Free Spirited Lady

by Robin Helsel, MCJ

I entered the trucking industry just 10 months ago because of a few reasons: 1) I was only offered $12.00 an hour to utilize a recently obtained MA in Criminal Justice 2) Was finished with office politics within female dominated industries 3) Needed to put some miles between my ex-husband and myself 4) Needed to earn a decent income to sustain my responsibilities after my divorce.

My experiences- I love being in the truck driving down the road. I love listening to music, talking to people from different areas of the United States and viewing the scenery. In my spare time I read, write, plan goals, take care of my truck, perform online research, exercise and eat healthy instead of, performing the usual gender specific domesticated household duties that seem to go with your usual local jobs. I love the job duties within trucking industry and for the most part, people within the industry are respectful to me. Other truckers are informative and helpful in every aspect to get the job done. Additionally, most truckers compliment me in my abilities to do the job.

On the downside for me- since I have less than 2 years of experience, I have worked with companies that are what truckers would call, “Larger Companies”. In return, I have to fight for miles, take non-preferred loads in congested areas, take heavier loads over mountains, back in difficult areas like dollar tree and dollar general stores, take more live loads and unloads, train students that can’t even shift down the road and most importantly, deal with difficult driver managers that apparently don’t care about the drivers. As a women, I think often times we have to prove ourselves before we get respect from the driver managers. Statistically, the practice is not uncommon in any profession. Women have always had to prove themselves before achieving respect in the work force. Women have always suffered a wage gap and obviously, it’s no different in the trucking industry. I had to fight for every paycheck when I worked for Werner Enterprises and left that company still owed back pay.

As for the customers we haul loads for- when I was dedicated with Dollar Tree and Dollar General, I found the customers to be extremely rude and non-compliant in their responsibilities to the unloading of the freight. A complete disregard for the driver and the work it takes to unload a 53’ trailer by myself, and in extremely difficult situations. As a western regional driver, I found that we have to cater to the customer even if it means hauling overweight. If you turn down a load that you know is overweight, they make you sit for days as punishment for turning down the load. We’ve all heard “safety first”, but is it really?

Ever wonder why companies like; Walmart hire other companies to haul their loads? My theory is that they keep the preferred loads for their own drivers and subcontract the substandard loads to other companies. Loads that are typically overweight, to be hauled in congested areas, over mountains requiring more fuel consumption, live unload or load, etc. Need I go on?

As a truck driver, I will work as hard as anyone out there, but I refuse to do my job illegally! When it comes to whose responsible-it’s me and I really have no confidence that my multimillion dollar company I work for is going to back me in court if I get a citation, fine or worst yet; have an accident especially with a fatality. I take my job seriously and I think my dispatchers think I take it too serious. One thing I noticed is that what a dispatcher will say to you over the phone is not what they would document over the qualcom system. This industry lacks integrity and just good people that respect the drivers and our working conditions.

My advice, don’t expect a rose garden the first two years, keep your license clean and then, go work for one of the “Best Fleets to Drive For” voted by the TCA Carriers Edge in The Trucker Newspaper. Do your research and maybe you will enjoy the company you work for, feel like you actually have job stability and most importantly, some income stability. As drivers, it shouldn’t matter if we are male or female; we should get treated the same and we should be appreciated by our employers because we all know- without truckers, our economy would fall into a depression and in today’s’ economy, we are not far from our next depression.

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