Like many other young women before her, Amy Meissner Mcgrath heard the comments that a woman’s place is in the home, and in her instance, not in the cab of a truck.
Unlike most, she chose to ignore those comments and follow what has become not just her job but her guiding passion: trucking.
The driving bug bit Mcgrath early. Her grandfather was a truck driver for 46 years before retiring, and she recalls being fascinated by his truck as a youngster. She says he remains her biggest fan, bragging about his truck driving granddaughter to his senior citizens group.
Mcgrath has been a driver for almost 16 years. Today she pilots her 2000 Western Star with a 48-foot East live-bottom trailer, hauling mulch from Vermont to garden centers and landscape contractors in Connecticut for Lockwood Construction Services. This past winter she delivered pre-cast concrete walls to a construction project in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Mcgrath grew up in western Massachusetts, where paper mills once thrived. She says most of the guys she went to high school with went to work in the mills, the last of which closed three years ago. She still lives in the region, calling the small town of Russell home.
Since joining the trucking industry, Mcgrath has compiled a long list of job credits. She says she has driven OTR coast-to-coast, reefer, dry van, oversize lowboys and flatbeds. In short, most things that can be done with a truck, and that has been by design.
“I’ve always tried to learn as much as I possibly can,” says Mcgrath, who has as active — and often outspoken — a Facebook presence as anyone in the business. “I think I have done a lot. I wanted to make myself wanted, (to be) a desirable employee. It was my way of continuing my education.”
Some of that education has come from the school of hard knocks, and not just the metaphorical kind.
Mcgrath says it was the middle of the morning one day in 2001 when a woman fell asleep at the wheel of her car, crossed Route 95 in Connecticut and slammed into the driver’s side door of Mcgrath’s truck.
“That was the absolute worst day of my entire career,” says Mcgrath. “But I knew I had to get back on the horse after falling off and begged my boss to let me work the next day. He didn’t let me.
“I came back the next Tuesday and the dispatch sent me on the same trip. There were still pieces of my truck on the side of the road.”
It wasn’t until later that Mcgarth learned the woman in the car that hit her truck had died in the collision.
“It made me stronger as a driver,” says Mcgrath. “I didn’t let it ruin what I loved.”
She proudly says that in almost 16 years on the road she has not had any chargeable violations and never caused an accident.
Mcgrath is equally proud of what she has accomplished in the industry outside the cab. She was involved with the American Truck Historical Society chapter in western Massachusetts for many years and today steers the Road Rangers 413 Truck Club.
When not driving, Mcgrath is in the throes of organizing the club’s annual truck show, which is July 31 at the fairgrounds in Westhill.
And, Mcgrath is often supporting women in the trucking industry and urging others to join.
Her advice to other women: “Have fun with it. If you can’t have fun on your job, you shouldn’t do it. It shouldn’t just be for the money.
“Take every opportunity to better yourself, and have passion and love for your job, otherwise it’s pointless.
“Everyone has doubts about starting something new. My first job I was scared to death. But, don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it.”