Those who say beauty is only in the eye of the beholder never met Carmen Anderson. For Anderson, beauty is all around. It’s everywhere in this world, she says; you just have to look a little harder for it sometimes.
For example, take a look at her canine traveling companions, Rodney and Otis. The two pups are both Chinese crested dogs, and are hairless except for a wispy smattering about their faces. Put delicately, they don’t fit the standard definition of “cute” — which is exactly what Anderson loves about them.
“I’ve always thought they were just the neatest dogs,” she said. “I had my first one, Homer; his name was Homer because he was so homely.”
Her two almost-furless companions have basically been raised as truck dogs. Rodney has touched 48 states and Otis, the newer addition, has seen 30. Anderson, who drives for Wisconsin-based America’s Service Line, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve always been a big dog lover. When I first started driving in the 1980s I had a dog,” she said. “Then I took some time off and had a son and raised him. Ever since I came back (to trucking), I’ve always had a dog with me.
“That first one was an Australian shepherd, Abby, and she was very protective. The only reason she let me in the truck is because I had to drive it for her,” she shared. “But with these two, it’s about companionship. These are smaller, and they’re hairless, so they’re hypoallergenic and you don’t have to worry about the hair. And they’re just neat, friendly little dogs. They love everybody.”
Anderson applies the same beauty filter to her job, too. While some drivers might grow jaded with the long treks and inconveniences of life on the road, Anderson who’s racked up 2 million accident-free miles and counting, still exhibits exuberance for what she does.
“Growing up, we didn’t do a whole lot of traveling, and I always wanted to see the United States. What better way to see it and to get paid for it, besides?” she said with a laugh. “I go someplace different every week, and I get to meet all these great people, and I find out what is made around the country. It’s fascinating.”
Perhaps the most poignant way Anderson has applied her innate “beauty detector” is in the causes she’s been involved with. A longtime fundraiser for the Special Olympics, she champions those who are different.
“I’ve been involved in the Special Olympics for probably like 12 years now, for the truck convoy,” she said. “I just love that organization.”
Anderson has been involved with Special Olympics in both the South Dakota and Wisconsin state chapters, where she’s distinguished herself in organizing fundraising events.
“All the money we raise stays in each state for the athletes. I think we’ve raised over a half a million dollars over my eight years in South Dakota,” she said. “I’ve only been involved in the Wisconsin Special Olympics for about four years now, but one of my specialties is that I’m very good at asking for donations. I’m not shy about that. So, they put me to work in that aspect.”
Her advocacy work also includes Truckers Against Trafficking, through which she stands up for society’s forgotten victims who are often powerless to escape their circumstances.
“Truckers Against Trafficking, I’m nationally certified through that,” she said. “Back years ago, I was sitting in a truck stop in Phoenix and I was watching this motor coach. There were a bunch of young girls that kept walking in and out of it with an older gentleman. I didn’t think that was right, so I ended up calling the police just to find out what was going on. I just really feel bad for all the poor kids who are trafficked, and adults.”
Anderson talks about her charitable work casually, dismissive of any suggestion that she’s doing anything other than simply what’s right. But her commitment and leadership have caused others to sit up and take notice. In 2019, the Wisconsin Motor Carriers named Anderson Truck Driver of the Year. She was the first woman to win the award, not only in Wisconsin, but in any state.
She followed that up in 2021 with inclusion in Women in Trucking’s list of Top Women to Watch in Transportation. And earlier this year, she received an even bigger surprise from her employer, ASL, a private fleet with 200 heavy-duty trucks and 350 refrigerated trailers. In May, company leadership handed her the keys to a new Volvo VNL760 70-inch high-roof sleeper, specially wrapped to help raise awareness of Special Olympics. ASL obtained the truck in partnership with Milwaukee-based Kriete Truck Centers.
“As a long-time supporter of Special Olympics and all the professional truck drivers (who are) out there every day delivering life’s essentials, we at Kriete Truck Centers are thrilled to be part of this effort,” said David Kriete, president and CEO of Kriete Truck Centers and a board member with Special Olympics Wisconsin. “Carmen is a shining example of what can be accomplished through hard work and a commitment to serving others, values that are at the core of our culture at Kriete as well as Special Olympics.”
For her part, Carmen was equal parts thrilled and tickled by the presentation. She said the first mention of the possibility of getting such a rig was more or less said in jest.
“We were at a [Milwaukee] Brewers game, and the one gal with the Wisconsin Motor Carriers was telling this group from Volvo about all the stuff I had done,” she said. “One of the guys there said, ‘We should get you a wrapped truck.’
“We all just kind of chuckled, but lo and behold, here we are with the wrapped truck!” she said. “It was kind of cool when they decided to do that. I actually got to design the truck and pick the colors.”
Anderson hopes the new ride — which she says drives beautifully — will greatly increase awareness of Special Olympics. She also plans to inspire as many donations as she can while she does the job she was born to do. At age 62, she says she has no intention of parking her rig any time soon.
“I’ve been given a lot of opportunities and I have the time to be able to give back to an industry that I love,” she said. “I just wanted to give back.”
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.