According to an ancient Chinese proverb, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In the trucking industry, a journey of not just a thousand, but a million miles behind the wheel of a big rig often starts with a single dream.
The latter is certainly true for Pauline Jochim, who was recognized in November by Truckstop.com for achieving her first million miles as a professional driver.
A love for driving came naturally to Jochim because of her family’s passion for racing.
“When I was a kid, I grew up in race shops, and we did a lot of dirt track racing,” she told The Trucker. “I remember, some of the places we’d go, we always saw those semis.”
Those big, shiny tractor-trailers captured a young Jochim’s imagination as she watched them roll along the nation’s roadways.
“My favorite truck has always been that long-nose Peterbilt. It was just distinct to the ground,” she said. And so, the die was cast for Pauline’s career. “My two brothers, they kept racing. I went into trucking.”
Like many drivers, Jochim began her career at a carrier-sponsored CDL school. After successfully earning her CDL and completing orientation with the carrier, she remained there long enough to fulfill her obligation for the training.
Her next step was driving for another, smaller carrier hauling agricultural products. Here, she discovered that she not only had an affinity for the road; she also had a knack for the business side of the industry. Recognizing this aptitude, the company moved her into the office to help keep the wheels rolling smoothly.
“It was a pretty small outfit,” she said. “They had me start dispatching the guys, but I’d still go out and drive if someone didn’t show up. I got into office management and worked with Truckstop.com to find some of the loads.”
While working in the carrier’s office increased Jochim’s knowledge of the ins and outs of the business of trucking, her heart was still behind the wheel. In addition, she says, the income potential as a driver was attractive.
“I got to the point of doing the same line of work as a lot of the guys — but the pay wasn’t quite matching,” she said. “I decided to do my own thing.”
And so, she hit the road again — this time on her own. She started out with a Freightliner condo unit.
“I’d have my kids with me, and we really needed that extra room,” she recalled. “In the summertime, they were out in that truck with me. I taught them how to check the oil and antifreeze and tires and lug nuts and all. You know, at 10 years old they were able to work like men.”
During the school year, the children stayed with Jochim’s family while she worked.
“I always kind of kept myself within a thousand miles of home, so if something happened, I could put in the wind and get home,” she said.
Jochim’s credits her association with Truckstop.com, which operates a load board and offers freight management services, as a large factor in the success of her business.
“When I was going out on my own, I knew I was able to go on Truckstop and find work,” she explained. With Truckstop, I was able to wind up my work for the week, so I knew what I was going to be doing.”
As a woman in a male-dominated field, Jochims says she’s very appreciative of the support she received.
“Where I was from, they were just not used to women in that line of work. It was hard to get into,” she said. “With Truckstop, they would work with brokers or whatever and I could always find work.”
While she encountered her fair share of gender bias in those early days, once she’d secured bookings for load, things went smoothly, she said.
“These places that I went into, they didn’t know if (the driver) was a guy or girl. They couldn’t care less, right?” she said, adding that working with Truckstop.com “opened the door for getting paid as much as the next guy.”
Choosing to haul flatbed loads was a gutsy choice for Jochim, and sometimes it brought her more attention than she wanted.
“I’d go into these places, and a lot of them had never seen a woman flatbedder,” she explained. “I knew they were watching, but all it did was make me better. I had to prove I could handle it, I guess.”
Jochim also noted that, as an owner-operator, she often uses smaller truck stops for fuel and rest stops. These smaller operations can present unique challenges for women drivers, sharing this experience:
“I had loaded a load of pipe in the Texas/Louisiana area. It gets pretty hot and humid down there. I loaded, and then I was sweating and tired and all this other stuff,” she shared. “I went to the truck stop and paid for my fuel, and I wanted to shower. Well, they had showers — but they were ‘men’s’ showers. What that means is that they were in the men’s bathroom.”
The experience was frustrating for Pauline.
“I’d worked as hard as the guy in front of me, and I just wanted to shower and go to bed so I could get rolling again,” she said. “I’ve had that happen a few times.”
Larger, more modern truck stops usually have better, more private showers for women as well as men, but finding parking can be challenging, according to Jochim.
“I’m for the small truck stops,” she explained. “It’s easier to get in and out, and there’s not as many problems, especially lately when they’re just swamped with trucks.”
When she isn’t actively driving, Jochim likes to cook. She says she got used to cooking on the truck to keep herself and her children fed while on the road.
“I had to do more cooking because it gets expensive out there,” she said. “I had a microwave, a crock pot and even a little barbeque grill and a cooler. It was nice.”
These days, when she’s not racking up the miles in her 2004 Peterbilt 379, she likes to bake.
Jochim also understands the importance of maintaining relationships with other women, something she accomplishes through church groups.
“Being out on the road, I don’t get to get around to meeting women and getting involved, but women still need each other,” she said.
Her trucking responsibilities have changed, too. She’s now hauling more specialized, over-dimensional freight.
“You have to have escorts and all of that,” she said. “You get spoiled on those sunup-to-sundown runs, but when you get around the big cities you have to really watch out.”
Jochim has a message for others in the trucking industry, both women and men.
“You can do it. Hopefully, not only women, but men as well, can read this and see that you can do it yourself,” she said. “You don’t have to sit and put up with a situation that you’re not happy with. Either it’s gonna work out or it’s not. You’ll never know unless you bulldoze ahead.”
That’s how Pauline Jochim intends to handle her next million miles.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.