NFI’s Terri S. says she really ‘digs’ life on the road

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NFI’s Terri S. says she really ‘digs’ life on the road
Terri S., who serves as onboarding supervisor for NFI in Minooka, Illinois, began her professional life in archaeology before switching gears and becoming a professional truck driver. (Courtesy: NFI)


With a passion for history and the thrill of new discoveries, Terri S. says she originally saw herself as somewhat of a female version of Indiana Jones. In fact, and she set out on the path to becoming an archeologist before discovering a new calling in the trucking industry.

Today, she serves as the onboarding supervisor at NFI in Minooka, Illinois.

“All my life I wanted to be an archeologist,” she told The Trucker. “I was just born with this idea in my head to be an archeologist. It was my of love history and the outdoors.”

After completing her studies, Terri found herself working at The Koster Site, a prehistoric archaeological site located south of Eldred, Illinois. During its excavation between 1969 and 1978, Koster produced deeply buried evidence of ancient human occupation from the early Archaic period (BC 7500) to the Mississippian period (AD 1000).

It was great … until it wasn’t.

“One day I woke up and just didn’t want to do it anymore,” Terri said. “My mother was always very adventurous, and she suggested I become a truck driver. My stepfather, who was a lawyer, represented some trucking companies.”

In 1978, Terri was able to enter a state-run program that covered her training costs. Within two weeks, she was in training. Once she started her new profession in the late ’70s, Terri found herself one of only a handful of female drivers.

“There were no facilities for women anywhere,” Terri said. “When I was on the road, I had to take a shower in the men’s rooms, with men going in and out constantly. I also knew that I had to be just as good as — or even better than — the men to make it. I was fortunate to have a lot of opportunities to try different things.”

Dealing with sexist comments from the male drivers was commonplace for Terri back then. Nonetheless, she excelled at her new job and quickly became known as a trusted driver throughout the companies that she drove for.

“I was driving at the time that Mount St. Helens blew,” she recalled of the 1980 volcanic eruption in Washington state. “I’m driving in, and there’s all this stuff on my windshield, and trucks driving the other way with nylons over their air tanks, and people selling stuff on the side of the road. I didn’t know that the mountain had blown.”

That’s only one of the many memorable moments Terri has experienced during her years on the road.

Eight years ago, she saw an ad for a position with NFI. She applied for the spot and soon joined the team. Since then, she has been a witness to the development of driver-enrichment programs like SheDrives. She is now part of the launch team for the She Drives Ambassador Program.

“SheDrives has so many things to help women,” Terri said. “I just read a study that talked about how there are not a lot of exercise facilities for women on the road — and NFI has so many programs to help you with health and wellness. NFI has a lot to offer. Their perks program is amazing.”

Terri has also had the opportunity to teach new drivers and become a mentor for those just starting out in the trucking industry. Her role as onboarding supervisor also allows her the opportunity to let everyone know what NFI has for their employees.

“I make sure everyone knows how to find the help that they need,” Terri said. “I help them out the best I can, whether they are starting out or are experienced drivers. I look at their applications and see their history so I can know what they need best. The gentleman that does our road tests, I give him that information, so he knows what they need most.

“It’s scary to get into a truck with someone you don’t know, and you also don’t know what they are capable of as far as knowledge,” she explained. “I let the new people know that they can call me or text me at any time. They know they have access to me every single day. Being new anywhere can be horrible, so I walk them through things and let them know I’m there for them.”

Terri added that it’s important to make sure new drivers are paired with the trainer that has the capabilities to help them best.

“Some people are visual learners, and some are audible learners,” Terri said. “The words you use in training are important. If a driver isn’t clicking with their trainer, I will put them with somebody else that is more compatible with their learning style. You can’t learn if you are speaking two different languages. I make it as comfortable for them as I can.”

Terri said she loves working for NFI and being part of the SheDrives program and feels like she’s found her “forever home” in trucking, adding that she can’t herself ever being anywhere else for the rest of her career.

Dana Guthrie

Dana Guthrie is an award-winning journalist who has been featured in multiple newspapers, books and magazines across the globe. She is currently based in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.

Avatar for Dana Guthrie
Dana Guthrie is an award-winning journalist who has been featured in multiple newspapers, books and magazines across the globe. She is currently based in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.
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