Twenty years ago, Letha Smith saw a short, petite woman climb out of a tractor-trailer and she was amazed. She’d always loved driving, and seeing the other woman trucking inspired her to want to become a trucker herself.
Her goal started to come together years later in 2013 when she attended driving school and obtained her CDL. Smith, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, now hauls reefer for Midwest Refrigerated Services.
“I love being free. I love the scenery and being able to travel different places,” Smith said. “I’ve been almost all over this country. That’s what’s been driving me, being able to mark off the different states that I’ve been to.”
Staying healthy while she’s trucking is a priority for Smith, who admits it can be difficult for drivers to maintain good health. When she first got into the truck, she had to make some lifestyle changes. She started to closely monitor her eating habits and she goes to the gym twice a week. She’s typically home a few days a week, so she visits a gym close to her house.
“I make sure I’m busy. It’s not always easy. Sometimes it can be very challenging,” Smith said.
When she’s on the road, she does leg lifts, crunches, squats, and similar exercises in the truck. She always tries to park as far away as she can, so that she has to walk farther distances. She plans to buy some weights to take on the truck with her.
“Just start walking often or just doing little things at home,” Smith recommends. “Little crunches, little sit-ups — start your routine early before you get in the truck and then you’ll already have that habit. You’ll want to do it. If you just try to get in there and start it later, it’s going to be hard.”
Her friends help keep her busy when she’s home. Smith skated a lot as a teenager and now she tries to make it out every two weeks or so to go skating with friends. She and another close friend frequently go bowling together.
“They try to keep me active because at one point I was never around. For about three years, I was always on the road. Now that I’m home a little bit more, they keep me busy. I have to catch up,” Smith said.
Smith says she likes hauling reefer because her deliveries almost always take place at large, well-lit distribution centers with plenty of room.
“It’s very seldom that I’ll get a tight dock or inconvenient roads with ditches. That’s what I like. Dealing with food is job security to me and I like it,” Smith said.
You have to be attentive if you want to be successful at hauling reefer, Smith advises.
“If you’re not a very attentive person that’s really involved in your job then you shouldn’t drive reefer. We haul a lot of expensive freight and it’s important that we be attentive and monitor the temperature and watch out for the reefer,” she said.