CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — “I can’t change my past, so I decided to change my future.” This statement by Sharae Moore, founder of S.H.E. Trucking, touches a resonant chord with many people, and it reflects her outlook on her career as well as her friendships and family relationships.
Moore and her father, Carlos Crutcher share a unique father-daughter bond: Both are experienced over-the-road truck drivers. Moore is an owner-operator and drives for Riverside Transport Inc., while Crutcher is a company driver for Tranco Logistics. The two achieved their career goals through very different paths.
After working as a certified nurse assistant for nearly a decade, at age 30 Moore decided it was time for a change.
“I knew a guy that drove trucks, and he actually showed me his paycheck,” she said. “I said, ‘I want one of those!’ And so I decided to join the trucking industry. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It was a whole new experience.”
Another factor in Moore’s decision to make a change in her life’s focus was the death of a brother, 10 years earlier, when he was 30.
“Here I was, turning his age, and I was thinking, ‘I need to do something with my life,’” she said. “That was my turning point, and that’s when I came to the trucking industry.”
After seeing an advertisement for “free CDL training,” Moore enrolled in training through Swift Transportation.
“The training was good,” Moore said, adding that she remains in touch with some of her instructors, including Roderick Martin and Dee Hopson.
“Roderick was a great trainer,” she said. “I still call him and ask questions.”
Hopkins was instrumental in helping Moore overcome what was for her the toughest part of training — the backing maneuvers.
“None of the guys in the class wanted to partner with us (women),” Moore said. “I said, ‘Ms. Dee, no one wants to be my teammate.’ She said, ‘It’s OK, you can be mine.’ And so she taught me how to back, and do that 90 and everything … and I just picked it up and got it.
“I’ve never seen somebody so proud,” Moore continued. “When I started getting it, she jumped up and she said, ‘You got it!’ It made me feel so good, going from struggling and struggling, can’t get it, feeling defeated to, ‘Oh, you got it!’”
On March 25, 2014, she earned her commercial driver’s license and embarked on a journey as a professional truck driver. In the past six years, Moore has not only gained experience and confidence as a driver; she has also launched the S.H.E. Trucking clothing line and Facebook group, providing encouragement and support for women drivers.
“In the beginning it’s a struggle because the first year or two, everyone just stares. The men, they’ll sit there and they’ll just wait to see what you can do,” she said. “After a while, your confidence builds. You learn how to maneuver your rig, back easily and stuff like that. It’s been a really rewarding experience.”
S.H.E. Trucking began as a merchandising website for Moore’s T-shirts and other apparel designed for women truckers.
“I couldn’t find any T-shirts that said I was a female driver, a lady trucker,” she said.
As the S.H.E. Trucking clothing line grew in popularity, so did Moore’s reputation as a mentor for other women in the trucking industry, as well as a source of advice for women wanting to earn a CDL.
“They started posting on my personal Facebook page, and I thought, ‘I need a place for them to go,’” she said.
“That’s when I created the S.H.E. Trucking Facebook group. And it has grown into more than I ever imagined,” she continued. Today the mentorship group has more than 8,000 members and has gained an international following. In addition, Moore and the group have been featured in Facebook’s Community Voices spotlight videos and hardcover book.
“I never knew there were so many women drivers. It’s so rewarding seeing the women accomplish their goals and being a part of that,” she continued. “The goal was to encourage women to be proud of the industry they’re in, be proud of the career they chose.”
Moore said that when she first started driving professionally, she noticed that the few women drivers she saw were rarely smiling
“I guess they were just so busy that they didn’t have time to smile,” she said. “And now you see them smiling, you see them happy.”
Earlier this year, Moore took the next step in her career: She purchased a 2005 Freightliner Century and started learning the ins and outs of being an owner-operator. While she said she is still “learning the ropes,” she is also enjoying the responsibilities involved in being a truck owner.
Moore said showing her newly purchased truck to her father resulted in what was for her a defining moment in her relationship with her father.
“For the very first time in my life, at 36 years old, he said, ‘I’m proud of you,’” she said, with a catch in her voice. “The very first time in my life. No matter how many accomplishments and awards I’ve got, no matter how many women I’ve inspired — none of it mattered to me as much as those words.”
When Crutcher talks about his daughter, pride is evident in his voice.
“That girl, she superseded me! She’s got her own truck and she’s doing good. That’s awesome when you can get your own truck,” he said.
“Sharae is passionate. She tries to help other women. She’s helping people for real,” he continued.
For Crutcher, who has been a driver for about a decade, the road to a career in trucking was markedly different from Moore’s.
“I have a felony,” he said matter-of-factly. “You’re talking to a former crack-head and drunk.”
Crutcher, who said he has not smoked crack or drunk alcohol since 1988, served 17 years for a felony conviction.
“God took the desire for the taste (of alcohol) away from me,” he said. “My momma had the whole church praying for me.”
While in prison, Crutcher said, he started reading books and learning.
“I had to learn who I was, and I got around some good people,” he said, adding that he was incarcerated for most of his daughter’s youth.
After being released from prison in 2007, Crutcher started a lawn-care business and set about rebuilding his life. It was his sister, however, that helped pave the way to a career that Crutcher said still sometimes feels like a dream.
“My sister got me this grant for (trucking school) at Chattanooga State, and I got my CDL,” he said. “She blessed me. I found out I love it out here.”
While attending driver-training classes, Crutcher said he continued to operate his lawn-care business and held down a second full-time job. He was sometimes so weary that he’d catch a quick nap in the back of the class truck. It was all worth it in the end, he said, as he discovered a true love for driving and traveling the U.S.
“I thank God every day that I’m out here. Sometimes I can’t even believe I’m out here,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve been locked up before, so this is a blessing. It sure is a blessing for me to be out here. I like seeing the country at 70 mph.
“I thank God for the little stuff,” he continued. “I get excited over little stuff — just going out to different states or going to Walmart. God blessed me.”
Crutcher said he is usually on the road six days a week. In fact, as he visited with The Trucker on the phone, he was on the road, hauling a 53-foot dry van filled with 45,000 pounds of General Motors products. The previous trip, he said, he delivered a truckload of medical-grade face masks.
“They treat that stuff like gold!” he said.
Crutcher said he also enjoys having the freedom to relax at his home, which he inherited from his mother after she died a little more than a year ago.
“She was my best friend,” he said wistfully.
“She blessed me with the house,” he added. “It’s a three-bedroom home with a deck and a patio. I love that deck.”
Like Moore, Crutcher works to make a positive impact on the lives of others, especially those who are re-entering the work force after taking a “wrong turn” in life or after being incarcerated.
“I’m always talking to people (about how trucking changed my life), people that have felonies and the downtrodden,” he said. “I say, ‘You need to come on out here with me! I was worse than all of y’all.’
“I’ve seen a couple of guys get their CDL,” he continued. “One of them messed up, started back drinking. I told him, ‘You can’t be drinking out here; you’ll kill someone.’ I mean, you see wrecks out here all the time, every day.”
Moore said that she and her father both hope to inspire others to change their lives for the better, and that she sees Crutcher’s accomplishments as an example of success against adversity.
“People need to know they have options; that your current situation doesn’t have to be your end result. You CAN change. You CAN make a difference. You CAN overcome,” she said. “I think that’s important for people to know. I see it in my family. The dad that I knew years ago is not the same person that we know now. And he’s proud to drive that truck. He loves it. It changed him completely.”