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Driver Lifestyles

A Week in the Life of a Female Truck Driver

By Sandy Long
Posted Jun 14th 2013 3:57AM

E41A0438.jpgFor the first two thirds of my career, I ran mainly team with various partners coast to coast. In 2000, after an ex husband wrecked the truck and hurt me badly, I decided to only run solo. Running solo after so many years of having a co driver was a definite change; no one to talk to, depend on, help do the heavy work and most importantly, no one to take up for me if there was trouble. As an acquaintance says though, ”˜it does not matter to the truck what gender the driver is’, so I persevered.

I run Midwest regional these days, running 2,500-3,000 miles a week (when freight is good), home on the weekends. When I am inbound to Kansas City on the weekends, I go down to Kansas City on Sunday night to make sure I get my break in so I am fresh to run on Monday. On the Friday before last weekend, I loaded a load going to Riverside Missouri for delivery Monday at 6 a.m. No one was answering the phone at the receivers so my dispatch told me where it was, right next to another place we deliver to regularly.

On Sunday, it was pouring rain when I went down I-35 to Kansas City so I parked up at the truck parking across from the NB scales. Got up early Monday morning and went down I-635 to Riverside. Turned where dispatch said the receiver was, nope, not there so I drove around the little complex, nope, nowhere to be found. Took a chance and tried calling them again. This time the guy answered. I was a mile and a half from them, back down the highway to the second light, not the first, cross a bridge and I was there.

After unloading, I had to go to the shop to have a cold-water leak fixed. They got confused and did a full service on the truck too. They are a good bunch there, unlike some shops, the mechanics are pleasant and work well with me, the only woman driver that comes in there. I did not get out of the shop for about three hours, with freight in Kansas City being short lately; I had to lay over for the night.

2_1.jpgLaying over is not a big issue for me, usually I am tired enough that I enjoy the longer bunk time and time to just sit still and read, not Monday though. For some reason I was restless and got bored quickly. The company allows us to bobtail within reason around the Kansas City area when laid over, so I went down to a small strip mall near the Ford plant to see if I could find an interesting new book to read. I shopped a little and went back to the yard. I could not settle my mind to read, none of my phone friends or family was available to visit with, I found myself wishing I had a co driver to talk to or play cards with.

Tuesday, I loaded for Hamilton Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. I had 4900 pounds in the trailer and naturally, the winds were high, never fails. The trip was one of those that you have to drive every inch of the trip and by the end of the day, I was worn out. While I was getting my 11 pallets of cup lids unloaded, my mom called me. She is 89 and lives on my property. Her T.V. was not working and she did not know what to do. After a call to the cable company, and my trying to explain how to change the batteries in her remote, she got it working again.

Dealing with elderly parents often falls to the women in a family, or at least does in my family. Mom has lived on my place for about eight years, and is the main reason I went regional, so I could be home more often to assist her. While she still can take care of herself and drives around the small town we live in, her memory and her skills in figuring something out are failing.

It is very hard at times trying to help her get something figured out while over 600 miles from the house on the cell phone. There are times when I have to just pull off the road to deal with whatever is going on no matter how tight my schedule is. Of course, it always helps if she has her hearing aids put in. Adds to the stress though, especially when she cannot understand that the shipper is standing there wanting to give you your bills and seal your doors while she keeps saying “what?” as you say “will call you back, I gotta go.”

Got reloaded in Dayton Ohio going to the caves in Independence Missouri. I really prefer not to go into the caves since I have severe claustrophobia linked back to the wreck mentioned above. I can go in, but something about being underground causes me to walk like a drunken sailor and my mind does not track when I try to talk; they say it is most likely anxiety attacks spurred from the claustrophobia. Luckily, my boss does not make me go into them often if it can be avoided.

The next morning, I loaded for Romulous Michigan. Took my break in Porter Indiana, got up Friday morning and knew it was going to be a bad day; the cream chilling machine was broken so there was no cream for my coffee. I made do and took off sure to make Romulous by 1 p.m. even told my dispatch I would be there by then. You would think gas was $.25 a gallon the way traffic is, do not know where those folk were going but there was a lot of them on the highway.

securedownload.jpgAs a few went by, the passenger would look up at me, see a woman driving the truck and they would appear amazed. Some smiled at me, some turned to the driver of the car and the car would take off almost like they were afraid of being around a woman truck driver. We women truckers get that a lot, people do not realize that we women drive truck too. Some of the other folk must have spring fever and need a dose of tonic; they were sure acting crazy Friday. Between the traffic and the craziness, I did not make my receivers until 25 minutes after 1 p.m.

When I called in empty, I knew I was going to have problems with the next load when dispatch said, “don’t know if you can still get this or not, we have tried all day to get a phone number for them.” It took me a call to information and then five calls to five different numbers to find out that the load was not ready, but even if it would have been ready, the company does not ship on Fridays. I called the broker, he said he would call me back, I am still waiting.

Dispatch had a back up load, to load on Saturday, down in Plymouth Indiana. I went the long way so I could stop at Luna Pier Café, Luna Pier Michigan. I knew it would be midnight Saturday night before I got home for the weekend so wanted a good dinner, I would not stop on Saturday other to fuel once I got loaded. One thing about being a single, solo woman driver is when one gets home, the honey do list is hers to do alone. My list is ongoing; I would need my strength when I got home, I had a lot of things to do to fit into my 34 hour break.

