Maggie Stone’s average haul has 173 items of freight. Problem is, each unit has four legs and a mind of its own about when and where it wants to go.
There are no lumpers or dockworkers to help Stone – only 5 feet 2 inches – get these 300-pound adult hogs on and off her trailer.
“You don’t even need to work out – you have your own aerobics class hauling pigs,” said Stone, a 21-year veteran owner-operator who owns Missfit Trucking in Galva, Iowa. “Those little suckers are fast.”
On top of that, every day she faces the smell and mess of having dozens of adult swine crammed into one space. “I have had numerous men go, ‘Holy cow, how do you do this with a smile?’ ” said Stone, 44.
One such man is Greg Abbas, who, like Stone, drives for AgFeed. “She’s always got the best attitude and a big old smile on her face,” Abbas said. “You’d never know she is having a bad day because she’s always trying to stay professional.”
For those qualities and more – professionalism, strong performance in what was traditionally a man’s job, and the personal warmth imparted by the winning smile – Stone was named the winner in Overdrive’s Most Beautiful contest. Stone and finalists Tina Comer and Libby Clayton won expense-paid trips to the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, where the winner was announced Aug. 24.
“A person’s soul is what dictates beauty, and what they do for other people,” Stone said. “It’s an honor to be chosen to represent so many beautiful women in such a great industry.”
Having a desire to serve is what made Stone worthy of the title, said Mike Ryan, a judge in the contest and owner of Picture Vehicles Unlimited.
“Maggie’s got a tough job already, but her work and fund-raising efforts with down-and-out trucking families put her at the top,” Ryan said of Stone’s work with Trucker Charity Inc.
Although Stone’s family has roots in trucking, her father, Jerry Anderson, initially was not supportive of her love for the open road.
“He’d say it’s not for ladies,” she laughed. “It was kind of inevitable, though.”
Stone’s grandfather, father and several other family members all have found careers in the trucking industry, but she is the first female to drive.
“He didn’t discourage it, either,” Stone said. “I’ve got this great photo of us standing by the front wheel of his rig when I was just a kid.”
Stone spent her childhood working with animals on the family farm. During her senior year of high school, Future Farmers of America named her “Barn Warming Queen.”
Stone joined the Army right out of high school and was stationed in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston. After serving in the military, she worked on the family farm and several odd jobs before getting into trucking.
Anderson was one of the first 50 owner-operators that started TransAm Trucking. In 1992, when her father hurt his back and wasn’t able to drive anymore, Stone took on her father’s work with TransAm.
From then on, she kept driving and in 1995 bought her first truck, a 1993 Peterbilt with a 475-hp Caterpillar and 18-speed transmission. Stone hauled coal for 15 years, then switched to livestock when some friends told her another driver was needed.
“I started out hauling baby wheat pigs, and I loved it!” Stone said. She moved up to hauling full-grown pigs, which is all she hauls except for occasional loads of cows.
“Hogs may smell and they may be temperamental, but they keep it interesting,” Stone said. “It’s nice to pull open the trailer door and see tons of little faces staring back at you instead of boxes.”
With the move to market hogs, she bought a 1999 Peterbilt 379 with a 550-hp Cat and 13-speed transmission.
She’s added “shiny stuff” and a custom paint job: black with pink barbwire striping. “I’ve got to show off my girly side,” Stone said.
Paid by the load, last year she earned about $60,000. Stone hauls an average of 173 hogs a load and 10 loads per week. “I like cows – they come when they’re called,” she said. “Pigs … you’ve got to practically beat them to prod them out the trailer.”
Stone has come up with a creative method to keep from beating and prodding the hogs, though.
“Most people use rattle-paddles or some other loud noise – I just sing ‘Spider-Pig’ to them,” she said. The short song was sung by Homer Simpson on an episode of the long-running animated television comedy, “The Simpsons.”
Stone first tried the song when she was having a particularly tough time unloading the hogs one day and didn’t want to upset them by losing her temper.
“Apparently they don’t like the sound of a woman’s voice because they’re usually just around men,” she said. “I started singing to them, and it just scared them so badly, they ran right off the truck.”
Stone cites a flexible schedule as one of the best parts of her niche. She’s able to get home most nights and plan her home time, weekends and vacations around her daughter, Hannah.
While the personal time emphasis is important, Stone also cuts a lot of costs by taking on some of the nondriving tasks of being an owner-operator. She does her own taxes. She lubes and changes oil. She does other small maintenance, such as recently replacing a wiper motor. She washes her own trailer to keep up with regulations for hauling livestock. She takes her Pete to Storm Lake Truck and Trailer for major maintenance.
“If I couldn’t drive, I would still find a job in something trucking-related,” Stone said. “Some say trucking runs in the blood. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”