Women in Trucking - One Woman's Journey

We had 2 days in the classroom before we went out to the trucks. The first lesson was on the simulator. Teaching us how to shift, how to double clutch, what RPM to change gears in, how to downshift.

The first day on the simulator, one of the men in my class laughed at another one of the men who was grinding gears. He said, "You drive like a girl." To this comment, I gave him a look that could have stopped a car. He cringed and backed away. I asked the man on the simulator to let me try my hand at it. I asked how to double clutch, what all the dials and displays meant, what the gear pattern was and what that little lever on the front of the shift was for. This was all explained to me with the care reminiscent of a mother telling a child how to recite his ABC's for the first time.

I smiled and said I was ready. A crowd formed around me. With great confidence, I ran through all 10 gears without grinding one and downshifted through all 10 gears only grinding a few. When I was finished, I looked at the gentleman who made the comment about driving like a girl and said, "I guess it isn't so bad to drive like a girl." I left him speechless.

Now that I mastered the simulator, I was ready for the real thing. Let me tell you, the real thing is nothing like the simulator. First of all, it's bigger. Second, there are no displays to tell you when to shift and there are a lot more gauges and buttons. I did not let this deter me, however.

The first thing we did was a pre-trip inspection. That dastardly 82-point inspection that caused me to call my husband and tell him I was in the wrong class. I followed the teacher around as he pointed out all the points that the tester would be looking for and what to say when I pointed to them. I had my cheat sheet with me. I listened and watched as he pointed out each point. I was amazed at how easy it was. This was not rocket science. I could do this. It would take a few more times, but I could do this. No more nightmares!

Then we all piled into our assigned trucks. The instructor took us around the course once and asked a student to drive. We never were to shift out of 1st gear. (I can do that.) We had to back up 100 feet in a straight line back. (Piece of cake.) We had to make a right turn without running over the pylon. (Do it every day.) Then had to alley dock. (Doesn't look too difficult.)

The first and second students did the course without many problems. A couple of pylons bit the dust in the straight line backing. The right turn pylon was missed by a mile. The alley docking pylons wished they had stayed home. Then it was my turn.

I made a smooth start without making the truck jump. (Hooray) The turn I needed to make to get into the straight line backing was not wide enough, when I did make it in between the cones, I stopped too short. When I started the back up, I turned the wheel too much and in the wrong direction. With the help of my co-drivers, I finally made it out of the alley. Then on to the right hand turn. Missed the pylon by a mile, was only supposed to miss it my 6 inches. Next get lined up for the alley docking. Couldn't get that truck to go where I wanted it to go. Tried the setup several times. Just wouldn't go in the alley. Finally quit without putting it in the hole.

The first day of backing up was very frustrating. I, again, wanted to rethink my decision to do this. I never wanted to drive a truck again. Especially if it involved backing up. I called my dad and he reminded me that I had told him I could do anything if I really wanted to. He asked me if I really wanted to. I had to think about it. He said, "If you are doing this for Randy, you should quit. If you are doing this for you, I know you can do it."

I went back to school the next day. And I finally backed it into the hole.