Making the change from being a full-time mom and dealing with an empty nest is never easy. Luckily for Kathy Wolter and her husband, Jeff, the two have found a shared passion to pursue.
“Our adventure of raising kids was over. They left us with an empty nest, and it made us realize that an opportunity and a desire arose for a new adventure,” said Kathy, adding that the couple has now been in the trucking industry more than 10 years.
“We both realized, we had a desire for something else — something more exciting,” she continued. “We just started thinking, ‘What’s next?’ We have a beautiful place in the country, along the river, and we have 20 acres, and we didn’t want to let go of this, because we wanted to live out our lives here.”
While discussing their future, the subject of trucking entered the conversation.
“We both had uncles that drove trucks in the ’70s, and that was attractive to us. We both looked up to (our uncles) with admiration, and I think it just imprinted on us at a young age,” she said. “My husband went on a few runs with his uncle, and my uncle would take my brother, who is a year younger. I was always envious because I never got to go on the trips. I could sit in his truck and hoot the horn, but my uncle always said the road was no place for a girl.”
Once they decided to start driving for a living, Wolter and her husband started researching to find out exactly what they needed to do to become professional drivers. In addition to searching the internet, the couple drove to a nearby weigh station to ask drivers about the industry, and they visited with some members of their logging community. After that, they sent out about 50 questions to different driving schools seeking further guidance.
Wolter and her husband have been married for 40 years and they have two children, Adam, 31, and Donata, 32. The couple met in high school and married in 1980. For the first six years of their marriage, Jeff served in the Air Force.
For their 30th wedding anniversary, the two had saved money to go on a trip, but they instead decided to use that money to go to driving school, which cost about $5,000 apiece.
After earning their commercial driver’s licenses, the couple started off as flatbed truckers out of Spokane, Washington. After driving for a couple of years, Wolter said they heard about the opportunities available in hauling high-security loads. Wolter’s husband, Jeff, and her son, Adam, both served in the military, and the couple has a lot of friends in the military, so the two gravitated toward that segment of the industry. For the past five years the couple has worked as owner-operators.
“That was definitely a surprise and bonus for us, being a part of this industry and being around military,” Wolter said. “I’m very grateful for what (members of the military) do. It is fun to support. I’m very patriotic and grateful, so it is a rewarding feeling to support those who protect us.”
The two own a 2015 Kenworth with a sleeper cab, nicknamed “Copperhead” because of its color. The Wolters removed the sleeper’s upper bunk and made it the space into a home away from home. Pictures personalize the space, which includes two small closets, a microwave, a slow cooker and more.
“The biggest challenge is our relationship maintenance because we are together 24/7,” she said.
“One of the ‘ingredients’ for being married for more than 30 years is being able to always look forward to the end of the workday, when you can take the time to talk to one another after being apart all day,” she noted. “But you don’t get to do that when you are living 18 inches from each other. You have to be creative. We’ve adjusted to it, and we give each other space when we are driving, so we can be focused on the safety.”
One way the two give each other “personal space” — at least before the
COVID-19 pandemic restricted dine-in options at restaurants — is to go separate places for dinner. For example, Wolter said, Jeff likes oriental food and she doesn’t, so she might go to an Italian restaurant while he eats Chinese. Between loads, the two also enjoy hiking and visiting museums.
Wolter recently wrote a book, Changing Careers to Shifting Gears: A Mother Shares Her Transition from Domestic Life to Becoming a Truck Driver, which is available on Amazon. She said writing the book was the most challenging thing she has ever done.
“I am grateful to God to be living this dream (of driving with my husband),” she said.
Sam Pierce has been a journalist for more than a decade and has written for several publications including The Trucker, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and Living Our Faith magazine. He enjoys spending time with his family including his two daughters. They like to watch movies, read books and build LEGO sets.