Over-the-road driver Neicy Harris answered a few questions about her career on the road in a recent interview with The Trucker.
Q: Where do you call home?
A: I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland.
Q: How long have you been a truck driver?
A: I’ve been a truck driver for 15 years. I received my CDL (commercial driver’s license) in 2006.
Q: Why did you seek a career as a truck driver?
A: At 26 years old I said, “Ahh … yep, I need to do something with my life.” College was not really my thing. I was sitting home one day and saw a commercial that said, “If you want to change your life, get your CDL now.” This program definitely changed my life! It was much different than the new setup. I was in classes for six months. I had experience driving a manual transmission in a car but had no idea how I was going to do this in an 18-wheeler. So, for six months I worked at night and went to school during the day, paying my loans the school offered all the way through.
Q: What do you like most about your career as a truck driver, particularly as an owner-operator?
A: For nine years I drove local/regional, humping freight to mostly restaurants as a 5-feet, 4-inch-tall, 135-pound woman — sometimes with a partner and sometimes solo. What I mostly enjoy about being an owner-op is the freedom and opportunity to travel the states. If I had not chosen this career, I might not have ever traveled. The change of it on a daily basis keeps me on my toes, thinking and conquering the world one load at a time.
Q: Will you tell us a bit about being an owner-operator?
A: Being an owner-operator has been the most challenging and greatest accomplishment of my life. My first truck was a money pit. I did not get 30 days out of running it after I had leased on with a company. Most people would say I am a late bloomer. Back when I started trucking, getting to own equipment and have an LLC was not encouraged — especially for young Black girls. It was a scary process back then, and knowledge was limited. Trucking was a “learn-as-you-go” type of industry. I recently purchased my second truck, and she has done me well. This round I purchased it from a private owner outright — it is all mine, title and all. I have my own perspective of what this career should be for me. I have made this career my own and I enjoy it. I am currently leased on to a company in Maryland and am working towards 100% independence. Most days are difficult dealing with the company dispatcher. However, I enjoy using the DAT board, building a networking system with agents, and determining what coast I will end up on by the end of the week.
Q: What did you look for in a trucking company to lease to?
A: These days, honestly, I do not look for anything. I am moving toward retirement. The odds have always been against me, meaning I interview differently, and I was pushed differently, especially working locally and with men. I have been the only girl on jobs for years.
Q: How long do you spend on the road at a time?
A: I spend a lot of time on the road. As I am getting older, my views are changing. I want to let my hair down a little now — but whether it’s local or out on the road, I work anywhere from five to six days a week. I believe I can live my lifestyle because I never had children. This career choice has been my service to the country for 15 years, but it’s been even important during this pandemic. I have been running a year straight, delivering essential items nonstop from the northeast corridor, Midwest to Miami.
Q: What’s your advice to anyone looking to become a truck driver?
A: My advice to young women interested in trucking or just starting out is to make (this career) your own. You can only glimpse into someone else blueprint. You must find your own lane, learn it and be the best.
Q: More specifically, what is your advice for anyone looking to become an owner-operator?
A: My advice to becoming an owner-op is that it’s trial and error. It’s not perfect; however, you need to make a plan, own it and stay focused.
Linda Garner-Bunch has been in publishing for more than 30 years. You name it, Linda has written about it. She has served as an editor for a group of national do-it-yourself publications and has coordinated the real estate section of Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, in addition to working on a variety of niche publications ranging from bridal magazines to high-school sports previews and everything in between. She is also an experienced photographer and copy editor who enjoys telling the stories of the “Knights of the Highway,” as she calls our nation’s truck drivers.