The only woman driver at an all-flatbed fleet

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Jaimie Mechigian puts on her headset, pulls out a notebook and starts tapping at her Qualcomm. She has a load of sheetrock en route to Jackson, Mississippi, and it’s time to go to work.

It’s 7 a.m. on a Tuesday. The Alabama sun is starting to peak out from broken clouds above the rest area Mechigian is parked at, a promising sign on a day that was supposed to be marred by poor weather conditions.

Truck driver Jaimie Mechigian checks her sheetrock load. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

A small trinket of a turtle, adorned with an equally small hat, sits mounted on her dash. It’s a relic of a truck stop she once visited, and it vibrates as Mechigian finishes up with her pre-trip and Qualcomm and puts a firm hand on the clutch. It’s time to drive.

Mechigian is a company driver for McElroy Truck Lines, headquartered in Cuba, Alabama. They’re a 100 percent flatbed company, and Mechigian is the only woman in their fleet.

“Women in flatbed are rare,” Mechigian says with a small smile.

Mechigian came to McElroy Truck Lines after her husband, who also drives for the company, endorsed it. He’d been driving for the company for almost two years. Mechigian admits prior to riding along with her husband, she wasn’t really sure if there were women in flatbed at all.

“I think a lot of people think only men do it,” Mechigian said.

She attended truck driving school in Georgia, the state she and her husband call home. After a 3-week program, she applied to McElroy Truck Lines. The company had her go through 7 more weeks of company training, and then she was off.

Mechigian chose to attend driver school independently so she could reserve the freedom to choose which company she wanted to work for, as opposed to applying for a company that offered their own driver school program in exchange for a designated time commitment.

“By me doing that, it let me pick who I wanted to drive for,” Mechigian said.

While getting behind the wheel for the first time had been intimidating, Mechigian was on her way to being well-versed in backing and other truck driving techniques by the time she graduated trucking school, making her more prepared for McElroy’s new driver training program.

“The people that teach you these things do such a great job,” Mechigian said.

In the nine months that Mechigian has been driving professionally, she’s adapted well to the trucking life. Having both she and her husband in the industry helps them understand one another’s unique job requirements, and their company makes sure all its drivers are home for the weekend.

To stay entertained, Mechigian said each driver has their own preferences. For her, she prefers streaming on her Android phone or playing phone games, or calling other drivers over her headset. Her husband, she says, has a complete Xbox gaming system set up in his truck for his down time. The couple had to update their data plan to accommodate their usage over the road.

As far as her health goes, Mechigian was already in decent shape before she started trucking thanks to her time in the Army National Guard. When it comes to staying in shape on the road, she says the nature of flatbed work offers all the exercise she needs. She’s lost about 25 pounds since she started hauling flatbed. McElroy Truck Lines requires all their loads be tarped, and Mechigian estimates that her two tarps weigh about 130-150 pounds each.

She does the tarping entirely on her own, save for the times someone offers a generous helping hand or there’s a tarping machine to provide assistance. She says that simply doing her job keeps her healthy while she’s over the road.

Mechigian’s pristine record has made her a candidate for a driver trainer position, where she’ll have the opportunity to teach and mentor upcoming drivers. She’s excited about the possibility of being able to train other women to drive flatbed.

“It is hard work but it’s not so hard that a woman couldn’t do it,” Mechigian said.

Looking to the future, Mechigian says she’s more than content trucking for McElroy Truck Lines. If anything, she says, she’d be interested in learning how to secure different types of larger loads, like the kind seen in logging or auto hauling. But at her core Mechigian is a flatbedder, and she’s not planning to stop anytime soon.

After dropping her sheetrock load off in Jackson, Mechigian heads to Philadelphia, Mississippi. Her truck bed is loaded up with wood, and she steps out into the now drizzling rain to strap and tarp the load. Her bright orange hard hat and reflective vest stand out against the gray weather. Mechigian is unfazed, however, and once her load is secure and her Qualcomm logged, she’s off to her next destination.

Sheetrock is unloaded from Mechigian's flatbed truck. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Sheetrock is unloaded from Mechigian's flatbed truck. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

Mechigian's truck waits to be unloaded. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Mechigian's truck waits to be unloaded. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

Mechigian rolls up the tarp. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Mechigian rolls up the tarp. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

Mechigian works to roll up her tarp as the wind blows it astray. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Mechigian works to roll up her tarp as the wind blows it astray. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

Mechigian lays the tarp out flat so she can fold it. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Mechigian lays the tarp out flat so she can fold it. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

Mechigian prepares to fold and roll up the tarp. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Mechigian prepares to fold and roll up the tarp. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

Mechigian pulls the tarp off of the sheetrock load. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Mechigian pulls the tarp off of the sheetrock load. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

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Mechigian removes cords from the tarp so it can be removed. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Mechigian removes cords from the tarp so it can be removed. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)

Mechigian unstraps the sheetrock load. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)Mechigian unstraps the sheetrock load. (Photo: Deanne Winslett)