Stephanie Tapper Female Truck DriverThere are more female truck drivers out here than you can imagine. Seems like about 40% of the trucks I pass or pass me have a woman driving. But I still get the occasional gawk. I don’t mind. I’m a 40-something year old. I’m definitely a girly girl, and I’m 4’11” tall. Most men just can’t believe that I drive a truck.

I graduated from the Sanford Florida location. My husband, Chris, and I are a team working for US Xpress as company drivers. I can only compare my experience with school to my husband’s. I won’t disclose where he went but it was a very similar 3 week course. He would not allow me to go to the school he went to. They were very unprofessional and very sexist. Just blatantly rude. The difference seems huge to me. EVERYONE at Truck Driver Institute was extremely professional.

 


My difficulties were in backing. Parallel parking was the worst. But you don’t parallel often on the road, you try to avoid it, however learning how teaches you how to handle to trailer better. Give you an understanding of how the trailer moves. During school, I loved driving on the roads, even if I was nervous. The trainers are all so patient, I don’t know how they do it.

Most of the men in my class were great. We had a huge variety of personalities and everyone seemed to get along fine. We all tried to give encouragement to the others and the men reacted no differently to us ladies. The instructors were kind but I didn’t detect any softness or babying in their voice just because we were girls.

I would and I have recommended Truck Driver Institute to ANY woman looking to get into the business.

Working with US Xpress has been great. While I was in school, my husband worked for the company doing standard OTR with a trainer. He was pulling US Xpress trailers. He was getting decent miles. After I completed my school, then training with a great trainer, I did my upgrade test. I was nervous of course, but these people are really nice to deal with. While there I was approached by a fleet manager and asked if I wanted to do a dedicated run.

Basically for those that don’t know, it means I will drive a US Xpress truck, get paid by them, get dispatched by them, but the merchandise we pull are in CEVA trailers. We are OTR, coast to coast, and we have had runs going from Seattle to Bridgeport, CT. We are guaranteed paid 4700 miles per week. So if we have a slow week with loads, they pay us up to 4700 miles. Unless we do home time. We average roughly 5500 miles per week, however in the last month or so we have gotten over 6k miles per week.

We are hub to hub most cases. I have, however, delivered to a very small carpet company in the mountains of Georgia, up a very steep incline on a gravel road that wasn’t really big enough for a car let alone a semi. It was interesting. We also delivered inside a cave at Independence, MO.

The best thing is seeing everything. Just the experience of it all. Like, I knew the west had dust storms. Did you know they have a very distinct scent? Kind of like how we know it smells like rain before the storms come. Dust storms smell funny. The mountains are amazing, both Rocky and Smoky. Sunsets and sunrises from every angle. I get to drive with my best friend. We are in a very small space for long periods and that can be a problem for some. But we do well. We respect each other completely.

As far as fitting in with the other truckers at the truck stop, some of the older group don’t think I drive. Then they see me get in the driver’s seat. But most regard me as a trucker. There are some women that will approach me like we are part of a club, but a lot just don’t have time to socialize.

Most truckers are great. Especially during inclement weather. I’m a Florida girl. Never drove in snow before. I learned in a semi, fully loaded near the upper peninsula of Michigan. No chains. A semi ice skating in a highway is no fun at all!!

I drive a lot at night. I have run over gator tread. It tore out an air line. It was awful hearing those buzzers go off and all my lights come in. Having to think fast and get off the road before the springs kicked in and locked me in place. But I did it. And that’s where the training at TDI really came to play. I knew those brakes would lock up and I had just a second to get off the road to avoid causing more issues and possibly accidents. You have to think fast, be aware of your surroundings at all times.

My advise for anyone, male or female. Take a breath. Messing up is ok. Keep at it. Try to remember you drive a trailer not a truck. G.O.A.L. (Get out and look). Always. If you are solo, don’t rely on another trucker to help you. What do they care? It’s not their truck.

I am still new out here, and I have seen some accidents that could be avoided. I’m not talking about the guy that apparently fell asleep at the wheel and ran into an overpass. I’m talking about drivers too stubborn to get out and look and they smash into another trailer or truck. Or they don’t look at road signs and they go down a section of interstate that has a low bridge. You can see at any terminal the line of trailers that has tried to go under a 13’6″ overpass. Don’t risk it.

To sum up, Truck Driver Institute stands apart from other schools because they are professional. Trainers have real experience with years of driving. I recommend TDI to anyone, but especially to women. The amount of patience is immeasurable.

Thanks for the kind words, Steph. Best of luck to you and Chris. Stay safe on the highway and keep in touch!


We know a big part of our job is to make sure you have the training and confidence to become a commercial truck driver. And, a very big part of our job is to help you find a carrier where you can put those new skills to work. At Truck Driver Institute, we have the resources and experience to do just that — we have been putting America to work since 1973.  Contact us today.

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