She Says revisited: ‘Thrown to the wolves’, this driver persisted

EDITOR’S NOTE: She Says is a personal commentary by women truck drivers. This debut column is by Joanne Fatta, a veteran company driver at Sunrise Transport in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Joanne is a member of RoadPro Driver Council Board and winner of Overdrive’s Most Beautiful 2015 contest. This column appeared in the first issue of She Drives, and it seemed appropriate to revisit it as the year draws to a close. 

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Back in 2000, when I was first hired, I was the one and only female driver for my company and doing the type of work (touching freight) I do. It was hard to deal with the doubt I felt from my coworkers and the lack of respect from many male drivers. Through the grapevine I heard they didn’t believe I could “take over a man’s job.”

Joanne FattaJoanne Fatta

Even the process of training me put these male drivers on the spot. How could they go home and tell their wives they are training an attractive female? Before placing me with them, the company (being conservative) always asked the male drivers if it was okay if they trained a woman. So ridiculous!!

After I finished training, Sunrise (my company) did the best they could to adjust my schedule to fit my life as a single mom. Otherwise, I was thrown to the wolves just like men but with a bit more (not much!) gentleness.

I had to figure out on my own how to unload, move heavy product and lift a certain way to avoid injuries. Most of my knowledge came from making mistakes, and I made many. Work smarter, not harder, is my motto and I remind myself of this everyday.

Joanne-Fatta-1Joanne Fatta off duty

I am asked if I receive help (from men) moving (very heavy) dock plates, unloading, breaking down product, etc.  When men ask if I need a hand, it is usually because they want to strike up a conversation, but it is still very kind. I generally say, “Thank you, but I am fine.” Some men just walk up and start helping me break down a huge pallet, all the while chatting it up.

I also have heard the negative guys who inform me that if I’m out here in a man’s world, doing a man’s job, I should never expect help. This really only occurred very early on in my driving career.

I often get teased at my company from my fellow male drivers for the ability to get help unloading or just the customer saying we want the girl driver, she is prettier than your ugly mug!  It is hilarious when the drivers come back at end of day and say to me it must be nice to just smile, wear a skirt (figure of speech) and get your way. I may not have the physical strength of a man, but my attitude, smile and proven hard work have enabled me to get where I am today.

I am entertained almost every day by comments or gestures from male truckers. I could write a book on it!

My advice to female truckers is to not expect special treatment.  I have trained a few female drivers who feel the need to use this position as a dating service and a few who are unfriendly to fellow truckers.  I do not recommend either approach.

Be a role model for others. You will see it come back to you in a positive way, I guarantee that!  I am proof that 16 years of adapting and proving myself got me where I am. I’m proud to be the 2015 Overdrive’s Most Beautiful, Sunrise Transport’s Driver of Year, a member of RoadPro Driver Council Board and a well respected driver-trainer for my company.