While inside the convenience store part of Luna Pier, getting some ice after I ate, there were two women nearby. I heard one say that she wished trucks and truckers would not come in there where they had to stop. I caught the eye of one of them and smiled at her, she said, “You do not like being around truck drivers either?” I replied, “No ma’am, don’t feel that way at all, I personally like truck drivers.” She asked, “Why?” I smiled broadly and said, “Because I am one.” Shocked, she gasped as she drew away from me, “But you are a woman!” “Yes ma’am, I am, your point is?” was my reply. The look on their faces was priceless; it gave me something to smile about all the way to Portland Indiana.

All in all, my week was little different than anyone else’s, I was in the shop, dealt with some weather, was late due to no fault of my own, picked up and delivered my loads and had a load cancel or was nonexistent. Just another week in the life of a trucker, does not really matter the gender.

20 Comments

  • - July 1, 2013
    Kevin-=|=-Howdy Shannon

    Might be a good time to look at other schools. The one you mentioned "smells fishy" Might have been a legitimate mistake, or maybe they operate like that all the time. Or they might have been trying to work you, like the way many car dealers do when dealing with women customers.

    When my wife would go inside to get unloaded/loaded etc, she would get the stares, and remarks. She also usually ended up getting us finished up a lot faster than when it was me going inside.

    Kevin
  • - July 1, 2013
    Kevin-=|=-Howdy Shannon

    Might be a good time to look at other schools. The one you mentioned "smells fishy" Might have been a legitimate mistake, or maybe they operate like that all the time. Or they might have been trying to work you, like the way many car dealers do when dealing with women customers.

    When my wife would go inside to get unloaded/loaded etc, she would get the stares, and remarks. She also usually ended up getting us finished up a lot faster than when it was me going inside.

    Kevin
  • - July 3, 2013
    p34ch3s-=|=-Shannon, you may want to look into a technical school that offers cdl training. I went to a tech school in georgia and got financial aid and only had to pay approx $270 out of pocket. And no loans or anything else. Plus, it was 10 weeks of training. When I got out, I was confident that I could handle a truck and trailer. And I agree with Kevin, as a woman, I usually get in and out of shippers/recvrs quicker then men.
  • - July 3, 2013
    p34ch3s-=|=-Shannon, you may want to look into a technical school that offers cdl training. I went to a tech school in georgia and got financial aid and only had to pay approx $270 out of pocket. And no loans or anything else. Plus, it was 10 weeks of training. When I got out, I was confident that I could handle a truck and trailer. And I agree with Kevin, as a woman, I usually get in and out of shippers/recvrs quicker then men.
  • - July 6, 2013
    Bill Chaffey-=|=-Depending on where Shannon lives A Techinical school is a smart move. Near me there is one in Springfield, MO & another in North West Arkansas.
    The first lady trucker I ran into was in the fall 1979 I was parked in a No Parking spot on second Ave in New York city in a straight truck. With my window opened I could hear a diesel sounding as if it were at an idle. Look in my mirror and a Black with Pink pin stripes Peterbuilt conventional is creeping between the cars parked on both sides of the street. When it crept by me there was a small (petite) women behind the wheel big cloud of teased hair & a pint of Southeren comfort to her lips.
  • - July 6, 2013
    Bill Chaffey-=|=-Depending on where Shannon lives A Techinical school is a smart move. Near me there is one in Springfield, MO & another in North West Arkansas.
    The first lady trucker I ran into was in the fall 1979 I was parked in a No Parking spot on second Ave in New York city in a straight truck. With my window opened I could hear a diesel sounding as if it were at an idle. Look in my mirror and a Black with Pink pin stripes Peterbuilt conventional is creeping between the cars parked on both sides of the street. When it crept by me there was a small (petite) women behind the wheel big cloud of teased hair & a pint of Southeren comfort to her lips.
  • - August 30, 2013
    Cathy-=|=-Thanks for sharing your story, Sandy. I enjoyed it and smiled several times remembering when I had to also deal with similar issues when they would come my way. When driving you certainly can't "sweat the small stuff," or you will go crazy! Happy Trails!
  • - August 30, 2013
    Cathy-=|=-Thanks for sharing your story, Sandy. I enjoyed it and smiled several times remembering when I had to also deal with similar issues when they would come my way. When driving you certainly can't "sweat the small stuff," or you will go crazy! Happy Trails!
  • - July 24, 2014
    Roni-=|=-Hi:) Is this blog still going? I enjoyed reading it. I am going to start training in a couple of weeks, and although I am excited- I seem to be scared as hell! I love to drive and have a class B already- I drove a GPPV for four years. I was scared when I started that too but got through it and was a very good driver. I am always aware of my surroundings and very safety conscious but I am still very nervous. I guess because it's going to be a new world for me and the fact that I am a petite woman in my forties isn't helping. I think I want to go over the road for the first year or so but I'm a little concerned about all the crazy drivers out there who are not aware of the fact that a truck can't stop very fast. Any advice for me on this?? Thanks:)
  • - July 24, 2014
    Roni-=|=-Hi:) Is this blog still going? I enjoyed reading it. I am going to start training in a couple of weeks, and although I am excited- I seem to be scared as hell! I love to drive and have a class B already- I drove a GPPV for four years. I was scared when I started that too but got through it and was a very good driver. I am always aware of my surroundings and very safety conscious but I am still very nervous. I guess because it's going to be a new world for me and the fact that I am a petite woman in my forties isn't helping. I think I want to go over the road for the first year or so but I'm a little concerned about all the crazy drivers out there who are not aware of the fact that a truck can't stop very fast. Any advice for me on this?? Thanks:)

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