In 1909, Alice Hunter Ramsey became the first woman to drive from coast to coast. Luella Bates became the first female truck driver to receive a New York license. Lillie Elizabeth Drennan received her CDL in 1929 and established her own trucking company, the Drennan Truck Line, of which she became the sole owner.
These famous female truck drivers are just a few of the many women who have successfully gotten behind the wheel—proof that women can thrive in the trucking industry.
More women join the trucking industry
Across the country, more than 3.5 million people work as truck drivers. In 2018, women made up only 7% of this group. That number is changing. Research from FreightWays and the Women in Trucking Association (WIT) shows that women now make up about 10% of drivers.
At Prime, 14% of our drivers are women—that’s far above the national average. We take pride in supporting and recognizing our female truck drivers as they pursue their careers. These drivers pave the way for more women to enter the industry.
Helping Women Succeed
Prime offers women the opportunity to work one-on-one with female trainers. We talked to Hilda Pinckney, who is nominated for Prime’s Trainer of the Year, about being a female truck driver and mentor to other women.
Pinckney has been with Prime for three years, though she’s been a truck driver for five. As a trainer, she finds her purpose in helping other women succeed.
“Someone changed my life when they told me that I could do better and have better and be better. Now, I’m giving that same thing to women coming on my truck,” she says.
From the first time her students step in the truck to the day they reach 50,000 miles, Pinckney aspires to help them recognize their potential.
Making A Difference
Pinckney has never regretted her decision to become a truck driver. Once she was told that she would never be anything. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In her time as a trainer, Pinckney has helped six women become successful drivers. As a member of the Prime family, she’s left her mark on many more drivers as a mentor and a friend.
“I just love the fact that I’m making a difference,” she says. “I’m making a difference in the lives of women, and I’m making a difference in the lives of people I will never meet just because I’m out here doing my job.”
The Prime Family
Pinckney sees many people, like herself, come into trucking from broken families. She notes that she found the support system she’d been missing at Prime.
“When I came to Prime, it was like I got my sense of family back. You realize that sometimes family is not blood,” Pinckney says. “Family is the people that you’re surrounded with on a daily basis.”
She knows that there are many people she can lean on, from her fleet manager to her fellow female drivers.
Being A Woman In The Industry
Overcoming obstacles is something many women face. On the road, women have to be mindful of their surroundings and safety in ways that differ from men.
Prime’s Highway Diamonds program serves as a resource and vehicle to connect female drivers across Prime’s fleet.
When asked what advice she’d give other women, Pinckney says, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
Her truck is an open book. She wants her students to feel comfortable asking about all aspects of the job.
She also advises trainees to ask about their trainer’s experience, reasons for choosing trucking, and expectations for TNT training. Having a conversation about each person’s expectations early on creates the groundwork for a healthy working relationship.
Becoming A Driver
Going through CDL and TNT training takes commitment, but Pinckney believes women shouldn’t let fear or doubt get in the way.
“It’s a huge commitment, especially as women. We have that attachment to our home and to our family that can hold us back,” she says.
If you are interested in earning your CDL and becoming a driver, you should give it a try, even if you think you can’t.
“Nothing beats failure but a try. The worst thing is you come out here and you find out you’re really not meant for it,” Pinckney says. “But you may come out here and be like me. Now, I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
Pinckney believes women shouldn’t let fear stop them from pursuing a career in trucking.
“Put your fears behind you and let the miles grow from your fears. I always say my fears are so far behind me I can’t see them in my mirrors anymore, but I can see my dreams in front of me. I’m getting closer to my dreams and farther away from my fears,” says Pinckney.
Are you ready to become a truck driver? Are you interested in joining Prime’s fleet?
Learn more about Prime’s Highway Diamonds program here.