It’s a common stereotype when describing a truck driver: He’s a large, burly man wearing a snapback ball cap, who only speaks in CB jargon. But the truck drivers at PAM are defying all preconceived notions about what it takes to work in the transportation industry, especially when it comes to women drivers.
PAM recently selected three of our top achievers, all women CDL drivers, to talk about why they work in a profession known for its long hours and strenuous demands. All three drivers shared their ups and downs of truck driving and discussed why they’ve chosen to dedicate themselves to a career with PAM. These professionals have positioned themselves as equals with their male peers because they’ve proven they can handle anything the road puts in their way.
Kathleen “the Machine” Delany
Kathleen Delany spent most of her working life in administration and customer service. One day she realized she had reached the peak of her career and her maximum income, which wasn’t enough, given all her years of hard work.
“I got to a point in my life where I wanted to be making an income that was comparable to something more than that, to be treated fairly, and to have the opportunity to make the kind of money my colleagues make,” she says. “So I started truck driving school in Detroit, made good connections, and I’ve never looked back at the sales world.”
After driving for PAM for three years, Kathleen has found a fulfilling career where both men and women are treated equally, including a salary that rewards hard work and dedication.
“Kathleen is by far one of the best solos we’ve got. Period,” says Sam Henson, Kathleen’s driver manager. “She’s what we like to call a ‘first round draft pick’ — drivers we know we can depend on to do their absolute best work when we’re in a bind and only complain when the wheels aren’t turning! She’s not just a great female driver; she’s a great driver. She can run circles around a lot of those boys out there!”
Kathleen adds that while trucking is open to all genders, it is still generally male-dominated, and some of the guys on the road don’t allow her to forget it.
“It’s very heady,” she says. “You’re in a huge piece of equipment; it’s powerful; there’s a lot of speed.”
But Kathleen has learned not to let a little testosterone-driven competition bother her.
“Be me, be safe, and don’t fight that battle when someone is either having a bad day, or just broke up an important relationship in their family, or has had an ear chewing by their boss,” she says. “There’re a lot of us out there. I’ve met female truck drivers in all situations who love what they’re doing and the challenge.”
What is Kathleen’s idea of her “best day” in the truck? She says a best day is when her work is challenging and interesting, yet everything runs smoothly.
“Because knowing that I’m doing a good job, even when nobody knows, is what really matters,” she says.
After seeking an even playing field with her colleagues, Kathleen says she is now driven by her ability to bring home an income that was never in reach before. In addition to her increased income, she’s earned respect in a world where many people do not expect to see women drivers.
“Earning that respect is one of the greatest motivators for staying in this business.”
How did Crystal Donavan find herself at PAM in Tontitown, even though she was born and raised in Australia? She says after years of working in the corporate world wearing stilettos and not pumping her own gas, she wasn’t ready to retire; she was just ready for something new.
“I wanted to be my own boss and to travel around America,” she says. “Before my corporate career, I was a racecar driver. So I thought if I can race cars, I can drive a rig.”
After driving with PAM for eight years, people often ask Crystal if she worries about the possibility of vehicle malfunctions or potential predators on the side of the road. What about the demanding physical requirements of the job?
“Trucking has no sex attached to it,” she says. “The word ‘trucking’ is to move merchandise from one place to the other. The trucking industry hasn’t made it a man’s world. It’s hard, tough, but not just for men . . . It’s most definitely all just stereotypes.”
Crystal has experienced some intimidation from male truck drivers, who have been known to try and push her off the road or cut her off in traffic.
“As a woman, I can see the animosity towards women drivers because I’ve driven at night,” she says. “They can’t see who’s behind that wheel. Sometimes they’re nice; they’ll wait for me on the ramp. Sometimes it’s nasty out there, but you can’t take it personally. Ignore it and be the good driver.”
Crystal adds that her only focus is the job at hand, the road ahead of her, and safety. She feels her race car days prepared her well for a trucking career at PAM, especially when it comes to taking care of her vehicle.
“Pre-trip inspections and all of that, I wasn’t really concerned with, because I’ve always done it for my cars anyway,” she says. “I just want to have the knowhow and remember everything I’ve been taught to ensure the safety of everyone in my space on the road.”
While Crystal is committed to road safety, her real motivation is the chance to have a career as a truck driver. She says that career path wasn’t always clear. But now, thanks to PAM, she sees a real future in the transportation industry. She adds that PAM has given her a tremendous amount of support to help her reach her career goals.
“Nothing could make me leave PAM,” Crystal says. “You’re not a truck number, you’re a person.”
Crystal is pursuing her ultimate plan of leasing more trucks, so she can eventually “fade out of driving” as she hires others to drive for her.
“At the start of my journey as a driver, I’ve never lost sight of that goal. Now I’m well on my way to being someone else’s boss, too.”
A “newbie” PAM lady driver at just two years with the company, Christine began her career in the U.S. Navy, working as a fire and engine man on U.S. ships. She says her time in the Navy definitely helped her transition
“All my life I’ve had my hands working on an engine of one kind or another,” she says. “I ultimately decided to stick with diesel engines and focus on a truck driving career, even though it was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Christine has never encountered any physical or mechanical difficulties with driving. She says her uncle showed her how to shift gears as a kid.
“But safety was the toughest aspect of becoming a truck driver. I take a lot of pride in my work . . . I like being the best at everything I do, and I was the worst at this job when I first started.”
However, like all obstacles in her life, Christine didn’t view these issues as problems. She saw them as challenges to be conquered. She and her fellow women drivers admit that sometimes they require help when sheer physical strength is needed. But they have all realized that this doesn’t make truck driving a “men-only” career.
Christine doesn’t view her gender as a hindrance to truck driving, and she shrugs off assumptions others make about her profession.
“I do my job, and I can’t say I’m worse or better than anybody,” she says. “Nothing’s holding me back because I’m a woman.”
Christine says she and her fellow PAM women drivers are able to perform all the requirements needed to do the job. She says they stay focused on safety and that doing a good job “keeps us on our toes”. Thanks to the training PAM provides, Christine can perform her job just as well as any male driver.
“You’ve got to cross your T’s and dot your I’s before you go on the road and try to tell somebody something else they need to do,” she says. “I use my training, so I don’t listen to bad advice that can be found at any truck stop across America.”
For Christine, it’s not just her love of diesel trucks that keeps her motivated. She takes her job seriously in every possible way.
“Be as safe as possible by using the tools you learned in training,” she says.
Christine notes it wasn’t just her Navy background that helped her master her attention to detail and the confidence required for her job. She previously worked with another trucking company where she was a trainer and worked with students to set them “on the right track.”
“The reason I hired on with PAM was because someone from PAM helped me back into a trailer spot one time,” she says. “I plan to become part of PAM’s ‘lease to own’ program once I can save enough money to get started. Trucking isn’t a short-term deal for me.”
Because Christine served her country in the Navy, PAM selected her to drive one of the company’s Patriot Ride Fleet military-themed trucks. PAM regularly works with servicemen and servicewomen like Christine, to help them transition into truck driving after they finish their military careers. Only a few drivers were selected to drive the special military-themed trucks.
“It’s an honor, and a little intimidating,” Christine says.
She’s especially excited about the leather seats and the extra side door on her new Peterbilt.
“I’ll be spending extra time cleaning and shining the rims regularly!”
Why Women Drivers Like Kathleen, Crystal, and Christine Choose PAM
Kathleen, Crystal, and Christine each have discovered that not only are they as capable as men when it comes to truck
They joined PAM because they share the company’s dedication to training, safety, and the job at hand. Learn more about how PAM drivers are advancing their careers by applying to an open position today.