Meet the truckers doing six-figure tricks driving across the country
- When Ingrid Brown started driving trucks 41 years ago, she only knew 5 other women.
- Today, companies are hiring thousands of female drivers with bonuses and scholarships amid the labor shortage.
- Carla Holmes left her managerial position to drive long distances with her husband – married “teams” can make over $ 200,000.
The Ingrid R. Brown Petro Truck Stop is on the side of the Oklahoma City Interstate Freeway, across from a Greyhound Bus Station, Waffle House, and Beige Stucco Motel.
After 42 years of driving trucks in 48 states, Ingrid Brown chose this remote mall to be named in her honor after winning a prestigious award from the trucking community.
âI had to do it,â Brown said. “I didn’t know what else I could give back to these people for what they gave me, and how they affected my life.”
A year earlier, Brown and 21 other truckers had driven from Michigan to Oklahoma to deliver supplies and food to families affected by deadly wildfires. There, Brown transported materials to an 85-year-old farmer whose wife was in hospital for smoke inhalation. They had lost half of their cattle as hundreds of acres burned down, but Brown said they never complained once.
Meeting people like the couple in Oklahoma is why Brown has continued to drive all these years, even as a grandmother of six, she told Insider.
âI have met people in the tiniest little towns that I have ever picked up on the phone, and I can tell you these are my friends today,â Brown said.
Now she wants other women to feel empowered to do the same.
Brown isn’t alone with that goal in mind – the trucking industry predicts a shortage of 100,000 drivers by 2023, and many recruiters are hoping women will fill the empty seats.
âMy steering wheel doesn’t know the cock that’s holding it, and that really doesn’t care,â she said. “It has always been labeled the world of men and always labeled the work of a man.”
When Brown first started driving, she knew five truckers across the country. They became very united, scheduling meetings on the road and at truck stops whenever they could. While many female drivers experience sexism and harassment, Brown said she has never been discriminated against on the job.
Today, more than 200,000 long-haul truck drivers are women, or about 6.7% of the industry. Trucking companies and retailers, facing a severe shortage of drivers, are now actively seeking to recruit more women into the field.
While the cost of truck driving schools can range from $ 3,500 to $ 10,000, some companies and states like New York and Oregon offer incentives or waived tuition fees for female drivers.
According to Brown, the best way to attract more female drivers is to avoid watering down the truck driver lifestyle and telling women the truth.
âYou’re going to miss birthdays, you’re going to miss loved ones, you’re going to miss things that happen in life,â she said. “They just need to know the truth about it. Recruiters seem to paint pretty pictures.”
Carla Michelle Holmes, a 42-year-old mother from Yuma, Ariz., Started driving long trips with her husband last November.
It started hauling oversized equipment two years ago. After much debate, Holmes decided to join him in the truck during his two week vacation after working at a local methadone clinic.
âAfter the two weeks were over and it was time to come home, I didn’t really want to come home,â Homes told Insider. “I wanted to stay in the truck.”
Over the next three months, Holmes began training for his commercial driver’s license through funding from an Arizona at Work scholarship while continuing to work part-time.
As she befriended the few other women in the program, Holmes said she quickly realized that many men didn’t take them seriously, despite outdoing them on exams. .
âIt was funny because the school I went to you have three attempts to be successful, and most of the time guys would fail on their first attempt,â she said. “And yet the females would pass on their first try.”
Holmes told Insider that while many male interns made “frustrating” comments, she learned to ignore them in order to focus on their studies.
âI’m not here to listen to everything you have to sayâ¦ I plan to pass my test,â she said.
Holmes is the perfect candidate for truck recruiters as companies across the country are offering incentives for husband-wife driving teams. Couples can drive twice as long as solo truckers – while one drives, the other rests.
The BIA group is currently offering a bonus of $ 10,000 to team pilots, specifically aimed at married couples. The average US Express driver team makes a combined total of $ 200,000, plus a bonus of $ 30,000, according to the company’s website.
Meanwhile, a group of bipartisan senators this year reintroduced legislation aimed at reducing barriers for future female truck drivers. The Promotion of Women in the Trucking Workforce Act would establish a board of directors to increase awareness, mentorship and training programs.
âTwo years ago, if someone had told me I was going to drive a truck, I would have told them you were crazy,â Brown said. âNow, I say to women all the timeâ¦â you can do that. “”