Nikki Weaver doesn’t have a crystal ball for seeing everything the future holds, but the 2021 Women In Trucking Driver of the Year can tell you one thing: Whatever is to come, it will find her behind the wheel of a truck.
“When I grow up? I want to drive a truck,” the vivacious Pennsylvanian said with a laugh. “I’m really fortunate to be doing what it is that I love to do. I am looking forward to any opportunity that comes my way that I can share my love and my passion for the industry, educate anyone that’s interested, raise awareness for the motoring public, anything that I can do to give back to the industry that has given me so much.
“It’s given me a great life and a happy life. I want to share that and, in any way I can, give back to the industry.”
To that end, Weaver is an unqualified success, not only due to her on-the-road prowess (2 million accident-free miles and counting) and her longevity (20 years of driving with zero moving violations), but also to the passion with which she promotes the job to others.
“Trucking has limitless opportunities. You can really make it into whatever you want,” she said. “The No. 1 thing I tell people who are thinking about this as a career is just to go for it.”
Weaver is so enthusiastic about the life she’s chosen, and which has taken her to 46 of the lower 48 states, it’s hard to believe trucking wasn’t her first professional path. Unlike the many drivers who had a relative in the business or who turned onto trucks as a kid, Weaver didn’t find her true love until she was in her 20s.
“Before I entered the industry, I really didn’t know that women drove trucks at all. I didn’t know that was a thing,” she said. “I always loved to drive — driving was definitely my thing. I couldn’t wait to get my first license. My father was a police officer, and he taught me how to drive. I had a love for just getting behind the wheel and driving a vehicle.
“Then, when somebody made me aware that [truck driving] was actually something that women could do, I was really excited about it,” she said. “It just sounded like an amazing adventure, where I get to travel all over the country — and somebody will pay me to do it.”
Weaver admits that her foray into trucking wasn’t supposed to turn into a decades-long career. But she’s very glad it did.
“When I got into (trucking), I thought I was just going to do it until I figured out where I was supposed to be in the world,” she said. “I didn’t have the intent of being in it for the rest of my life. Then I really fell in love with it. I enjoyed it so very much. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, which was behind the wheel.”
During the first seven years, Weaver’s over-the-road jobs were fairly typical. But 13 years ago she saw a FedEx twin trailer on the road that sparked her imagination.
“I was completely fascinated with the concept of pulling two trailers,” she said. “Doing my research, I felt (FedEx) was also the best company I could possibly get on with. I already had an endorsement in double trailers and twin trailers, so I was good to go. I applied for them — they were the only company I applied for — and I was really fortunate that they hired me. I’ve been here ever since.”
In addition to the equipment, Weaver also praised FedEx for the consistency of routes and the control the company gives her over a schedule that allows her to be home every night.
“I would call what we do as being regional,” she said. “We have something called a bidding system where, based on seniority, you choose what run you want to do for a segment of about four months. I get to choose my run and my schedule; I can choose day or night. I’ve been on daylight for a few years now and I generally pick a run that’s somewhere between 500 and 600 miles a day, five days a week.”
Having a say in her schedule as she does helps Weaver keep life in balance. Among her other passions are hiking into areas well off the grid, and being the involved mom of a 10-year-old son, Eli.
“Over the road is a lot different than what I’m doing right now,” she said. “Eli is just about to graduate elementary school and go into middle school next year. He is so very excited about that. I’ve had a lot of support from my family over the years who have been able to be there for him when I’m on the road. That’s how I’ve balanced being a mom with the career of being a trucker.”
Weaver parlays her love of trucking to others, both as a career and as a way to bring about positive change. She speaks at community colleges about the trucking industry and also addresses the Pennsylvania State Police Academy’s new commercial officer cadets on various issues. In addition, she’s a Truckers Against Trafficking advocate who has attended the group’s leadership conference, and she stays involved with outreach programs in her community. Weaver has also served as an America’s Road Team Captain since 2019.
Because of these extra efforts, Weaver was recently a finalist for FedEx Freight’s Luella Bates Award, and she’s a two-time winner of the prestigious Bravo Zulu Award, an honor created by FedEx Freight founder Fred Smith. She can now add being named Women In Trucking’s Driver of the Year to the list.
In addition to her trademark advice of, “Go for it,” Weaver advises newcomers to become a student of their profession.
“Do your research. Build a network of resources, your fellow drivers,” she said. “It’s one thing to read the stuff in a book or listen to it, but to see these things being displayed — professionalism, safety — was very inspiring for me. The No. 1 resource in my success has been my fellow drivers, the senior drivers who I very much looked up to. They taught me the meaning of professionalism and the true meaning of all these things in real time.
“I didn’t have a family member who was a driver,” Weaver continued. “It was really outside of the box of anything I was familiar with, but as soon as I learned about (truck driving), I was like, ‘Wow, this is an amazing opportunity!’ It is very challenging job, and I think that’s one of the things that has kept me loving it all these years, to this very day. I love the problem-solving aspect of being a professional driver. It’s still fun after 20 years.”
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.