“I’m Single and Running Doubles”

I’m Single and Running Doubles”

I held the doubles/triples endorsements for 15 years, and only had the opportunity to use them a few times for New England Motor Freight out of Elizabeth, NJ back in 2008. I made a little deal with them….”You hook ’em up and I’ll pull ’em”, I said. When they were desperate enough, they’d use me. I would always give them back the way they were given to me….still attached. Truth is, I had no clue as to properly hook and unhook doubles, and I wasn’t strong enough to move the heavy dollys. i couldn’t see the logic in paying for endorsements that I wasn’t planning on using, so the Tanker endorsement also went bye bye.

One of a long haul drivers eventual goal is more money and more home time. Living in a truck, away from family, friends, and beloved pets, (in my case, five kitty cats), takes a toll.When a good job opportunity waves at you with a smile and the promise of a better life, you have to take it. Problem was, I had to go and obtain my doubles endorsement again, this time in North Carolina, the beautiful State where I currently call ‘home’. The written exam was no different than the one I took in New Jersey back in 1996, which I passed with flying colors on the first try. Sailed right through it. Whoopee. What a brainiac, right? Fast forward to 2012, my brain is 16 years older, and a few brain cells shy of a full load. After my first try at the test, I left the Motor Vehicle office that morning with my head down, feeling supremely disappointed in myself. I flunked. Not even close to passing. So with CDL book in hand, I read and reread the chapter pertaining to Doubles, and went back the next day, feeling way more confident that I would surely pass on the second try. It was the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, and when I left the DMV, I was choking back tears. All I needed was a big ‘old FAIL buzzer…..oh yeah, I already had one….in my head. It isn’t easy to bend your leg around to kick yourself in the butt while you’re driving, yet I managed to do that exceptionally well on the 20 mile drive home.

Government workers get every holiday off, including one’s we never heard of, but Memorial Day, I knew they would be closed. I just couldn’t enjoy this past holiday weekend, so filled with angst tinged with the hint of terror of having to retake that miserable test a third time. Have you ever read that chapter in the CDL handbook? It’s a dry read, my friends. Not entertaining in the least. Reading algorithms and string theory would have been more interesting, I think And I’d long forgotten what a “petcock” was….wasn’t that the family rooster?

So I went online for more help. Eureka! I found a site with the questions AND answers to that test from hell, and when I left the Motor Vehicle office on Tuesday morning, I wanted to skip like a 6 year old, I was that elated. Finally, I could call my potential new boss with some good news, since my previous two phones calls to him were not happy ones. He had been rooting for me all along, bolstering my spirits with encouraging words. He was just as excited as I was that joyous morning. The sun shone brightly as I drove straight to Kernersville from the DMV and enjoyed a full day of paperwork and piddling in a tiny cup the size of a thimble for the required DOT drug screen. Finally. A test I could pass without having to study.

Finally after a tense 10 days to find out if had a job, their Safety department approved me. It didn’t help that my previous employer which was Celadon Trucking, was dragging their feet in verifying my employment with them. Shame on them and tenstreet.com!

I’ve been out on the road pulling doubles for four days now. Teamed up with a nice older gent who is a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Barney Fife. I can’t understand half of what he’s saying, and he’s hyper as all hell. He won’t tell me his age but I think he’s pushing 70. Old time trucker who has three times more energy than I do on a good day.

I am learning that pulling doubles is a bit more treacherous than your standard, garden variety 53’ dry van. That fact hit home yesterday when my air line blew while I was cruising about 70 mph on Interstate 80 in Wyoming yesterday. Thankfully, when it comes to driving, I have reflexes like a cat. I only left about 50 feet of rubber on the roadway before I got on the shoulder, it would have been less, but a camper decided to break down in the exact same place that I needed to swing into. Duct tape and co-driver, Dave, to the rescue, and we made it to Laramie, Wyoming for repairs. Only one airline needed to be replaced, oh, and two “super single” dolly tires. And I thank God that this happened on a clear, bright and sunny day. Had this happened on a snowy, icy or wet road, I might not be here to share the tale. Note to self: Don’t just give the airlines a quick once over; inspect them like you’re the DOT man looking to write you up for the tiniest little kink in that hose.

I don’t want a repeat performance of that near disaster and thankfully, my panties stayed dry, although I think I gained another pound of unsightly belly fat and a few more gray hairs.

All this so that I can get home once a week and a bring home a better paycheck. Keep your fingers crossed for me, folks. I’ve got five furkids that I need to get home to. And please keep the truckers in your prayers. Those hard working men and women who sacrifice so much and get so little in return, keep America moving. Without us, this Country would come to a smoking, screeching halt……the way I did yesterday on I-80 in Wyoming.

Advertisements

Trucking since 1996

    There are more women than you probably realize, that have been trucking since the 80’s, or even longer than that.  The harassment for most of them never let up, but these spunky gals refused to allow anyone to keep them from their love of the open road, and the challenges of driving.  To them, I salute you all!  You were the groundbreakers, the trail blazers, and like the suffragettes from 100 years ago, you opened the doors so that the wanna-be LadyTruckers could follow in your footsteps.

   I started trucking back in 1996.  I was very fortunate in that I really did not experience the gender discrimination that so many women have dealt with.  But I did get a lot of “double takes”, and some men looked at me as if I had two heads.  At one TA, I was not served breakfast after waiting nearly an hour for my meal, the waitress may have assumed, incorrectly, that I was a “lot lizard” and not worthy of a hot meal.  Some of the dock managers could be real jerks, expecting me to hand unload a trailer full of product….well folks, if it’s difficult for one strong man to do, it will be nearly impossible for one gal to do.  Thankfully, most freight is now “drop and hook” or ‘no touch’, and there are those in the industry who recognize and value the strengths of the nation’s LadyTruckers.  We tend to be safer and more courteous drivers behind the wheel.

