Driver, CDL instructor and TNT trainer
Susan Fisher is originally from Florida, but she moved to Springfield, Missouri, to be closer to Prime headquarters. Fisher has been with Prime for almost five years, and like so many members of the Prime family, her journey to the company was anything but predictable.
Before arriving in Springfield, Fisher had hopped around between jobs. She started off training as an aviation electronics technician for the U.S. Navy, earned her associate’s degree in computer programming and lived and worked in China where she taught English. When visa laws changed, Fisher headed back to the United States and took a job working at Sirius XM where she took phone calls in the customer service department. It was while she was working at Sirius XM that Fisher’s brother first told her about Prime. “I was like, sure, why not? I’ll give it a try,” she says.
Fisher spent her first year driving alone. “They asked me if I wanted to train, and I said I did, but I didn’t want to start right away,” Fisher says. “I didn’t feel like I had enough experience yet.” Now, Fisher has a trainee with her on the road much of the time, and she’s occasionally joined by her teenage daughter Jada. When she does drives alone, Fisher often takes time to herself between shifts behind the wheel. “I usually pack my TV and my Xbox and I’ll play video games or watch a movie before bed, or I’ll read books or draw or play my guitar,” she says.
Fisher also has her favorite routes. Vermont is at the top of her list. “I absolutely love Vermont, the Pacific Northwest and Seattle.” she says. “Taking that drive into Portland is gorgeous. A lot of the places drivers don’t like to go have hills,” she says. “Those are the places I like to go to because they’re so beautiful.”
Fisher’s Biggest Challenge
“Not letting other people get me flustered, which is something I tell all of my trainees. Rule No. 1 is they can wait, no matter what it is or who they are. I don’t care. Your job is to get it in the dock safely, and if that takes you an hour and 45 minutes, so be it. I don’t care who’s screaming in your window; you tell them ‘I’m working on it.’ Don’t rush, because the minute you rush, that’s when you start messing things up. The other thing is getting over your own fear of backing up. You’re just going to have to take your time, be patient, and when in doubt, get out and look. Even if it takes you 50 times and you’re going one foot at a time, get out and look. The rest of it will come with time. The only way you’re going to learn is to do it.”
Andrea Hatfield is a Springfield, Missouri, native who has been driving for Prime since June 2015. Before starting at Prime, Hatfield worked in a very different environment. “I actually worked in the medical field as a phlebotomist for nine years.” she says. “I worked in an ER trauma center.” A growing dissatisfaction with the health care system led Hatfield to start looking elsewhere for different career options. “I kept trying to think, what else would I like to do,” Hatfield says. On her list of possibilities, travel was at the top, and so Hatfield started asking herself, “why don’t I get paid for it?”
Hatfield had already spent a lot of time traveling around the United States and knew driving for a company like Prime could afford her even more opportunities to travel nationally. “I love seeing the country,” she says. “I love the freedom of it.” Hatfield researched opportunities nationwide before landing on Prime. “After research and reviews, I decided Prime was the best, and it happened to be by home,” she says.
After finishing her driver training, Hatfield was off and running. Out on the open road, she was able to indulge her inner adventurer, but she also found that life behind the wheel was helping her develop personally. “I grew up a lot,” she says. “It was really empowering as a woman, especially in a field where there aren’t a lot of women.” When Prime first launched, there were no women drivers. Today, there are more than 1,200. Women’s presence in the trucking industry is increasing across the board, which is a welcome sight for drivers like Hatfield, who says she hasn’t encountered any negativity from her male counterparts. “I’ve had a good experience,” she says. “This was a huge empowerment move for me. I had never done anything like it, and most people who see me would never believe that I do this. I’m very proud of the fact that I can do it and do it well.”
Hatfield, who travels with her former trainer and now-partner Robert Owen and their miniature Pinscher, Myles, also chronicles her life on the road on her blog (andreacozettehatfield.com). She says she’s always been a writer but her new life behind the wheel has given her new experiences to write about. All those hours on the road have also given her time to dive into new hobbies including photography and listening to audiobooks. It’s just a small part of Hatfield’s latest adventure. “I’m a photographer and a blogger now.” Hatfield says as she talks about how life on the truck is much more than just driving. Hatfield is a driver, yes, but she’s also leading the way for more women to enter the field, and she’s proving that life on the road can be as big or as small as you want it to be.
Hatfield’s Snowblind Adventures
“I have been stuck in a blizzard in Pennsylvania by myself. They shut down the whole interstate, and we were all trapped on it for about 24 hours. I’ve also driven across I-80 when they had closed the road down behind me because of a blizzard. And I didn’t know it. I was the only truck out there for miles and miles in the blizzard. It was hairy, and I was kind of new at the time, but I still wouldn’t trade that experience for anything because being out there alone; it’s those kinds of unreal things that are exciting.”
Before starting at Prime in September of 2013, Amy Thompson was a TV control-room operator in Topeka, Kansas, where she currently lives with her husband, Mike, daughter Rebecca and sons Matthew and Daniel. “Before I was working at the TV station, I was a school bus driver for around seven years,” Thompson says. “I went back to school for media communications, and I ended up at the TV station. Unfortunately, a TV station in Topeka doesn’t pay real well. I probably made more money driving a school bus.”
With her kids graduating and getting older, Thompson began to look for a different career path. “Me and my husband discussed it and decided that maybe I should try driving a truck and see how well I do,” Thompson says. As it turned out, the move “turned out extremely well,” for Thompson.
Transitioning from school bus, to control-room operator, to driving a semi might sound like a big shift, but Thompson took to it with ease. Her years behind the wheel of a school bus gave her the confidence needed when she hopped into the cab of her semi, and after some practice, she was confident in her ability to pull a trailer. It was being away from home for long stretches of time that Thompson hadn’t prepared for.
Fortunately, Thompson’s three children were old enough to handle her being on the road. “The older kids were pretty much self-sufficient,” Thompson says. “The youngest one [Daniel] enjoyed going on the truck with me. He was 12 when I started driving on my own, and he would ride with me in the summers. He just thought that was the greatest fun in the world. He’s a real outdoorsy kid, and he likes big vehicles.”
As for her husband, Thompson keeps in touch over the phone while she is on the road. Now, she works as a dedicated driver in Kansas where she sticks to a specific shorter route most of the time. “I like the short runs,” Thompson says. “It works well for my family.”
Thompson’s Advice for New Drivers
“Relax and don’t let things stress you out and don’t let traffic stress you out. That’s important. Beyond that, plan around pickup delivery and make sure you’re giving yourself lots of time. Don’t wait till the last minute; leave plenty of time and try to plan your days so you can be a little more relaxed. I see a lot of drivers who get really stressed out, and they don’t enjoy it anymore because it’s stressful. They’re fighting to get where they need to be; then they hit a snag in traffic and now they’re all stressed out because they can’t move. Good trip-planning is crucial. It will ensure you can have a little bit more of a relaxed drive, which will make it a much more enjoyable job.”
See the article in the Prime Ways issue here on page 24!
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