Lisa Miller is two things. She’s an incredibly talented trainer at Prime, and she’s the kind of person who gets along with just about everyone. Her skills and dedication as a trainer are what got her nominated to be the Emerald Award winner at this year’s Highway Diamond gala, and she probably developed her empathy and gift of gab during her 15-year stint as a hairdresser in Branson. Either way, those skills have served her well since she joined Prime more than 10 years ago and as she now participates in the Highway Diamonds.
Lisa drives for Prime’s refrigerated division, and she joined the bushiness kind of on a whim. “I always loved semi-trucks ever since I was little,” she says. Then one day, she got the feeling it was time for a career change, so she packed her scissors and signed up for truck driving school at Ozarks Technical College. Now, she’s hooked on life on the road.
Prime’s Highway Diamonds program didn’t exist when Lisa was training, and the first trainer she had was a male driver. Lisa says it was nothing personal, but she felt uncomfortable on his truck and wasn’t convinced he was showing her the best safety protocols, so she hopped off board and was assigned a new trainer. This time, it was a woman.
“I was placed on Bonnie Fisher’s truck,” Lisa says. Bonnie, who has since passed away, was kind of a legend within Prime’s fleet of women drivers. She was tough, she was patient, she was incredibly knowledgeable, and she taught Lisa everything she needed to know to be safe on the road. “I was almost on the verge of quitting, but she changed my whole world,” Lisa says. “I absolutely loved it. She taught me how to go down mountain roads with a full load. She taught me how to drive around exit ramps safely and how to back up safely. She gave me a lot of great advice I carry with me still.”
When Lisa decided to become a trainer herself, she knew it was her chance to pass along everything Bonnie had taught her. “Through all my experiences with my students, I can hear her words coming through me,” Lisa says. As a trainer, Lisa says her number one focus is being patient and helping her student overcome their fears. It could be mountain driving, it could be backing up, it could be being away from home for weeks at a time…no matter what it is, Lisa’s goal is to reduce that stress as much as possible.
To date, she’s trained four men and 27 women drivers. She didn’t plan it that way, but she has a special place in her heart for new women drivers. “To me, it’s about acknowledging women in the industry,” she says. “It’s about carrying generations of women behind us who never got an opportunity to drive. Their place was in the passenger seat. It’s a prideful feeling when a woman looks up and sees you and is shocked to see you at the wheel.”
The way Lisa sees it, there are plenty of great male trainers at Prime, but training with a fellow woman can have its advantages. “It can be less intimidating,” she says, “and sometimes women feel like they can open up about their fears when they have another woman with them in the truck.”
Lisa knows training is not for everyone. It’s hard work, and you have to figure out how to train your students while still operating a profitable truck, but she loves it. She’s still in touch with countless past students, and she’s only missed one Highway Diamonds gala since it started. She also makes a point of taking her students to every Highway Diamonds event that she can. “It’s amazing to work for a company that acknowledges the growth of women in the industry,” she says. “And it’s great to watch another woman be successful and safe and know you had something to do with that.”
Read more in the Prime magazine,