 I welcome you all to peruse my blog, and please take a few minutes to view my ongoing video series:

The LadyTrucker Chronicles on YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/NJKatwoman

Have a safe and blessed day!

Welcome Friends!

They call me the “NJKatwoman”.  “NJ” because I’m originally from New Jersey, and “Katwoman” because that has been my CB “handle” for nearly 20 years.    And because I’ve never quite fit any particular mold, I chose to spell my handle with a “K” to somewhat set me apart from all of the other Catwomen out there.   Thankfully, I don’t carry that across the board, and you won’t see me substituting a K where a C should be.   Unlike some who take kutesy to the umpth level, you might see something like THIS in their “personal about me” section:  “I enjoy kooking, krocheting, and kats”!   In my case it’s more like, “I enjoy crafting, crocheting, cats, yard sales, flea markets, and junking for treasures”.  C what I mean?

In the past, I have worked many different fields.  Everything from secretarial to construction.   You could say I was a  Jill of all trades, master of none.  When I was younger, the norm was to be a typist, secretary, bookeeper, accounts payable,  you get my drift.  I was what the men would call “a skirt”.  Always dressed to the nines, shoes to match the hand-bag, hair coiffed just so.  Always looking my best, and when I look back, I have to laugh that all of the women in the office dressed the same way.  Funny, because we were cooped up in a somewhat “corporate” enviroment, and had no contact with anyone other than the co-workers that we shared cubicles with.   In those days, women didn’t make very much money, and yet, three quarters of our salaries would go toward pantyhose, cosmetics, and getting our hair styled on a regular basis.  The men got away with wearing the same suit every day, but to keep things interesting, they would change from the dark blue tie, to the dark blue tie with the tiny dots on it.   Fridays were exciting.   You never knew if the boss might be in a festive mood, whereas he might just break out the golf themed tie.  Whooohoo!

In 1979, I found myself disenchanted with the phoniness and cliques that I saw displayed in that corporate world.  I missed being outside, and seeing the world unfold around me.   As a young lass, weekends were fun times, and the town I grew up in had an “adult liquid refreshment station” on every corner.  Well, at one of those local establishments, I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice man, who gave me my start in the world of transportation.  Mr. Dee Villani owned the Villani Bus Company in Linden, NJ.  He ran school buses, and coaches.   A popular, effusive, and outgoing man, you were hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t know “Dee”.   Dee offered me a job with Villani, and I happily drove the 53 passenger school buses on and off for him for years.   School bus driving was great fun, I enjoyed driving, and loved the kids.  The salary wasn’t that fantastic, so I always supplemented my income with part time jobs like bartending, or utilizing my musical talents to perform as a singer/guitarist at the local clubs on the weekends.   My partner, Bob Russo, and I called ourselves “Parkway West”.

My sense of direction or lack of it in those days was nearly legend.   One lovely summer day, I decided to hop into my Volkswagon Beetle,  and head down to the Jersey shore.  Right before I got to the Parkway, I realized that I didn’t know which direction to head, so I called my Mother.  “Mom!  I’m nearly to the Parkway, and I’m going to Belmar…which way do I go?  East or West”?  Once Mother stopped laughing, she replied, “You head South until you hit water”!   So, that is how I came up with the name of “Parkway West” for Bobby and I.  We performed for about five years, and we were real “regulars” at Louie Lynch’s Emerald Pub in Elizabeth.

It’s a long story, and difficult for me to share as to how I ended up homeless, and living in a truck.  But when I look back, I realize that it was one of the best things that could happen to me.  I learned a valuable profession, and one that I take great pride in doing.    I upgraded my class B school bus driver’s license to a Class A and started driving a big rig in October of 1996.  There were women driving trucks 13 years ago, but not as many as you see now.   I drove solo, which means no co-driver.  GPS was used only for the military, not for your common driver, and I never heard the expression,  “cel phone”.   We’ve seen a tremendous amount of changes in technology in only 13 years.  What hasn’t changed, however, are the antiquated mindsets of the managers, and male co-workers that we share this profession with.  I admit, there has been SOME improvement, but we have a long way to go. Along with sharing my stories with you, I will be featuring my ongoing video series, “The LadyTrucker Chronicles”.   Every woman has her “story” as to why she chose trucking as a career.  I am not alone in wanting to know her motivations and how the industry has treated her since she chose this profession.   Truckers have endured a “bad rap”, and no longer enjoy the “hero worship” that was bestowed upon them in the 1970’s when the movie, “Convoy” and others of that genre hit the movie theatres.  I would like to see our status become elevated once again.  The people who “move America” are some of the most dedicated, hard working, underpaid, undervalued members of our society.  Trucking isn’t called “The Last American Sweatshop” for nothing.   It’s time you know what it’s really like for us out there.  And it’s time to start giving some long overdue respect to our fantastic, talented, strong and powerful women in this industry, our “LadyTruckers”.

I welcome any of the solo driving LadyTruckers to submit their video story to me via my gmail account. 
Email me for the details at jerseypurr@gmail.com

and I would be proud to feature your own personal story,
complete with music background, titling, etc.  Instead of
complaining about the problems in trucking, instead, be a part
of the solution.   We are the proud women in trucking!

And with that, I respectfully offer you the first segment in the ongoing video series,
“The LadyTrucker Chronicles”   I am pleased to introduce Emily.