I don’t think you’ll ever be asked this question at a Trivia Night contest, however, I’ll ask it anyway. Do you know who the first long distance truck driver was? Or more importantly, their gender? We often hear that trucking is a ‘man’s world’ and that women have no right being behind the wheel of such a large vehicle, yet the first long distance truck driver was a woman. In fact, the first six truck drivers were all women, although they were only there to demonstrate how easy it was to drive one of these new vehicles, and they did only weigh three tons – mere babies in today’s trucking world.
They were difficult to drive, however. There were no air brakes, power steering or automatic gear boxes, and the roads were nothing more than tracks by today’s standards. Miss Luella Bates drove that first transcontinental run in 1920 and the first ‘licensed’ lady truck driver was Lillie Elizabeth Drennan, who received her license in Texas in 1929. She went on to become the first lady to own, run and drive trucks in her own trucking business. She maintained that business until the early 1950’s when she sold out to retire.
Women have been an important, and at times controversial, figures in trucking from the very beginning. These days, you will find thousands of women driving trucks along the highways, and despite the harsh conditions, many of them are opting for over-the-road truck driving. According to many employers, women truckers are better workers – they have an innate ability to keep to schedules and follow directions. I guess there is a little less of the ‘cowboy’ (or cowgirl) in a female driver.
Whilst that makes for interesting trivia, what is important is the fact that trucking truly is an equal opportunity workforce. Women are paid exactly the same rate as men, are treated the same, and in most cases, are offered the same work as male drivers. If you’re a woman who is sitting at home suffering from ’empty nest’ syndrome, give serious thought to truck driving. It only takes five weeks of truck driver training to gain a commercial drivers license, and from there, the roads are yours to cruise.