12 years ago I was a young single mother struggling to make ends meet for my baby boy and I. Today my son is a well rounded young man, I hold a Bachelors Degree among many other accolades, and we live comfortably. My name is Jama Trainer, and this is how choosing a career in trucking changed my life.
I was 22 years old with a toddler, trying to find a direction for my life. I worked nights at a gas station as a clerk to pay my bills, since continuing my education was no longer an option. Considering the area of town I worked in, every night I clocked in was a gamble. After being robbed several times, I decided it was time to move on. $7.50 an hour was not worth losing my life over. Not only that, I felt like I wasn’t living up to my potential. I had to do better, and set a better example for my son.
One Sunday in November 2006 I grabbed the want ads out of the local paper. There was an ad for truck driving school promising a guaranteed career in 3 weeks, which sparked my interest. ‘Hey, I’m a great driver’ I thought, and called TDI (Sellersburg IN) the very next day. Within a few weeks I secured my spot and headed off to start my journey.
It wasn’t easy. Everyone said I couldn’t do it, but I was stubborn. Learning the mechanics, how to operate a manual transmission, and backing up were all challenging. The length of the tractor/trailer itself was intimidating. Factor in that I was the only female, and it got pretty rough. I felt defeated like everyone may be right. But, I thought about my child. I needed to give him better, so despite the adversities I faced, I stuck it out. I graduated December 22, 2006 and started my first job January 2, 2007.
Today, my family is still my biggest support system. My sister and my mom cared for my son while I was on the road. The hardest part of becoming a driver for me was being gone so often. At the same time it was so rewarding to see my son’s face light up when he would see the truck. A couple of companies even allowed him to ride along. He loved it! From day 1 it definitely wasn’t easy being a female driver. A lot of people didn’t take me seriously, so I always had to work twice as hard. Looking back, it made me a better driver and a stronger person. I was proud of myself for doing what they said I couldn’t, and in turn made other people proud too. I also took a lot of pride in knowing that I was helping to keep America moving. Yet, I wasn’t quite sure I was headed in the right direction until my second ‘show and tell’ at my son’s preschool in 2010. My son wanted to be just like Mom. I had shown him that you can be anything you want, regardless of what anyone says. That was the most empowering moment of my life. From that point on, It got better for both of us. I was finally able to give my son the life he deserved. I got to travel and make new friends, and the ends finally met.
In the summer of 2012 after hauling coal for some time, I applied at Quality Carriers of Kentucky. I had limited tank experience, but knew I wanted to give it a shot. Again, I was the only woman, but I passed through orientation with flying colors. I trained for two weeks with an experienced driver. That provided me with tons of hands on experience. I was able to familiarize myself with the process and equipment with ease. Yes, I may have been slow putting on PPE, dragging hoses, getting set up, and all in the beginning, but I knew I could handle it. A little physical labor never hurt anybody, and over time I got comfortable with it. QC and their customers were patient with me, and that alone built up my confidence.
QC of KY supported me far beyond standard carrier responsibilities. I wasn’t just a number-I was a person with a life outside of the truck. They planned great home time so that I could be a mother and made sure I was able to attend everything that mattered to my child. They never doubted my ability to do the work just because I was a woman. With staff support and encouragement, I was able to finish my education while working. I graduated May 10, 2013 with a BA in Psychology from a nearby University. That same year I purchased my first home. I did it all by my 30th birthday. QC cared, and they became more than just my employer- they became family.
Now, I did make a difficult decision to move around in 2015. I still faced the same adversities, but with less carrier support. Yes, I was glad to gain more experience and try new things, but there’s no place like ‘home’. I returned to QC of KY in July of 2017 where I was greeted again with open arms. I am grateful that I was able to come back, and working with corporate in Tampa to make it possible was easy. Since returning I’ve built strong relationships with our customers, and QC has allowed me to spend more time with my son and family than ever before. As a mother before anything else, that’s most important to me. The pay, benefits, equipment, staff, and fellow drivers are just an added bonus. QC still cares.
As I reflect on my career, I know that I made a great decision to call TDI. I truly love my job as a driver, a bulk chemical hauler, and as an employee at Quality Carriers. My son and I are both happy. We’ve come a long way since 2006, and I wouldn’t trade my experiences on the highway for the world. I have mentored several women over the years, and I look forward to mentoring more women as they join the industry, and Quality Carriers. There is strength in numbers, and I’m optimistic about the growth of women in trucking, and the bulk chemical hauling division. The reward is worth every risk and challenge. I’m living proof!