BAY CITY, MICHIGAN – October 3, 2018. Laura has been driving a truck for 18 years and with Go-To Transport for almost 9 years. I recently chatted with Laura about how she got into trucking and what life is like day-to-day.
Company Driver, Laura W.
“When I was growing up, women weren’t truck drivers,” Laura says. “I have a vivid memory of a road trip with my family and we were cruising I-75 heading ‘up north.’ Mom loved playing ‘I Spy’ with me and my younger brother. I think I was probably 7 years old. We passed this gorgeous black, chromed-out, long-nose Mack truck and I fell in love right there. I boldly announced to everyone that when I grow up, I was going to be a truck driver!”
At that time, she recalls that women were not truck drivers. “My dad glanced over his shoulder and said, ‘Sweetheart, you can be anything you put your mind to.’ He was so proud of me when I finally did it.”
Perfect timing! Laura took a photo of her 2016 Freightliner Cascadia under a rainbow.
One comment that Laura made that hit home with me was about her supportive family. For many of us women who are part of industries previously dominated by men, a strong foundation is important to help us find success. “My hero is my Mom. She’s an amazing woman. My brother is the best. My dad passed away, but he was equal to both. I’ve truly been blessed with my immediate family.”
What’s it like to be a woman in this industry? Laura responds with a kind laugh, “A woman in this field -- I could write a book! Maybe several!” she jokes.
“When I first started driving, it was very sexist. Thankfully the mindset has changed (or I’ve learned to ignore the boys that make the rest of the men look bad). I can honestly say Go-To has a better set of drivers than any company I’ve ever worked for. Not once has a single driver in our company ever been inappropriate towards me or made lewd comments. I have nothing but respectful, friendly coworkers, and have made so many friends who really care how you’ve been since last time we met. It’s refreshing and amazing.”
Laura learned about Go-To Transport from a neighbor.
“I was happy where I was, but my route was being outsourced and I didn’t like my options. I decided to give Go-To a try after speaking to a few drivers and a recruiter at the time, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Her day starts out much like the rest of us who aren’t in the truck. Wake up, have some coffee, and get ready to face the day. However, truck drivers need to check weather conditions, prepare routes and GPS, and plan breaks and meals on top of standard duties like deliveries, pickups, fuel, logs, communications with dispatch, and then driving.
Life can be stressful out on the road, but like Laura says, you get into a rhythm and that’s what makes things better. Truck stops take note: Parking is one of the biggest problems she runs into at work. “You need at least five options before you run out of hours with packed parking facilities.”
Once parked, Laura can decompress after a long day. “I relax with online games, phone calls, chatting over Facebook and other apps, movies, books, exercise, and other hobbies.”
How do you balance work with the rest of your life? “My family has adjusted. The hardest part is missing all the small stuff or the disappointment when you’re supposed to be home, but you’re not. I’ve always said, ‘I’m supposed to be home on this day at this time. I’ll be there when I pull in the driveway.’ You know how it goes. We adjust and adapt,” says Laura.
We have talked so much about work. What are your passions outside of the truck?
“I love drawing and sketching. I collect rocks. I love animals and crochet cat toys for shelters. My cousin fosters kittens. I have three cats and one dog, but have owned many types of other pets, common and exotic. I love reading and movies and take part in the local Renaissance Festival. I’m definitely an ‘outdoor’ girl.”
Laura at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.
What’s the best advice that you have received? “The best advice came from my brother. I used to get so upset over everything and he sat me down and said, ‘Hey, ask yourself two questions: Is this something I can control or fix? Is this something that is beyond your control that you can’t fix?’ I’m so much more relaxed whether it’s approaching a big problem or the small annoying stuff. Mostly I just let things roll off my shoulders and they tend to work out,” Laura said. “As far as best advice in trucking, shut off the radio when maneuvering!”
That’s probably great advice whether you’re in a big truck or a small car!
In closing, what’s the personal motto that you like to live by, I asked. “’What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ and ‘The magic fairies didn’t come.’ I use that when someone says, ‘Why isn’t such and such done?’”
Since Laura and I chatted with each other, I have used the latter phrase a couple of times.
Connecting with Laura was a wonderful experience not only as a colleague, but as a woman. Women truck drivers still only make up about 6% of the trucking industry so support of each other whether it’s behind the wheel, at a desk, or over the phone is paramount.
I look forward to reading that book when you get around to it, Laura!