Dana Fortner always wanted to drive a truck. She had a passion for driving that she could never shake, and she’d been itching to get behind the wheel of a big rig from a young age.
Her older brother was a lifelong trucker, and he spent the last 15 years of his career, before retiring, as an owner-operator. She was enamored by his truck.
“I used to love when he’d come home and park the truck out in front of the house, and just the way he’d crank it up and rev the engine. I thought: I’m going to drive me a truck some day,” Fortner said.
But she started behind a different type of wheel first.
Fortner, of Hoover, Alabama, had a successful career as an EMT. She often drove the ambulance, clicking on the lights and guiding the vehicle through traffic as she and her team responded to emergency calls. She did that for five years. It was a different type of driving, but she loved it.
“You’re able to speed but you also have to pay attention to what’s going on around you,” Fortner said. “Just getting that call and that adrenaline, I loved doing that when I did it.”
As much as she enjoyed driving the ambulance and being an EMT, it wasn’t the same as driving a large truck. She left that career to pursue the one she’d always wanted: trucking. She attended driver training school about 12 years ago and has been driving ever since. Fortner has driven for Saia LTL Freight, a carrier headquartered in Georgia, for the last two years and loves the company.
“I truly just enjoy being out here,” Fortner said.
She hauls split trailers, and her routes usually take her from Alabama through Georgia or Florida. Saia puts their drivers in hotels or bunkhouses at the end of their shift when they’re over the road, so she doesn’t have a sleeper in her company truck. She usually drives at night, which she prefers because less traffic makes the drive more peaceful.
She’s usually out for the week and then home on the weekends, when she gets to spend quality time with her two daughters and her 2-year-old grandson.
“My passion for driving keeps me out here. It’s not just a paycheck for me. I love driving,” Fortner said. “I have that passion. I love big trucks, period.”
After driving truck for 12 years, Fortner has learned a thing or two beyond just what she was taught in driving school. Fortner often tries to recruit other women into the industry and to Saia specifically. She says one of the best pieces of advice she can offer someone interested in the trucking industry is to understand the type of commitment it is upfront.
Fortner says she plans to keep on trucking. Truck driving is in her blood, and she loves her place in the driver’s seat.