Kelly is no stranger to challenging conditions. When she started driving trucks, she was one of very few women on the road. But her experiences have taught her that this isn’t just a male-dominated industry anymore, and women from all over the world should step up and take advantage of the increasing demand for more truckers.
Supply and demand
As of 2016, there were approximately 3.5 million truck drivers in America alone and only 200,000 (5.7 percent) were women. Despite the abundance of drivers, there still aren’t enough to fulfill the growing demand of truckers. And with 75 percent of American communities relying solely on truck drivers to deliver, the need for drivers continues to grow faster than companies can fill existing jobs.
“[Trucking] is a good career that you can get anywhere in the world,” explains Kelly. “There isn’t a shortage of [jobs] and it’s a great way to travel and see the country and the world.”
Even as the most recognized female truck driver in America (and other parts of the world), Kelly is still hesitant to call out male and female trucker stereotypes.
Her advice to those who think trucking is the direction they want their career to take is simple yet pertinent to almost any industry, “Always be ready to learn something and you can learn something from everyone. Try to be the best that you can be. You don’t have to be better than anyone else, you just have to be better than you were yesterday.”
Long-haul vs. local drivers
It’s not all ice roads for truck drivers. Kelly was born in Michigan but moved to Alaska at a young age with her family. For her, driving on icy roads is just as normal as enjoying ice cream on a hot summer’s day.
She mentions how hard it can get to be away from family for long periods of time as an “over-the-road” driver — those who transport cargo for long-hauls. There are a lot of local drivers who can maintain a regular schedule and be home at night with your family.
Thankfully, there are many local jobs for those who prefer to have a rewarding trucking career while staying close to home. This is particularly important to those with young families, so it’s good to know not all truck drivers have to be away for days or weeks at a time.
For those just starting out, Kelly recommends you jump in and talk to everyone in the industry, volunteer and practice on your own time. Anyone who puts their mind to it, pays attention to the safety risks involved, and doesn’t push it, can succeed as a truck driver.
“And take advice from everyone and then you’ll find out what works best for you,” she concludes.
There’s no shortage of truck driver jobs, and the future of the industry appears to be continually growing at exponential rates. Whether you’re attracted to life on the open road, or a steady and rewarding career that affords you the luxury of coming home every night, truck driving offers many varied opportunities.