A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.
“The school bus company had this insert they would stick in your mail, an advertisement. They were offering a $1,000 sign-on, and that was in ’98. A $1,000 sign-on sounded real, real
good. It sounded good enough that I got it in my head that I could drive one of those if I wanted to. At the time, I don’t think I had driven anything beyond a midsize car.
“So I started driving a school bus, and I kept saying, ‘I’m going to do it until my girls get out of grade school.’ But it never was the right time to stop. I started thinking, ‘If you go to truck driver school, you can still earn a living.’ I thought: ‘If I can, Lord, why not?’
“Lo and behold, I found out there’s these companies out there—you sign on with them and they will take you through the training process, and you can obtain your CDL [commercial driver’s license]. God knows, it was no easy undertaking.
“They send a ticket for you to get on a Greyhound bus, and you take the Greyhound bus to Gary, Indiana, and then we went straight to Hammond, where they had their school. It was like I stepped into boot camp. It was different. It ain’t the world you came from.
“We got there on a Sunday night, and we didn’t even go to the hotel. We had to go through a test where you climb straight up into the back of a trailer-tractor truck and pull a 75-pound bar up and push it down, because you really do need to be in good physical condition. You need to be able to shimmy underneath the trailer, and you need to be physically able to maneuver heavy things.
“And I think that night we took a urine test. You can’t be dropping dirty. And you sign so much paperwork. It must have been about 12:30 by the time we got put on another bus and to the hotel. The living quarters, they were definitely not what I would have expected. I had Clorox bleach to do laundry, and Clorox bleach will kill anything, so I stayed up till two o’clock in the morning and scrubbed down the shower. I was determined to stick it out by any means necessary.
“By that Wednesday we got our permits, and the very next week you got to actually move a truck. You start by pulling forward and backing up, pulling forward and backing up. By the next week I was out on the highway, driving with a trainer and three other guys.
“Twenty-six days later, well, I went and got my class-A license. You’ve got to get that A. And then after you get that A, you’ve got to guard that A with your life. You don’t want to mess up. You’ve got to get your miles in. It’s work. And it’s real work.
“But driving the truck is fun. It’s fuuuuuuuun. I don’t mind the ruggedness of it. I like that you can be a woman in this day and time and do it. And when you’re on the road, every day you can wake up in a different state. Whether you get paid good or bad, you’re getting paid to see this country.”