Jazmin Vazquez never bought into the thinking that there are different options for men and women when it came to the workplace.
The California spitfire, who was named Women in Trucking’s Member of the Month for October, has some choice words for anyone who tells her she can’t do something a man can do — but she prefers to let her accomplishments do the talking.
“On the road, it’s only men; I think there was only one of my friends, who was a co-worker, who was a female my age,” she told The Trucker, speaking of her early days as a truck driver.
“It was so crazy because we would tell each other the stories that would happen. We wish we would have seen more women on the road because the roads that we would take would be like Oxnard, Bakersfield, but the only women I would see would be in the warehouse. That would be it,” she shared.
“They’d see me, and they’d be like, ‘Oh wow, how is it out there?’ That’s their first question. ‘Is it hard?’” she continued. “I’m like, ‘You know what? It IS difficult, but anything that’s good, you have to put in the work.’ It’s not just going to come easy.”
A product of Los Angeles now living in Chino, California, Vazquez took an extended road trip as a youngster on one of her dad’s runs to the Pacific Northwest. Ever since that day, she knew she wanted to drive. However, she quickly discovered her father didn’t see things the same way as she did.
“My dad was an owner-operator, and I really enjoyed that trip, stopping at the gas stations, smelling the trees in Oregon. For me that was my first experience. I was like, ‘Oh I want to do this!’” she said. “But the thing is, (while I was) growing up, my dad really told me that he didn’t want me in the industry.”
Vazquez said she watched her father teach her brother to drive, wishing she could be the one learning the ropes.
“He was training my brother like at the age 16 on the truck. I would tell him, ‘I want to do it. I can do it. You can teach me, and I can learn,’” she recalled. “I don’t know if it’s a man thing or just coming from a Hispanic household, but he wasn’t very supportive of that.”
Despite that early discouragement, Vazquez, now 26, had made up her mind. She attended driving school in 2018 and committed herself to her dream of getting behind the wheel professionally.
It was an experience that tested the limits of her commitment.
“I worked at Amazon, and I was working 60 hours a week — and I was working at Chase Bank too,” she said. “I still remember the nights that I did not sleep, studying for that test. I studied my ass off! At my house, with my mom, my dad, my sister and her husband with their kids, my brother — they were so loud, I couldn’t study. So, I had to leave and sometimes study at Jack-in-the-Box,” she continued, adding that she learned to provide her own encouragement.
“I was like, ‘It’s okay Jazmin, it gets better.’ Nobody realizes how much work you have to put in to study,” she shared. “You have no idea how proud I am of myself that I did it.”
Vazquez began her professional driving career in 2019, hauling freight over-the-road before deciding to take a yard tractor driving position with NFI two years ago, in part to stay closer to home.
Not only was Vazquez among the only female drivers on the road, but she was also one of the few in the country who operated an electric heavy-duty truck, a Kalmar Ottawa electric terminal tractor. She was even included in Run on Less — Electric, an electric truck technology demonstration event, in September.
This new electric-vehicle technology, while appreciated for its reduction in noise and exhaust, made her runs no less demanding. Not only was she making dozens of drops and hooks each day, but she also handled the hefty charging cables and other mechanical demands herself. The experience only solidified her girl-power mentality. That mentality, further reinforced by her experience with the Women In Trucking organization, underpins her best advice to the next generation.
“I would tell them to make sure you definitely want to do something like this,” Vazquez said. “Just know that you can do anything. No matter what anyone tells you — that you’re not capable of doing it, and it might take you maybe three times as long as someone else — don’t give up. Don’t give up.”
Vazquez said she recently took a break from driving to get her own business off the ground. She says challenges of entrepreneurship are substantial, especially in a regulation-heavy state like California, but it’s nothing compared to what it took to get behind the wheel.
“Trucking helped me out a lot in growing a small business,” she said. “On the road, I learned a lot about how warehouses work, which we use through our suppliers in our business. I am honestly so grateful for my trucking career for the financial aspects. The money I made there, I invested that, and without those funds, I don’t think my business would have made it in the beginning.”
The road still beckons to Vazquez.
“If anything would happen to my business in the future, I would definitely go back into that industry,” she said. “I would get back on that truck because I liked it.”
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.