In the back of the spacious cab, Rankin has set up what she calls her “mommy getaway apartment:” a twin bed, a stash of food, some decor, cleaning supplies, and a few wig stands. She occasionally likes to switch up her style on long hauls — maybe long and wavy one day, and bright green or deep, curly red the next.
“How in the world did you get into trucking?” is one she gets a lot. But there’s another, better question she likes to answer:
It’s a promising gig — if you’re ready to work hard
A growing number of women are entering the world of trucking at a time when demand for drivers is at a critical high. Many of them, like Rankin, are using their influence to educate other women and lay the groundwork for change in a crucial and often misunderstood industry.
They’re also sharing an important message: Trucking is for everyone.
It’s also the result of women becoming keen to all the profession has to offer.
Rankin went into trucking after her first son was born with a heart defect. She was pursuing a criminal justice degree, but knew the money wasn’t there.
“The bills were piling up, and I needed more income,” she says. “Getting into trucking was a big gut decision.”
Trucking is a tough business, and it requires plenty of training, education and hands-on experience to do well. Rankin says it’s not unusual for a driver to make about $60,000 their first year. Her second year on the job, she passed six figures.
She now operates independently under a mega-carrier, and every evening she’s able to come home and kiss her husband and two sons goodnight. Sometimes, for a change, she’ll take a long-haul job to the northeast or down to Miami Beach.
Success stories show other women they can belong, too
While these influencers fit a tried-and-true social media formula — conventionally attractive feminine women doing non-conventionally attractive, non-feminine things — their work and their advocacy create a meaningful impact.
Allen’s TikTok is filled with videos of her working on her truck, or sharing tips on how to dress and eat healthy on the road. She says it’s important for her mental health to stay nourished and take care of her appearance on long hauls. By sharing that side of herself, she’s showing other women that you don’t need to look or act a certain way to be a good truck driver.
“I like to show that you can still be feminine in a male-dominated field, and a lot of people like to see that,” she says.
There are drawbacks to that, too. Rankin and Allen both say they get unwanted comments from men while on the job. Oftentimes, people don’t believe they’re really drivers. Rankin says a man even told her he wouldn’t hire her as a driver, hypothetically, because of the way she dressed.
“I would say it takes a thick skin to work in the trucking industry, because we go through a lot,” Young says. “But I want to motivate others and hopefully see more women get out of the road and start driving.”
While it’s a challenge, trucking influencers often use these difficult moments to speak on grander goals: Self-empowerment, confidence, resilience, and the courage to break into roles that aren’t always welcoming to women.
More women means more solutions for trucking challenges
But an increase in women means more for the industry than just warm bodies behind a wheel. If the female trucking influencers of social media are any indication, women could also be the key to solving age-old problems weighing the industry down, like driver health and retention.
Candace Rivers’ involvement with trucking began, fittingly, on Interstate 20 not far from her hometown of Oxford, Alabama. Rivers, 37, is a fitness instructor and studio owner, but felt a sudden, spiritual call to extend her work to truckers.
She started researching health issues facing truckers, and was floored by what she found.
Any of these risks could easily take drivers out of work and off the road — bad for the driver, bad for the industry.
“It broke my heart,” she says. “So many drivers are sacrificing their life and their bodies for their families and to get people what they need.”
To do that, Rivers is currently in training to get her commercial driver’s license. She says one reason women may not consider trucking as a career option is because they don’t know how many opportunities there are.
“There are so many local jobs for CDL holders that make a lot of money, and women can drive just as well as men,” she says. “This industry is built for more than just the people they think it’s built for.”
The key is showing people that they can do it, whether they wear old baseball caps or mink eyelashes. And if the road is opened to them, a new generation of truckers could come rolling in, with fresh ideas and fresh solutions in tow.