Compared to most of the people going about their business at the truck stop on a late Saturday morning, there was a lightness in Wendi Congdon’s step, an openness in her expression as she made her way to breakfast. She was mindful of the time, but she didn’t feel rushed.
Peace of mind, freedom from the stresses that accompany most other jobs, that’s one of the things she likes most since becoming a professional truck driver about two years ago.
“I don’t have to worry about someone standing over my shoulder,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about somebody chewing me out in my ear. As long as I do my job, drive, do what I need to do.”
And she sure doesn’t miss the inevitable prattle and gossip that comes with working in one place. “I listen to other drivers on the CB,” she said. “If I don’t want to listen to that, I can just turn it off.”
On this morning, she was homeward bound. Congdon runs a dedicated route for .A 2 .B Synchronized Logistics (pronouncing the “points” is optional), based in Morristown, Tennessee. Her route runs from Hopkinsville, in her home state of Kentucky, to Laredo, Texas. She hauls various goods, but mostly auto parts.
Congdon’s been with .A 2 .B for a few months. Before that, she drove for Paschall Truck lines, or PTL for short. At 46, Congdon could be the poster girl for what many people in trucking see as an encouraging trend of more women coming into trucking.
As she explained what drew her to the profession, her Kentucky drawl made it sound like she was reciting the lyrics to a country music song.
“Tired of being home alone, kids are grown, want something different with my life,” she said. That’s what she’s loving most about the job, all the “different,” it’s such a departure from the “get up, go to work, go home” rut she felt like she was in before she hit the road.
Sure, there’s a certain amount of routine to truck driving, she said, but even within that routine, there is variety – “different places, you’re constantly meeting new people.”
Current estimates say women make up just under 8 percent of the drivers. Congdon’s not going to argue with the statistics, but to her, that figure seems low.
When she pulls in to a truck stop, if there’s 100 trucks, she’ll see 10 or 15 of those trucks will have women, especially in teams.
“There’s a lot of us out here, more than you probably realize,” she said.
As to why there aren’t more women in trucking, Congdon says, “A lot of women aren’t able to do it.”
That’s not to say there’s any physical reason women can’t handle the job, she added. She’s not a large person, some might even say she’s bordering on petite. And there’s nothing about operating a truck that’s all that hard, well, once you get the hang of backing up.
“Anybody can go forward,” she said with a laugh.
What she meant was that a lot of women decide they aren’t cut out for the truck driving lifestyle.
“A lot of women think they want to do it, and I’ve seen them just …” and she finished the thought with a sputtering sound.
“Folded within a week,” she added. They’re like, ‘no, I can’t do this.’
Some women can’t reconcile the idea of not always being able to stop when they want, Congdon said, not being able to shower when they want, not spending a lot of time on hair and makeup before they start their day.
Using herself as an example, she said, you have to be comfortable with the natural look, “You know, brush your hair, brush your teeth and go, that’s pretty much what you got to do.
“I look like a regular ol’ truck driver, to me.”
She occasionally encounters bit of resistance, or at least condescending attitudes from a few who still question whether this is the right line of work for a little lady.
How does she handle it? The question makes her laugh in a way that would make anyone think twice about wanting an actual demonstration.
“Usually, either you ignore it, or you give them a piece of your mind,” she said, adding that she’s more the piece of her mind type.
One lifestyle concession she wouldn’t make as a truck driver was with food. Congdon used to be a cook, “and I love cooking. I cook in my truck. I have a crock pot, refrigerator, microwave, electric skillet, George Foreman grill.”
Occasionally, she’ll make exceptions, like on this day. She was headed home and had calculated if she got her meals to go, she might just make it.
Still, when invited to sit down for a brief interview, she felt relaxed enough that she figured, sure, she had enough time to make a new acquaintance, chat for a few minutes.
After all, life’s too short to always be in a hurry.
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.