The way for women to live their best lives as professional truck drivers is to learn from others. With more than 8,000 members and founded in 2007, the Women In Trucking Association (WIT) is an industry non-profit that encourages women to get in the industry, minimizes obstacles they face, and promotes their accomplishments.
Learn from the experiences of these three females who have chosen to make truck driving their livelihood. Many additional HERstories can be found on the WIT Professional Driver Hub — along with many other helpful resources for drivers.
Karen Noel: Team Driving With Her Husband
After working over 30 years in the banking industry, Karen Noel found herself laid off. In 2015, her husband was changing careers and asked her if she wanted to go into trucking with him. It was an industry he was familiar with, but she had no experience. Noel decided to join him on the road as a passenger.
“Once I was out on the road with him, I saw other women truck drivers,” Noel said. “It never registered with me that women could be truck drivers too.”
She started asking every female truck driver she saw how they felt about the career. All the responses she received were positive.
Six months into being a passenger with her husband, Noel decided to go to school to earn her CDL. Without a background in trucking, she really worked hard to overcome challenges, such as backing. She credits her husband for encouraging her throughout the process and being her “rock.”
Once she earned her CDL, Noel and her husband worked for Knight Transportation as a team for three years. Now, they are owner-operators with Forward Air.
“Trucking has made me a better person. I’ve learned patience while out on the road,” Noel said. “I’m excited to be a member of Women In Trucking and support its mission. I would like to see more women working in the trucking industry.”
Noel also wants to be an example to her grandchildren that they can be anything they want to be.
Candy Bass: Truck Driving for 50 Years
Mary “Candy” Bass is a professional driver at Transport Designs Inc., and is the winner of the fourth annual Women In Trucking’s Driver of the Year award sponsored by Walmart. Bass has been a long-haul professional driver for 50 years, accumulating 6 million accident-free miles!
In 2016, she was awarded the TA Petro Citizen Driver award. Recipients of this award exhibit citizenship, safety, community involvement, and leadership. A Nashville, Tennessee TA truck stop is named the Candy Bass Travel Center in honor of her.
In 2023, she was named a Top Woman to Watch in Transportation by Redefining the Road, WIT’s official magazine.
“Candy Bass has given extensively to the trucking profession, not only during her time on the road and commitment to safe driving, but through mentorship and her desire to be a guiding star for women at all stages of their careers,” said Jennifer Hedrick, President and CEO, WIT.
Bass is a lifetime member of WIT and Owner/Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). She is involved in numerous charities including St. Christopher Foundation, Hats for Heroes, Special Olympics, Trucker Buddy, and Charities for troops. At 78, she is still driving long haul across the United States while encouraging and mentoring other women in the trucking industry.
The announcement was made during the Salute to Women Behind the Wheel event, hosted by WIT at the Mid America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, Kentucky. The event honors female commercial drivers for their efforts and successes in the trucking industry.
Sponsored by Walmart, the annual Driver of the Year award was established to promote the achievements of female professional drivers who lead the industry in safety standards while actively enhancing the public image of the trucking industry.
“Our North Star is to create a culture where our associates feel like they belong. That means getting to know them for their own unique identities, styles, experiences, abilities, and perspectives to support them best,” said Erin Bergman, Director of Talent Acquisition at Walmart. “That’s why Walmart is proud to sponsor the Women In Trucking ‘Driver Of The Year Award’ since it was created. It’s important to celebrate the industry’s top women behind the wheel like Mary ‘Candy’ Bass, who has had an incredible 50-year career and is paving the way to show future generations what they can accomplish when they work hard at what they love.”
Charlene Frelix: Bringing Personality to the Road
Charlene Frelix Johnson is a professional driver for Republic Services and has been with the company for more than four years. She is one of the few women in her division at Republic Services, the East Mesa yard.
She hauls loads of trash and hazardous materials across her service area five days a week, provides exceptional service and stops at nothing to succeed within her role. She is a shining star on the team, highly respected and serves as the go-to for many operational challenges on within the field.
Growing up in Mesa, Arizona, Frelix is a family-oriented woman and very grounded within her faith. She is the mother of two children and takes every opportunity to show them the value of hard work and dedication. She decided to enter a male-populated industry and take on all challenges that are associated with her role. Her wittiness, strategic mindset and personable attitude brings her success within the workplace.
She is well known by the customers within her service areas and does an outstanding job of building positive rapport and relationships with the customers on route. Her customers look forward to her service on a weekly basis. For example, one day a young child was admiring her truck as she drove down the street collecting the containers for service. After completing the street, Charlene circled back to the location of the child, stopped, and allowed him to look at the inside of the “big blue truck.” He was amazed and thoroughly enjoyed his time looking at all the controls and buttons in the truck.
Within her leadership, Frelix is a great teacher. She jumps at the opportunity to lead and teach her fellow drivers. Her positive energy is contagious, and she has a soft touch in communicating with her colleagues. When she’s not at work, Charlene enjoys spending quality family time with her five beautiful grandchildren.
Interested in joining the women and forging your own HERstory? Visit the WIT website to find out more!
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.