and out of my truck to open trailer doors, back into a dock, and unhook my trailer. As I walked into the receiving office, I noticed a group of warehouse workers sitting at a lunch table eyeing me. Judging by the awed expression of one particular Hispanic lady, I wasn’t sure if she was horrified or fascinated with my presence. I made a point to nod and smile. The pretty woman, maybe mid-thirties, approached me shyly and asked my name. Her eyes were red-rimmed and suspiciously moist. I immediately felt compassion for her as it seemed whatever life was dishing out to her was enormous. I have become such a cupcake in my young age. I can hardly bear to see others suffer.
I asked the woman’s name and she replied, “Maria.”
“Are you having a nice day, Maria?” I asked.
The young woman stared at me with a sparkle behind her tears and then stated in broken English. “I sit here all sad. I cry with tears in my eyes, and I say, ‘God, please help me. I am sad and lonely. I hate my job and everybody is mean to me. I don’t make no money, and I need a new life. God, what shall I do?’ Then you drive up in your beeg beeg truck. You jump out in your pretty dress and I see you are smart and happy and I say, ‘Thank you, God! Maria will learn to drive a truck.'”
Maria asked how she could get started in trucking. We exchanged phone numbers and I promised to send her some information. After I left the warehouse, I quickly researched a local driving school and sent her contacts for companies that offer paid training and orientation. I was thrilled to be an encouragement to Maria that day in taking a step towards greater independence and financial stability. She promised to keep me updated on her progress.
If any women out there think they just aren’t capable enough, smart enough, or man enough to operate heavy equipment safely, all you have to do is look at Maggie. If she can do it, anyone can. Maggie is the most unlikely truck driver the country has ever seen.
I realize trucking is not for everyone. I would never have taken on such a task when I was a young mother with eight children. Many middle-aged women are discovering the benefits of a truck driving career. Not only does trucking offer higher income than typical lady wages, but also provides a woman with the opportunity to learn something terrifying that requires her to go beyond typical female boundaries.
Learning new and challenging skills provides a feeling of accomplishment which can result in greater self-confidence. Females are typically more cautious and detail-oriented than males. Some male trucking bosses I have met have informed me that they are actually beginning to prefer female drivers because they’re not as reckless or hell bent on speed like many male super truckers are.
It is obvious there is a huge demand for truck drivers in our nation. Everywhere you go, you see ads for CDL drivers offering them the moon and the stars. It’s rather amazing how much companies have to compete. The benefits and bonuses they offer to engage drivers is often substantial.
Approximately 6% of truck drivers in the United States are female. That percentage is expected to increase as the demand grows and more women become aware of the benefits of driving as an alternative to office and warehouse jobs or food and hospitality employment.
For me, the main benefit of trucking, besides tripling my income, is the independence I enjoy. Although I currently work as a company driver, I have almost as much freedom as if I was a business owner. I have a great boss who isn’t a micro-manager, and I can manage my own time and environment. I don’t have to deal with those company politics so often found in office and warehouse jobs. I face new adventure every day, and the high-risk factor should keep me humble.
The only way I can truly appreciate trucking is because it allows me to work like a man but still be a lady. I don’t have to sacrifice modesty or dignity by driving a Big Rig. I especially love driving a truck because it makes me look small.
It isn’t exactly easy for a lady to get started in trucking. When I went to truck driving school in January 2017, it was very un-smooth. I was the only female in a class of six men, and the head teacher was a male chauvinist. By the fourth day of class, he hauled me in to HR and requested they dismiss me.
“This woman does not have the ability to be a truck driver,” he announced. “She is not grasping the material, and I suggest she find another industry. In my thirty years of teaching drivers, I have never met one who asks so many questions.”
I was rather shocked at his assessment. I pointed out to the HR manager that all my assignments were in the high 90’s and they had no justification to dismiss me. I informed them I would not give up or allow them to get rid of me. I insisted the male teacher stop judging my driving ability by the dress I wore. When I asked to speak to the owner, things changed. Bingo! The owner was a female. She called off the dogs and insisted they give me a chance.
I had to fight every step of the way on my journey to become an independent driver. I endured much teasing and taunting and even downright disgust from many individuals. Some of it was warranted. It was absolutely true that I was a fish out of water. I was scrambling to learn an entirely new industry with a foreign vocabulary and scary monster equipment. I was a lady whose former experience with heavy machinery had amounted to an industrial sewing machine. I was a Blondie trying to survive in a world of Johnny Bravos.
Several people said that they were proud of me for trying, but added their opinion that I could NOT be a truck driver and wear a dress. Several predicted I would be taken advantage of and would never be safe on the road. One female battleaxe truck driver friend warned me, “Maggie, you HAVE to learn to shout the “F” word! You gotta learn to flip birds all day or else all the F’n men out there will trample you into the ground.”
I replied, “I am convinced I can get further, faster, if I behave like a lady.”
That philosophy has proven to be true. I have never had serious trouble during the last two years of commercial driving. I enjoy respect from others on the road, at shippers, and in truck stops. The very fact that I wear a dress protects me. Almost all the male truckers I meet are quiet and respectful, at least they are in my presence. I have been treated better by male truck drivers than I have by business office professionals.
If, like Maria, you find yourself sad or lonely or bored, if you struggle to make ends meet, or you feel you can’t stand company politics another second, consider driving a truck, solo. After a short period of training and team driving, you can get a beautiful truck all to yourself. It’s like having your own personal Tiny House that goes with you everywhere. You can decorate how you please!
You can be a company driver or eventually become an owner operator with your very own custom fluorescent pink tractor. You can keep your truck spotless or let it pile up with pizza crusts and McDonald’s sacks, you decide. You can still do your daily exercises, eat healthy out of your truck fridge, keep up on the news, and spend mandatory rest breaks stretched out on your memory foam mattress, comfy as home.
Sometimes the best employment in life is solitaire! You can keep to yourself when you feel like it. Or if you get lonesome, you can visit every truck stop on the interstate and BS with a thousand other truckers. Navigating through rush hour isn’t really so bad. You are bigger than all the twinkie little cars so they usually stay the heck out of your way. You keep the country supplied with everything. You are Mama Trucker and you feed the nation. You are Queen of the Road.
I absolutely respect and appreciate good men, and I support male leadership. I am absolutely NOT a feminist. But I think strong women who aren’t afraid to do whatever it takes to improve their circumstances and never give up are to be commended. A positive dynamic woman is no threat to good men. I applaud good men with honest principles, and I applaud the same in women.