Former longtime owner-operator becomes company driver

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Debra Shew hauls a dry van for CalArk. (Image Courtesy of CalArk)Debra Shew hauls a dry van for CalArk. (Image Courtesy of CalArk)

CalArk company driver Debra Shew knows her way around the trucking industry.

Shew, 57, has been trucking off and on since 1980 and during that time she’s worn various hats as an owner-operator, lease operator, company driver, and southwest district manager of a refrigerated trucking company. Her parents also operated their own truck.

She had originally been working in human resources at BP in Houston when she decided she wanted to trade out her office for a truck cab and go over the road. She would sit in her office and daydream about driving through Colorado as the leaves were changing color or through Montana as it was snowing.

“Just the sights are what really got me into it. You get paid for it, you get benefits, and you get to travel and see all of these beautiful sights that God gave us,” Shew, from Waverly, Tennessee, said.

Debra Shew in her garden. Shew has always loved gardening and learned what to grow and how from her grandmother. (Image Courtesy of Debra Shew)Debra Shew in her garden. Shew has always loved gardening and learned what to grow and how from her grandmother. (Image Courtesy of Debra Shew)

She decided to relinquish her owner-operator status to become a company driver for the benefits and the convenience. She’s been with CalArk, hauling dry van, for six months or so now. She says the fleet has a lot of women in upper management, which she appreciates. 

“I’ve been to a lot of companies but CalArk really seems to be a company that when they say we’re looking out for our drivers, they mean it and they show it. They don’t just say it,” Shew said.

For others interested in trucking — both men and women alike — Shew recommends listening to feedback from other drivers when scouting out potential companies to work for. She also recommends new drivers learn how to cook on the truck and always drive with the utmost professionalism.

“Know what area you want to run and pay attention to the trucks you see (in that area). Go to the truck stops and ask the driver, how long have you been with this company? If they’ve been there for a long time, ask what’s kept them there,” Shew advises.

When she has home time, Shew enjoys working in her garden or mushroom hunting. She lives along the Tennessee River so she always enjoys fishing, hunting, and camping.

“I love mushrooms and they’re totally different tasting than what you buy in the grocery store,” Shew said.