My DH and I made our annual spring migration from Florida to the Up North country. The Interstates were crowded with spring breakers heading south and with snowbirds like us returning north. I was struck by the amount of semi-trucks on the road. These amazing vehicles are what keeps America going delivering goods to every corner of our great country.
This week I'd like to pay tribute to those folks who drive the roads to deliver the goods to the destinations. In Girls Succeed! Stories Behind the Careers of Successful Women, I interviewed a woman who drives a semi-truck. Most people believe this is a man's job, but more and more women are in the driver's seat now.
Please meet Barbara Totten who shared her story of a career she loves, semi-truck driver.
From Girls Succeed!
SEMI TRUCK DRIVER
|Courtesy of By Gualberto107 at freedigitaldownloads.com|
Freedom of the Road
Have you peered through your car window and pumped your arm up and down when you passed an enormous semi truck on the highway? That is the universal signal for the truck driver to honk his horn at you. Usually the good natured truck driver pulls the cord and blasts his horn. Then everyone in the passing car giggles and waves at the kind driver. It started a long time ago when the driver had to pull a cord that hung from the ceiling of the cab to sound the horn.
These days new horns are not always honked by using the cord. The driver pushes a button instead. Times change. And now, the truck driver honking back at you could just as likely be a woman instead of a man. Barb Totten is a female professional semi truck driver. She drives a big rig with a fifty-three foot trailer. That would be like hauling two and a half pickup trucks behind her.
Barb usually spends five days on the road driving with no partner. She sleeps in the sleeper in the back of her cab, parking at truck stops for the night. She calls the truck her home away from home. Barb is not afraid to be alone. She eats her meals at the truck stop. She is required by law to have thirty four hours of time off before she can drive the big rig again. This is to insure that truckers on the road are rested, alert, and can drive safely.
Barb leaves early on Sunday or Monday morning with a load of products from
Michigan and returns home to Michigan on Friday. Government regulations allow her to drive
eleven hours every day. She can put in a
fourteen hour day when you figure in the time needed for unloading the freight,
filling the truck’s three hundred gallon fuel tank, and repairing and
maintaining the truck. That makes for a
very long work day.
Barb often delivers her goods to the State of
There she picks up a load of flour to transport back to Michigan. No trucker wants to make the return home with
an empty trailer. The truckers call
returning home with an empty truck, deadheading. Because companies pay truckers
to transport loads, returning with no load would be wasting the trucker’s time
and all the fuel and wear and tear on the truck.
Semi truck drivers keep Americans supplied with items needed to live in this society. Semis deliver freight such as washing machines, clothing, food, lumber for homes, televisions, and so much more. Everything we use comes by way of semi trucks at some point. They keep America rolling.
Before Barb chose to drive a semi-truck, she was a stay-at-home mom with three children. Tragedy struck when her husband, Jack, passed away. Five years later, Barb met and then married a “wonderful man” named Scott. Scott had three children too, so the marriage blended the families making one family of six children.
“I felt that it was more important for me to raise my children first before I went out of the home for a job,” Barb said.
When the children grew up and left the house, she started riding in the truck with her husband, Scott. She drove Scott’s truck and loved the freedom of the road and seeing the countryside.
As a kid, Barb enjoyed helping her dad, a tractor mechanic. She relished tearing the engines apart to see how they worked. To this day she is fascinated by the semi truck’s powerful engine.
One day Barb and Scott stopped at a house near their home. They had passed this house every day and noticed a semi truck parked in the driveway. Scott wanted to meet the owner of the truck, so he knocked on the front door of the house. An eighty-year-old woman standing only four foot tall answered the door.
“Oh, hello, Ma’am,” said Scott. “I’d like to talk with the owner of that semi truck parked out there.”
The woman looked at Scott. With a twinkle in her eye, she said, “You’re talking to her. I’m Jackie, and I’m the owner and the driver of that semi truck.”
From that day on Jackie became good friends with Barbara and Scott. Jackie was a mentor for Barbara, teaching her all about the truck driving business.
Barbara is working in a job usually reserved for men, but she had no problem getting a job as a long haul driver in the trucking business. In order to get her special truck driver’s license, she took a course in driving the big rigs and studied the rules of the road. She practiced the driving skills behind the wheel of the school’s semi truck for hours. After taking the class, Barb passed the test to get her special license to operate the eighteen-wheeler.
When she began driving she and the male truck operators and mechanics had to learn to work together. At first it was difficult for her because when she heard a clunk in her truck engine, she would have to explain the problem to the male mechanic. Sometimes he wouldn’t always believe her because she was a woman. Asserting herself and making sure that the repair work was done correctly earned respect from her fellow workers. After working with the mechanics and drivers, she has proven that she is a professional and has earned a good reputation as a driver.
“Set your sights on what you want and go for it,” she says. “Keep trying and moving toward your goal.”
Barb loves her chosen career. She gets paid to see the country. She also can visit her kids when she is in their areas of the country,
and Utah. Her family is very supportive of her choice
to be a professional semi truck driver.
“This is me,” says Barb. “Driving a truck is what I was meant to do.”
The next time you pump your arm for the truck driver to honk the big rig’s horn, you may be getting a honk from a happy mother and grandmother, Barb Totten.
|Inspiring and Empowering Girls|
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