Liana Castro heard the word “can’t” a lot growing up, as in “You can’t be a truck driver.” She also heard “aren’t” a fair amount, specifically, “Women aren’t supposed to be in the tucking business.” And, every so often, a “won’t” would bubble to the surface, like, “You won’t be successful competing with men.”
Even so, Castro discovered a love of trucking at a young age.
“I’d see trucks rolling down the highway as a kid and I always thought they were just big and cool,” she said. “But it was always looked down upon in my family because that was a guy’s job. That’s how it was viewed. When I did mention having an interest in it, it was like, ‘Whoa, you can’t do that! That’s only for men. You can’t be in a male-dominated industry. Would you even like those things?’ That kind of deterred me for a bit.”
These statements presented challenges that Castro was determined to overcome. She worked up the nerve to dive into driver’s school, over the disapproval of her family. And while CDL training WAS as tough as they said it would be in some respects, she stuck with it.
“I was completely out of my element. Honestly, the first day of truck school, I wanted to quit” she recalled. But she did not quit.
Today, the only negative terms the California-born driver, who now drives for LGT Transport, retains from her younger days are “didn’t” and “isn’t” — as in, she didn’t listen to her naysayers then and she isn’t about to start now.
“I tell people all the time, ‘Keep applying yourself,’” Castro said. “No matter what you get in life, you have to stick with it.”
Castro applied this dogged determination to overcome the many challenges that faced her early on in her career. With each job she held, she learned a little more about what her strengths were in trucking and what type of driving best suited her life and personality. By the time she got to LGT, Castro had a strong sense of self, as well as a clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish in her career.
“I’ve been with LGT about five and a half years, and a cryogenics hazmat tanker driver for about six years,” she said. “I just find it interesting and, I guess, the danger of hazmat is part of that. It’s challenging to you as a driver and it’s a completely different ballgame than anything else.
“It’s always challenging,” she continued. “There are always new things that come up. It never stops. It always keeps you on your toes. I like that.”
At age 33, Castro finds herself at the top of her game. Typically hauling throughout the West Coast region, where she still makes her home, she’s equally comfortable with a long-haul assignment. She’s touched all but two of the lower 48 states and has trucked to two Canadian provinces. She says she has no clue how many miles she’s racked up in her career.
“I still go anywhere and everywhere I’m needed, and that includes Canada,” she said. “I like to be a flexible driver for my company.”
Part of what fuels Castro’s company-first mentality is the diversity she sees among LGT’s driver pool. While women have been slow to enter the trucking industry overall, she says LGT has made a concentrated effort to boost the number of women behind the wheel.
“Within my own company, we actually do have quite a few women drivers, which is awesome to me,” she said. “Even in the hazmat world — where there really aren’t a lot (of women) overall — we’re attracting women who are looking to expand their careers.
“It would be nice to see more actually, but I know it’s not always the most appealing job to women,” she added. “Like I said, in a lot of families, (trucking) is looked down upon, and women are told they can’t do that, or they can’t work around a lot of men.”
Castro not only tries to dispel such stereotypes by her everyday work routine, but she’s also taking working to topple long-standing career barriers. As LGT’s first female driver-trainer, she has the perfect opportunity to debunk long-held attitudes and bring change to an industry that’s traditionally been slow to embrace it.
“I think what sets me apart as a trainer is I have a lot of patience,” she said. “You’re working with so many different types of people and backgrounds. I try tailor my training to the individual and how they are. I don’t just go in with the same script for everybody, because everybody works at a different pace. Some people need things broken down in certain ways.
“That’s stuff I didn’t get when I first started out,” she continued. “I was always thrown into the fire, which helped me improve who I am — but you don’t need to train that way. This isn’t a competition. We don’t need to throw people this way and that way. We train for safety and for excellence first.”
Castro’s impact on fellow drivers and others in the trucking industry earned her Member of the Month honors from Women In Trucking for July 2023. However, she says, awards and accolades don’t alter who she is or the training provided to the people she’s tasked with preparing for the road.
Her message is clear, simple and hard-won.
“Nothing is easy,” she said. “You have to go with how you feel and where your heart and your head are at. Just continue to go down the path you think is right for you. Learn to find encouragement from within yourself, because a lot of times, you will not get it from other people.”
Keep working toward your goals even when those naysayers are the people you love the most and who are closest to you, she advises.
“It took a while for my family to own up and be like, ‘You’re not just someone holding a steering wheel all day,’” Castro said. “At the same time, with me being over the road, they don’t get to see what I’m doing, because they’re not out there. All they know is I leave home and then I come back.
“But they’ve definitely warmed up to it, and see that it is a good career path,” she said. “They have seen how much I’ve developed in a short amount of time in my own career.”
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.