Kelly McCulley stands 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighs just 155 pounds, and can throw tarps with the best of them.
McCulley, a flatbedder from Kingston, Tennessee, hauls mostly steel, rebar, coils and beams for Roane Transportation, where she’s worked for the last 10 years. Her husband, Kevin, drives for the same company, but she relies on an unconventional passenger to keep her company on the road.
McCulley says she got into flatbedding because she appreciated the challenges it offered in terms of different types of load securement. She says any woman can be a successful flatbedder if they have the right attitude about it. She started her Facebook page, The Only Lady Truckers Page, to share her experiences and encourage other women to get into trucking.
“As far as women wanting to get into flatbedding, they just have to look at it as they are a truck driver and if they think they can do it then they can do it. That’s the question,” McCulley said. “A lot of them don’t think they can do it because they’re not big. I’m not a big girl. You don’t have to be a big person to do this job.”
McCulley has been trucking since 1998. When she started flatbedding, she had to learn how to tarp and chain things differently because of her body structure, but she gets the job done and does it well.
“We’re all drivers out here and yes I have to do things a little bit differently sometimes because of how different the woman’s body works and the man’s does, especially upper body strength, a lot of us don’t have that,” McCulley said. “So I had to learn how to flip tarps differently and bind down chains a little differently because of upper body strength.”
McCulley drives a 2016 Freightliner Coronado with a Fitzgerald glider kit. It’s a company truck, but Roane Transportation doesn’t have any two trucks that are just alike, so McCulley has a sense of individuality when she drives it.
“Everybody knows everybody by their truck. If all the trucks are the same you never know who you’re passing going down the road until you see their face and I don’t remember trucking numbers very well,” McCulley said. “All you’ve got to do is say ah, there’s the two-tone silver truck, that’s Kelly. We all know each other by our trucks. They’re as unique as the driver.”
When McCulley is home on weekends, she likes to work in her garden. She grew up playing in her grandmother’s gardens and learned how to garden from her. Her love for plants has even carried over into her trucking career; she has a flycatcher plant named Fred that has ridden with her for six years.
“Fred rides with me in the truck because my dogs aren’t allowed to anymore and the dogs kind of kept the insects out, so now Fred does,” McCulley said.
McCulley’s favorite plants are her indoor cactuses. She said she loves gardening because it’s relaxing but offers a sense of accomplishment at the same time.
“You can actually grow something and it looks really good and you can grow things like cucumbers, tomatoes,” McCulley said. “I can grow it. I can eat it. I can smell it. I can look at it. I can admire it,” McCulley said.