Riding Along: My First-Hand Experience of Life on the Road

by Jennifer Hedrick, on Mar 27, 2024 11:26:25 AM

hedrick-anderson-ridealong-1200x628

A first piece of advice WIT’s founder Ellen Voie and several of our members gave me when I began my role as President and CEO of the Women In Trucking Association in January 2023 was to join a driver for a ride along.

Ride-alongs have long been a way for WIT to showcase the best of our world. Through ride-alongs, WIT drivers, and primarily members of the WIT Image Team, have hosted members of Congress, federal administrators, national and industry media, industry friends and others to provide the first-hand vantage point of what drivers experience hour-by-hour on the road. Ride-alongs shape perspectives that ultimately form national, state and local policy, give the public an understanding of the lives of a truck driver on the road, and help our industry develop better practices all around.

This past fall, I was fortunate to join Carmen Anderson of America’s Service Line on one of her regular routes—from Green Bay to the Baltimore/Washington area—for my first ride-along.

Carmen was incredibly generous with her time throughout the journey, not only ensuring that I understood what it took to move her scheduled load to its end points, but adding perspective and a bit of extra time so I could fully appreciate what 48 hours over the road was like.

We talked a lot. I took many notes, both during our time driving, and in the evenings as she slept in the truck and I stayed just yards away in a motel. But mostly, I watched the road as she did, attempting to understand her vantage point as I gained a new perspective of life on the road.

It’s tough to summarize that trip in just a few words, but I’ll try to share a few lessons learned that I have been thinking about over the past few months.

Drivers keep us safe on the road.

The view from a truck cab is spectacular and commanding. One of my first observations was that Carmen was constantly scanning across multiple lanes of traffic, and this proved advantageous as we looped around Chicago and the DC Beltway, especially. She saw yards ahead of what anyone in a car could see, responding strategically to erratic drivers, road hazards and other challenges. Cars then followed her leadership.

There is family on the road.

Carmen travels with her pups Rodney and Otis, who truly have as much fun on the road as she does. I loved traveling with them and saw the companionship they provided each other. And, I liked the love and kisses the dogs gave me, too. Who wouldn’t? Carmen also has a strong community of drivers that she connects with on her travels, speaking often about traffic ahead or simply catching up on their day-to-day lives as friends do. Stops at truck stops also provided glimpses into the broader community.

There is challenge on the road.

Construction, weather, lack of parking, breakdowns, accidents, and hours of service rules create significant restrictions for drivers. We were fortunate that we “only” had to navigate construction and parking challenges, but it was eye-opening to understand the number of decisions that drivers make to remain safe, in compliance and ensure the load is delivered on time.

With such generosity, Carmen, Otis, Rodney and the ASL team have given me an understanding of life on the road that I hadn’t had before. That perspective adds to what we continue to build for our members, and especially drivers who seek to join the industry and the WIT community.

I’m excited for more ride-alongs ahead and, as always, encourage you to connect with us as you navigate your own journey.

WIT-RTR-pages-600

A version of this article will be featured in Edition 1 of 2024 in our official magazine, Redefining The Road. Download the latest edition here.

Like this kind of content?

WIT-member-brochure

As a member of the Women In Trucking Association, stay on top of emerging trends and business issues impacting transportation and logistics; learn the importance of gender diversity in the workplace and the need for more women drivers; and see best practices in encouraging the employment of women in the trucking industry. Join today! Learn More

Topics:Redefining The Road MagazineLife on the Road

About Women In Trucking

The Women In Trucking Association is a non-profit organization with the mission to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in articles within the WIT Blog are those of the authors/submitters and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Women In Trucking Association.

Subscribe to Updates